Untranslatable Words: Kletskoek Posted by Sten on Nov 20, 2018 in Culture, Dutch Language, Dutch Vocabulary, History
Wat zeg je nou? Kletskoek! Ik heb daar niets mee te maken! You may have heard this before. Somebody is upset, and their choice of words is… kletskoek? A chatting cookie? What does that mean, how did we get here? Here is an attempt to explain it.
Nowadays, the word koek or koekje practically always refers to a biscuit or a cookie – you may see similarity between cookie and koekje, too! So how did koek end up in a samenstelling with klets to form the word kletskoek?
I did not find an easy explanation, so I will have to make assumptions here. Klets is rather simple – kletsen means “to chat”. However, the Dutch sometimes being quite the roddelaars (gossipers), kletsen can also mean “to gossip”. But koek? That is more difficult to explain.
Perhaps it becomes easier when connecting kletskoek to a synonym: lariekoek. Larie does not really have a meaning by itself in Dutch (anymore), but it appears to be related to a form of leeg (empty). In both these examples, koek appears to make larie and klets stronger. Kletspraat is another synonym, which literally means “gossip talk”. However, it is not used in the same way. Kletskoek and lariekoek are more vulgar than kletspraat, and more aggressive. That is why you will hear these more often in a situation when a person is upset. A bit like “nonsense! I had nothing to do with it!” Of course, the Dutch also have words like onzin!, the translation of “nonsense”, but now you know that you can get creative!
So what does koek mean? Cookie, of course. But apart from that, it can also just refer to a thing, basically. Dat is andere koek means “that is something else again”, for example. Or dat is oude koek, literally “that is old cookie” means that something is old news already. Throughout history, koek had a lot of different meanings, and it is a bit unclear where the gossip comes in.
So bringing this all back together. Koek just means thing, then. So gossip thing seems the most apt literal translation from what I could find. Now, this could be close to the truth, or complete kletskoek!
What do you think, do you have a different theory? Let me know in the comments below, and let’s discuss!