Dutch speakers, alstublieft!

I think this is too particular for GQ.
I can find references to similar surname problems, but this is one I’ve never seen referred to: when citing an author whose name is, for example, Elizabeth ten Grotenhuis, should I alphabetize it as “t” or “g”? How does ‘ten’ function here?

ten Grotenhuis, E.

Grotenhuis, E. ten
or what?

(I’ve seen rules about this for Spanish, French and German names, but never Dutch.) If I begin a sentence about that author, should it be

a: “ten Grotenhuis mentions…”
b “Ten Grotenhuis mentions”
or c: “Grotenhuis mentions…”?
In names like “Van Hemmessen” or “De Vries” the parts stay together, correct?

I apologize if this seems like a stupid question.

If it’s lowercased, it is disconnectable by the rules I learned for this sort of thing. If uppercased, it stays as the first element of the surname. There are always exceptions, and this one is easy: what’s the common usage? Follow it.

Beethoven, Ludwig von (Nobody ever calls him “von Beethoven”, and it’s lowercased)

Van Gogh, Vincent (Nobody ever calls him “Gogh”, and it’s uppercased)

de Maupassant, Guy (Common use keeps the “de” when using his surname, so it’s treated as an undisconnectable first element, even though it’s lowercased).

As for the “ten” Coldfire will have to come up with an explanation. I presume it’s not the guy after “nine Grotenhuis”

One final point: in English the first letter of a sentence is always capitalized, even if it violates some other canon of capitalization. I believe there are no exceptions to this. So option “b” would be correct, regardless of whether his “ten” takes a capital otherwise.

Have no fear, you Resident Dutchie is here :slight_smile:

You are touching one of the finer points of our language here. Let’s use your example: Elizabeth ten Grotenhuis.

Alphabetise it under G. Sometimes it is seen as “Ten Grotenhuis, Elizabeth”. Although most of the times in libraries, etc.: “Grotenhuis, Elizabeth ten”.

When using a name in sentences:

“Elizabeth ten Grotenhuis says…”
“Ten Grotenhuis says in her last book…”
“In her last book, Ten Grotenhuis says…”

So the capital T is only dropped when the name is written out in full. HOWEVER this is only the case for Dutch names. Flemish names (i.e. names from the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium) have different rules. Here, the “Van”, “Ter”, “Ten”, etc. is ALWAYS capitalised, even if the name is written in full. Why, I do not know, but the Belgians are funny that way :wink:

Van Hemmessen and De Vries would follow the very same rules in alphabetisation (?) and capitalisation.
In Dutch, the first word is ALWAYS capitalised, like in your language. But as seen, when dropping the first name, capitalisation already takes place.

Polycarp, here’s something few people know: the full name is Ludwig van Beethoven. Yes, “van” with an “a”. His parents were Dutch, I believe. Could have been his grandparents too. And officially, that name should be treated the same as above. But since “Beethoven” is so widely used, not even the Dutch bother to do it… if they KNOW, that is :wink:

In Poly’s example, “Van Gogh” is correctly uppercased, but only because the first name isn’t there. Hence, it would be “Vincent van Gogh”. Popularity is not an issue here :wink:

de Maupassant is written that way because the French rules differ, I think - I’m not even sure if they do. Either way, it’s not because of the most widespread use of the name.

As for the meanings - it’s Old Dutch mostly, but I’ll try and convert it to modern English:

“van” would be “of”. So, Jan van Amsterdam is Jan of Amsterdam (or John, if you will).

“ter” and “ten” can be best translated as “on the”, “to the” or “near the”. Hence, Piet ter Duin is “Pete near the Dunes”. Although it doesn;t really mean that in Modern Dutch though.

“van de” and “van der” are variations of “of the”. Thus, Henk van der Molen is “Henk of the Mill”. “from the” is sometimes a better translation.

I’m not even going into double last names and nobility names… that’s gonna take me all week :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

I hope this clarifies somewhat.


“You know how complex women are”

  • Neil Peart, Rush (1993)

Ah, ok. Thanks, guys. I’ll try to get this all under control.

Hey Coldfire,
I can say “I am a shark” in Dutch!
Wow, are you impressed yet?

sneaking back to threads containing languages I know anything about

Just so everybody knows:

“I am a shark” => “Ik ben een haai”

‘ik ben un hi’ (phonetical)

Repeat after me, etc etc.

Please proceed :wink:


“You know how complex women are”

  • Neil Peart, Rush (1993)