Need help with an old Dutch phrase

Kboonekj

New Member
English
Hey everyone, just joined after lurking for a few years.

I am in need of figuring out a word that I grew up with. I am from Holland Michigan and am 5th gen Dutch (Holland is/was a huge Dutch community in the US).

Growing up I always heard my great and grand parents saying (spelling it like it sounded) “oh hagh”. This was always in place of something like “oh really”, “oh, come on”, or “seriously?” If that makes sense. It sounds like “hat” but with a throaty “gh” at the end. Once in a while it was the “hagh” with a “ta” at the end (hagh-ta).

I have been told it was a Dutch phrase brought over but no one in my family has a clue how it’s spelled or what it means even though we still say it. Can anyone help me out with what the word is?
 
  • Hans Molenslag

    Senior Member
    Dutch
    The gh sound at the end doesn't really make sense to me, but the t sound in your second example makes me think of 'och gut'. This was and still is a common phrase which comes in a number of dialectal varieties and is used in more or less the same way as for example 'oh gosh' in English. Both the Dutch and the English phrase are derived from the word 'god'. That's my best guess.
     

    Plaats

    New Member
    Dutch
    I think it derives from "Oh echt?" This literally means: "o really?"
    "Echt" is pronounced "e-gh-t", with the "e" of "pet", the "gh" as you described and then t. In colloquial Dutch, the final t is sometimes omitted (especially in the Rotterdam/The Hague region), so your Michigan Dutch still is quite close to what is spoken in Holland nowadays.
     

    Plaats

    New Member
    Dutch
    Yes, but that's IPA and not everyone reads that. I do, however.

    The phrase "oh echt" is often pronounced with a glottal stop in Holland (this stop is not common in Flanders). Thus: o 'echt? /o. ʔɛxt/. This is an possible explanation for the modern -h- in Michigan Dutch (so ʔ became h).
     

    Plaats

    New Member
    Dutch
    Wiktionary gives /pɛt/. But there is some variation in English, as there is in Dutch. The typical Antwerp pronunciaton of "echt", for example, has /e/ instead of /ɛ/, and many surrounding Brabantian dialects share this pronunciation. On the other hand, the West Flemish pronunciation comes closer to /æ/ (the "a" of "man").
     

    eno2

    Senior Member
    Dutch-Flemish
    Well yes, could be, but he Dutch pronunciation is /pɛt/ indeed.
    I'm West-Flemish but I would it have it a bit difficult to pronounce 'echt ' with the a of man. Same for 'legt', 'zegt' etc...
     

    Kboonekj

    New Member
    English
    Wow. Thanks for all the replies. I put “oh echt” into google translate and listened to the playback; almost spot on!

    I guess over the years we added an “h” on the beginning of it and elongated the ending. This is cool and I can’t wait to show them this word we’ve been saying forever. Thanks for the help.
     

    Red Arrow

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    (off-topic)
    I'm West-Flemish but I would it have it a bit difficult to pronounce 'echt ' with the a of man. Same for 'legt', 'zegt' etc...
    [æ] occurs in words with "ar" and "er" in some Flemish-Brabantian and Limburgish dialects. The pattern is quite irregular. For instance, [æ(r)t] can mean hart, hard, hert and/or erwt depending on the individual.
    I have never heard that sound in West-Flemish, but I just haven't heard much West-Flemish dialect in general.

    Short e indeed sounds like [e] in the Kempen: [kempə]
    The English word "pet" sounds like [pɛt]. As does Dutch "pet". Cambridge Dictionary writes short e as "e" and r as "r" in their phonetic script, even though those pronunciations are rare/non-existent.
     
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