Falt Earth: Do English roots lie in potatoes?

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The Independent Online
WHEN you travel overland through the top bit of the Netherlands, known as Friesland, someone may stop you and ask: 'Brate jo Frysk?' 'Certainly not,' you should reply, 'but I like your cows and potatoes.' You will win the natives over when you wind down your car window for directions, by saying: 'Goeire.'

Unfortunately we can't tell you how to pronounce it correctly. A linguist says it's pretty close to that hideous command 'oi' - now common to the oiks of Britain, as in 'Oi, you over there'. It's beside the point whether you get the pronunciation right. Merely by trying, you will gain an enormous amount of Frisian-cred, because it's the local equivalent of the Australian 'g'day'. If, however, you wish to make a formal approach say 'Goe dei', which is pretty easy because it's 'good day' without the first 'd'.

It is then that they'll ask you, 'Brate jo Frysk?' (Do you speak Frisian?)

Last week the Netherlands government announced that Frisian - described in most dictionaries as a linguistic refugee from the Middle Ages - would be installed later this year as an official language beside Dutch. It should be good news for Britain, because Frisian - the language spoken by about 500,000 Frieslanders in that tiny, 'fiercely independent' corner of Europe, where the world's most productive breed of dairy cows and its better potatoes come from - is the nearest tongue to our own. Linguistically English is much closer to Frisian than to Welsh, Scottish or Irish, according to the Fryska Akademy, keeper of all things Frisian in Leeuwarden, the Friesland capital.

Up to a point. We apparently share Anglo-Saxon roots. But ask a person in Frisan how he is and it comes out like a request for gravy and chips. Bisto fries? No thanks. I'll have mine mashed.

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