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Word of the Day; HOND, dog

Our dear old Buffy passed away. Buffy, the office dog, was born 1 June 2000. On June 3rd 2014 she had reached the ripe old age of fourteen years and two days. Her decease did not come as a surprise to us who witnessed her final weeks. Yet, to hear that she has gone into that dark night for the last time evokes sad feelings. Fortunately Avril and Yolande were present when it happened, so she did not feel fear when she went to sleep.

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When Avril asked me to commemorate her canine companion on Facebook, Yolande immediately said she’d send me a picture of Buffy which was taken last weekend while she was playing in the garden. Whatever you write Yolande said, please don’t say ‘Buffy RIP’. ‘Geen ‘rust in vrede’ (no rest in peace). Why? Because it sounds so corny…

When a loved one dies, mourning begins but fortunately happy memories immediately rush in. That’s a comfort. You cannot help it. You cry a bit, you feel deserted, but long forgotten happy memories rise to the surface. Especially when you are in the midst of loved ones.

Buffy was a ‘hound’ in the old English sense of ‘sporting dog’ or ‘hunting dog’. Buffy was een jachthond. One day, some ten years ago, Avril, Yolande and Buffy were walking along the fields near a motorway. The sun was shining, the grass was green and the birds were singing. ‘Hond’ and ‘baas’ (mistress) were as happy as the day was long (dolgelukkig). In the far distance two pointed ears suddenly emerged above the tall blades of grass. In a thousandth of a second Buffy spotted the hare, went into hunting mode and flew off. Avril and Yolande shouted, but nobody could have stopped her then. Buffy’s intuition had taken over. The hare noticed the danger, changed into escape gear and tried to flee across the motorway. Buffy raced after the hare across the busy road. Cars from both directions rushed by and managed to avoid the animals. Unbelievable but both animals survived. A close shave.

I also have a fond memory of Buffy. I sometimes used to look after Buffy when Avril had gone home to Ireland. In those days I used to jog along the paths of a vast and practically deserted park near the Vliet. The dog ran along, sometimes in front of me, sometimes behind me and sometimes she’d hide behind a bush. Every now and then she’d pop up and surprise me by looking up at me as if she wanted to say: ‘aren’t we having a good time, you and I?’ Sometimes I caught myself saying something to Buffy expecting some kind of answer. She never did!

Buffy was a genius at pretending that she was able to reason but wisely kept silent. She was so good at this that you’d absolutely forget that she wasn’t human but HOND. Many students at our institute took a liking to her and greeted her as if she could understand Dutch or English or Russian, or Hungarian…. They’d say: ‘Goedemorgen Buffy’ And Buffy would look up at the happy greeter and telepathically communicate with the student: ‘Ook een goedemorgen, student.’ Her silent greeting was a sign that she’d generously approve a gentle stroke or a soft caress. Buffy was a sucker for a loving touch.

It won’t surprise you to hear that the word HOND was first recorded as early as the tenth century, but it must have had a much longer history. In those medieval days the English, Germans, Frisians, Dutch and many other Germanic peoples all used a form of /hond/. The Oxford English Dictionary tells us that ‘hound’ and ‘hunt’ went hand in hand: ‘the suggestion has been made of association with the Old English verb ‘hinþan’ to seize, as if the word were understood to mean “the seizer”.’

Sometime in the age of King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth (16th century) the word ‘dog’ shoved away the word ‘hound’ in England. Nobody knows why and nobody knows what the origins of this relatively new word ‘dog’ are. To be honest, I don’t really like the sound of the word ‘dog’, do you? It is degrading. ‘Dog’ does not really do justice to the loyal sturdy and husky animal that the canine carnivore is. HOND or ‘hound’ is a word that sounds so much more respectful. With the right intonation ‘hound’ could even be visualised as a frightening animal. Change the title of the Sherlock Holmes’ story by Arthur Conan Doyle to ‘The Dog of the Baskervilles’ and nobody will take it seriously anymore.

So, to put this obituary in a nutshell: Buffy was a wise animal, elegant and queenly in her countenance. She’ll be missed by many people here at the institute, but most of all by Avril and Yolande whose faithful companion she was. Buffy was the HOND (hound) van Direct Dutch. I’ll end this in memoriam, saying: ‘Buffy, RIP’, but don’t rest in peace, no, Buffy ‘Run freely in Parks’ wherever you are, wherever you go.

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