Thursday, April 10, 2014

I is for the IJ

You don't say?
What a day,
To sail on the IJ!


The Dutch and Americans share many attributes. Both are hard-working, like the Beatles, telling jokes and smoking pot. Well, most of them do. Even the Dutch language shares things with the English language. For example “water” in Dutch means “water” in English. “Ladder” means “ladder”  and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocius” means “Mary Poppins is in town.” This makes the two languages completely interchangeable.

Then there is IJ.

In the Dutch alphabet, IJ is considered one letter (which is why both letters are capitalized) and it’s pronounced as one diphthong sound: like “ey” as in “hey” or “may” as they say it in Georgia.

Then there is the IJ.

The IJ is the name of a lake on the north side of Amsterdam. Although it sits on this lake, Amsterdam was cut off from the North Sea, shipping and business, so the industrious Dutch grabbed their shovels and dug a trench to extend the North Sea canal from the IJ of Amsterdam to the North Sea and the newly built IJmuiden (which means the “mouth of the IJ” in Dutch). Follow the pink line in the picture.

Necessity is the mother of invention and the Dutch became excellent engineers who specialize in creating all the charming canals, dams and dikes that pepper the countryside. In fact 20% of the land mass of the Netherlands is under sea level, which means those canals, dams and dikes are not only charming to look at but absolutely necessary. These engineering marvels and techniques manage all the waters that course through and surround the Netherlands. And working together, they hold back the sea, rivers and lakes—like the IJ—which is a-okay by me.