A humorous tale of Dutch and Scots English

During the early summer of 1834, a Scottish Congregationalist minister made a visit to the European Continent for purposes of health as well with a view of learning something about the state of religion in Germany and the German universities in particular. Part of his time abroad he shared with an American missionary, especially some time spent in Holland. One Lord’s Day evening, they, with a party of other visitors, found themselves in Rotterdam, and decided to go to the Church of St. Lawrence, which the English minister noted at the time was “the largest in Rotterdam.” They had guides, but this minister and his American friend got separated from the larger party, and, he wrote later, “in a very short time, amid the multiplicity of canals, we lost our way, and had nothing for it but to enquire—no easy task to persons who could not speak a word of the [Dutch] language.” Adding to the problem was that there was hardly anybody on the streets, and the minister observed, “by this time Divine service had begun, and the Dutch are too orderly a people to be found in the streets at such a time”! The minister then continued his account, and a delightful one it is too:

“At length, however, we espied two men, apparently sailors, advancing towards us, and to them we applied for assistance in French, as that which was most likely to be a lingua communis between us. A few words in Dutch intimated to us that we were not understood. English was then tried, and then German, but both in vain; nothing would do but Dutch, and of Dutch we knew nothing. The case was really one of extremity, and demanded desperate expedients. On recollecting, therefore, that there was still one language more of which I was master, and having some dim impression that I had somewhere read or heard of its affinity to the Dutch, I determined to make a trial of it, and accordingly with all due gravity and brevity I enquired, “Whaar is the Kirk of o’ Saunt Laurance ?” The experiment was successful; the men understood the question, and one of them proceeded to conduct us; while my companions, who had never heard good broad Scotch before, seemed to regard my sudden acquisition of what they though Dutch, as little less than a miracle.”

“Notes of a Tour on the Continent during the Earlier Part of the Summer of 1834. By a Dissenting Minister”, The Congregational Magazine, n.s. 11 (1835), 16–18.