Thursday, August 16, 2012

West Flemish Proverbs: Djoos Utendoale

My father is West Flemish. I grew up in Limburg at the opposite side of Flanders and it is as if this geographical distance also reflects in the difference within our spoken dialects. Generally speaking, all non-West Flemish Flemings will act like the Western dialect is completely incomprehensible. For myself, I mostly joke that I was raised bilingually. But no, also for me it requires a big effort to understand the different West Flemish dialects (...and don't even start about asking me for the correct pronunciation...).

Still, both on top of my father's desk and in the living room of my grand parents is a collection of beautifully calligraphed proverbs. Not in regular Dutch or what I would describe as "standardized Flemish", no: real West Flemish proverbs and aphorisms written in pronunciation spelling.

As I understand most of the meaning, it is difficult to translate them without losing some of its poetic value. Still, underneath I present some of the proverbs written by father Joris Declercq, also known as Djoos Utendoale. I was quite shocked to notice that there is no Wikipedia-page dedicated to him, so I will use part of this article to tell about him as well.

The proverb that got me interested in the writing of father Joris Declercq, is the one that is standing on a dresser in my grand parents' living room:
De zúnne e' schiengt nie alle doag'n
En zúndag ku't nie ossan zijn,
Mo dat belet mij nie te vroag'n
Da'j vriendlik bluuft vo' mij.
And I hope that this one is written semi-correctly, as I remember it by heart, I have no written example nearby. Feel free to comment on any possible correction.

Here is my attempt to an English translation:

De zúnne e' schiengt nie alle doag'n
The sun does not shine every day,
En zúndag ku't nie ossan zijn,
And Sunday cannot always be,
Mo dat belet mij nie te vroag'n
But that doesn't prevent me from asking
Da'j vriendlik bluuft vo' mij.
That you stay friendly to me.
You can try this Soundcloud widget to check the pronunciation, just press "play":

Contribution by lamplightmistake.

The writer is father Joris Declercq, also known as Djoos Utendoale. The website of the Belgian village Haringe offers a biography:

Joris Declercq (né Georges Declercq) was born on March 27, 1921. He was the fourteenth child of Remi and Octavie Declercq - Cuvelier. After his schooling, he joined his father in his job as a house painter and after work he bicycled to the art painter Jules Boudry te Poperinge. The young Declercq did not have an exquisite talent for drawing or art painting (although he has been painting later in his life), but was an excellent violin player.

In 1943, Joris Declercq moved to Limburg to become a priest, which became official in Brussels on December 23, 1950. A few months later he left to Burundi as a missionary, where he helped to establish the mission post of Gitega.

In November 1974, Joris Declercq moved back to Flanders and became the second priest of Haringe in January 1975. He has supposedly brought Haringe 'back to live' with his charisma and motivated an art community with exhibitions, organ concerts, open air theatre and other manifestations that attracted people to visit the village on the border with France.

He wrote books and poetry (of which 10 beautiful aphorisms can be found in this blog article together with their translations) and researched the history of the old Haringe and its church together with sacristan Jozef Gheysens.

In November 1981, father Joris Declercq became sick and had to be brought to the hospital in Roeselare where he passed away on December 4, 1981.

A more extensive biography can be found on the website "Pater Declercq" (in Dutch) or in the book "Denkend aan Joris Declercq" by Mark Deltour.

As soon as my aunt got to know that I am interested in the proverbs and aphorisms by Djoos Utendoale, she sent me a stack of postcards that contain more of his work:

Dat'ol êweest hed dát' wúlt
Even as everything has been as it has
Noöis moe'j' jun moed úpgeev'n,
You should never give up (your courage),
Va'doage ku'j' were herbegúnn'n
Today you can again recommence
An de reíste van jun leev'n.
At the remainder/future of your live.

Contribution by lamplightmistake.

Ê vrind is lik ê stekkerdroad,
A friend is like barbed wire,
Je kut'dr'an vaste roak'n;
You can get attached to it;
En ojje were weg wult goan,
And when you want to go away (again),
'T doe zeër je los te moak'n.
It hurts to unattach yourself.

Contribution by lamplightmistake.

Kurieus hoe dat't in't leven goat
Strange/interesting how it goes in live
Mè groöte lik mè kleëne;
With tall as with small;
Oj leute hed, olleman lacht mei
If you are having fun, all laugh along
Mo krijst je... j'zijt olleëne.
But if you weep... you are alone.

Contribution by lamplightmistake.

Oj kijkt up mij', en ik up joe'
If you look at me, and I at you
Me sloan nuze oog'n nere,
We cast our eyes down,
Me zegg'n niet'n, en pertank...
We say nothing, and yet...
Me zegg'n toch zo vele!
We say so much!

Contribution by Moeri.

Contribution by lamplightmistake.

Vele smoörn, en vele drinken
Smoking a lot and drinking a lot
Hêd 'n hâld van de mensch'n in't graf doen zinken...
Has made half of the people plunge in their grave...
Mo, lik dat'n ângern hâld tóch moe goan
But as the other half has to go anyway
Woarom zoe'm 'nuze pinte loaten stoan!
Why would we leave/(not drink) our (glass of) beer!

Contribution by lamplightmistake.

Oud komm'n -me mênch'n-
Aging -my people-
is 't schonste da'j kú' wênsch'n.
is the most beautiful you can wish for.
Oj' joenk van herte bluuft
If you stay young at heart
En de gezoendheid deugt,
And the health is fine,
En ott'r niemând van de joene
And as long as nobody of your (friends/family)
joen ontjeunt
begrudges you
Da'j nog ê litje leven meugt!
That you may live a while longer!

Contribution by lamplightmistake.

Nuus leven is djuuste lik ên errepelstik,
Our live is just like a potato field,
iedern uutkomn beplânt en bepoöt
every spring it is planted (and planted)
En va'voörn in de veurn gruujn dr zoenger da'j't weet
And in front in the furrow grow, without you knowing,
Bloemn... oek distels gruwelik groöt!
Flowers... also thistles horribly tall!
Bloemn uuttrekk'n, 't is woa, dat doet olleman geern
Picking flowers, it is true, that does everyone with joy
mo de distels loaten ze gruujn;
but the thistles they let them grow;
oj' wult weten woarom -'t is in één zin êzeid-
if you want to know why -it is explained in one sentence-
"ze duvv'n nie' deure duujn!"
"they don't dare to push on!"

Contribution by lamplightmistake.

De mensch'n, 't is van ouds bekênd
People, it is known for ages
bebabbeln geern makânger,
like to talk about each other,
't is woa vo'mij, 't is woa vo'joe,
it is true for me, it is true for you,
vo'n eën'n is't lik vo'n ângern.
for one it is the same as for another.
Wuk doe'j, ojje bebabbeld zijt?
What do you do, when you are talked about?
J'hoalt'r ê spreuke bie:
You use a proverb:
"Och, 't fruut woa da'n dr' frutt'niers úp zijn...
"Oh, the fruit where fruitflies are on...
en is nog't slichtste nie!"
it is not the worst at all!"

Contribution by lamplightmistake.

All the information that I can find about the cards is that they are apparently printed by Bafcop, a quick Google delivered me the following contact information but not much more.

I need help for two things:
  1. it would be very convenient if there is a native West Flemish speaker that could record these proverbs (if you have a microphone, you can easily use Soundcloud for recording and instantly putting it online), in that way we can hear the original 'sound' and 'cadence' of the aphorisms. Thanks to fellow redditors lamplightmistake and Moeri, this is done!
  2. I hope to start a Wikipedia page on this town poet and everybody helping is welcome!

Update August 21, 2012:

  • Zeepie sent me cover pictures of four books by or concerning Djoos Utendoale:

Djoos Utendoale: Westhoekse Poëzie
Djoos Utendoale: Westhoekse Poëzie
Djoos Utendoale: Westhoekse Poëzie 2
Djoos Utendoale: Westhoekse Poëzie 2
Djoos Utendoale: Burundese Novellen
Djoos Utendoale: Burundese Novellen
Mark Deltour: Pater Joris Declercq
Mark Deltour: Pater Joris Declercq

More (in Dutch):

Blogpost by Arsène Droogakkers:


  1. "Ol da je doen moet, doet't up tyd
    En osjeblieft mé moate
    Die ossan zeëre an't lopen zyn
    Komm'n toch te loate"

  2. Hello! My name is Anders and I am a westvloams-fanatic and Bruggaholic from Sweden ;). I am interested in these books! Any idea of where to get hold of them or mabye just one of them :)?
    Indeed some very beautiful proverbs <3

  3. Hello Anders,

    nice to read that you are interested in the language. Wow, a fanatic from Sweden, that is pretty neat :-)

    I actually do not know where to order the books, but I will try to find it out for you. Can you leave me your mailaddress or something? Or contact me through LinkedIn.

    If you can read Dutch, then maybe you can read the website of Haringe to start with. They mention an address and bank account number to order books.

    Let me know if you find anything, I am curious on how this progresses :-)

    Belgian greetings,


    1. Goedemiddag! Hier is mijn email: :) I will definitely let you know on the progress although it may take a while since I take it I have to travel to Belgium in order to get my hands on these treasures. I am trying to construct a "westvloams-library" with all kinds of books and especially concerning the dialect itself :D. I usually go to Belgium three times a year or so and used to live in the hague and while there took the train to Brugge one time each month for an absinthe-kafe event! ^^.

      Met vriendelijke groet,

    2. Oh, en dankuwel voor de hulp ofc :)


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