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Yes to the sambal. No to the racism.

Posted on 2009.03.08 at 03:00
I'm having trouble writing a more constructive post so have instead a linguistic deconstruction of an incredibly stupid racist 'joke'. (It's not even really a joke. The punchline is "Haha Chinese restaurant owners can't speak Dutch very well".)

So. The situation is that you'll be discussing Chinese restaurants and some wholly original person will jump up and shout "SAMBAL BIJ?!" ("hot sauce with?") and everyone will laugh* because haha, those crazy Chinese people and their inability to speak Dutch, right?

Watch me magically fix this quote into perfect Dutch now: "Sambal erbij?" ("[do you want] hot sauce with that?"), by simply adding a tiny simple little element OH HEY WAIT. I mean, let me explain how "er"** is one of Dutch's strangest features and probably one of the most difficult to come to master as an  L2 speaker and that mistakes like this one are probably common and in no way restricted to any singular group of language learning.

And here's the final thing: "sambal bij?" is an easily intelligible sentence. There's no misunderstanding. The entire extent of the thing is "lol stupid foreigners can't get this stupidly complicated particle right; let's mock them! :D"

It's so full of fail and stupid it actually makes me want to punch things when hearing it. Especially from people who know something about Dutch linguistics and should at least know better from theory.

* My family is strangely fond of this one, despite being part Chinese. The fail can be strong with my family, understand.
** Ok, maybe I lied a bit about explaining. "Er" is a particle with several functions and in this case, it's acting as a reference back to whatever the hell you've ordered that you might want hot sauce with.

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