OK, so this is completely unscientific, but I decided to have a little fun.
If the Dutch want to use a derogatory term for a journalist, they have a couple of options. Persrat (press rat) is one of them, persmuskiet (press mosquito) is another.
According to Google, persrat appears on 10,600 web pages, while persmuskiet appears 12,700 times. There is not much between them and Google is hardly the place to do reliable linguistic research, but since we had already decided this wasn’t going to be scientific I declare ‘press mosquito’ the winner.
A derogatory term for the entire profession is journaille, borrowed from the German language in which the word is a portmanteau consisting of the word ‘journalistic’ and the French word ‘canaille’, meaning ‘rabble’.
Dutch comics godfather Marten Toonder used to have a rat in his fabled stable called Argus, who was of course a reporter (working for a publisher called E. Phant).
To me the word persrat feels different from persmuskiet. Rat seems to suggest a low character, whereas mosquito implies tenacity.
Are you wondering if there is perhaps a reason to this whim of mine? There is. I was getting a bit tired with the news cycle, with the whole idea that there is always news and it is always important. Trying to find a Dutch angle to the British horsemeat scandal (British supermarkets selling horsemeat as beef), reporters of the Parool newspaper had tracked down a restaurant owner who had kept quiet about having used horsemeat instead of beef for his famous steaks for 60 years—even in the Netherlands there is a bit of a stigma attached to eating horsemeat. “Why did you lie,” the reporters asked and that irked me. Sure, the restaurant owner had lied by omission, but every word a journalist ever prints is a lie of omission, because journalists decide what is important enough to print and what not.
And that is when I got a little bit irritated and started thinking in terms of ‘press rats’.
(Image by A.E. Goeldi, in the public domain)
Tags: journalism, journalists, linguistics, Marten Toonder, press
This year is the 100th birthday of Marten Toonder, the godfather of the Dutch comic, and many events and publications mark the occasion, such as De Toonder Animatiefilms, a comprehensive history of the Toonder Studios’ animations.
The book by Jan-Willem de Vries contains over 500 illustrations and includes a DVD with many of the films.
Holly Moors says about the book:
The DVD contains quite a number of commercial animations […], but the films [that the studio made for itself] are by far the most interesting. Among them De Gouden Vis [The Golden Fish—Branko], a beautiful, quiet animation with wonderful Oriental looking artwork, magnificently subtle colouring and a rather vague, Oriental story.
The entire DVD turns out to be a treasure trove of such surprises.
Toonder (1912 – 2005) was mostly known for his comics though, and his flagship strip was the Tom Puss/Oliver B. Bumble series.
After Belgian comics creator Hergé (Tintin) had introduced text balloons for speech, most European comics artists adopted that style. Toonder however stuck to comics that looked more like illustrated texts, which allowed him to fully explore his literary style. That style, combined with the use of fables to parody Dutch society must have made him hard to translate, yet he was one of the very few Dutch comics authors who saw success abroad.
Several of his neologisms are used to this day in the Dutch language:
- Minkukel: an inferior person.
- Zielknijper: psychiatrist, literally ‘soul pincher’ (i.e. analogous to ‘head shrinker’).
- Grootgrutter: supermarket, literally ‘large-scale grocery’.
- Denkraam: something like intellect, but also frame of reference and paradigm, literally ‘thought window’.
A lot of writers who later became famous in their right worked for Toonder Studios, such as Lo Hartog van Banda, Paul Biegel, Thé Tjong King, Piet Wijn, Dick Matena and Jan Kruis,
(Illustration: still from The Dragon That Wasn’t, the first Dutch feature animation film.)
Tags: Dick Matena, Jan Kruis, Lo Hartog van Banda, Marten Toonder, Paul Biegel, Piet Wijn, Thé Tjong King