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Word of the Day: lef (courage)

The opposite of Tuesday’s word LAF (cowardly) is LEF. Sorry about yesterday’s longish intermezzo which was all about a wedding and the weird word KUNSTONDERWIJS (art education). Today I had to promise some people here at the institute to try and keep my posts short. OM EEN LANG VERHAAL KORT TE MAKEN (to cut a long story short-> lovely saying that, but o so difficult in practice) I hereby pledge with my hand on my heart that I will keep my long stories short.

lef

The opposite of Tuesday’s word LAF (cowardly) is LEF. Sorry about yesterday’s longish intermezzo which was all about a wedding and the weird word KUNSTONDERWIJS (art education). Today I had to promise some people here at the institute to try and keep my posts short. OM EEN LANG VERHAAL KORT TE MAKEN (to cut a long story short-> lovely saying that, but o so difficult in practice) I hereby pledge with my hand on my heart that I will keep my long stories short.Back to LEF. We say: Churchill had veel lef (Churchill had a lot of nerve). And that’s why so many people still remember him. This bust stands in the middle of the Rotterdam townhall where yesterday’s wedding was solemnized. It was a lovely ceremony that …. (stop, here you go again, stick to LEF!)

LAF was a genuine, old Dutch Germanic word going back to the early Middle Ages. LEF sounds very Dutch as well, but no, it is not Dutch or Germanic at all. LEF is a Yiddish word that entered our language in the nineteenth century. The Yiddish word ‘lew’ meaning ‘courage’, ‘daring’, ‘pluck’ goes back to one of the oldest languages in the world. The Hebrew word is ‘lēv’ which means ‘heart’.

Dutch is riddled with Yiddish words and we’ll surely meet them again on this Direct Dutch Facebook Page. One popular Yiddish word is GOZER (guy, chap) which you must have often heard in Dutch gossip. The word in Yiddish is ‘chosen’ and means ‘bridegroom’. Yesterday at the ceremony my friend Dirk was a …. (no, stop, this is another detour, I’m drifting away from LEF).

LEF, courage, guts, lovely word. So much nicer than LAF, which truly sounds insipid. What is it that makes the difference? The /e/-/a/ contrast? And what about the words LOF, LIEF and LIJF? No idea.

Anyway, Churchill was geen LAFAARD (Churchill was no coward). Churchill was een LEFGOZER (a hotshot, a gutsy guy). And so he was! LEFGOZER really sounds tough and as you know: ‘when the going gets tough, the LEFGOZERS get going’.
(Is this short enough?)

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