Double dactyl in Dutch

From Anne Cutler, I learn that the light verse form the double dactyl is popular in Dutch — I knew it only in English, where it originated — thanks to “an outstanding practitioner of the art” (as Anne put it) in the Netherlands who writes under the pseudonym Drs. P. (Drs is an academic degree). A while ago Anne was inspired to try her own hand at it in Dutch, with a bit of an academic sting in its tail.

Dutch Wikipedia tells us that Drs. P. is the pseudonym of Heinz Hermann Polzer (born in Thun, Switzerland, in August 1919 [insert a Zwicky cheer for the Swiss here]), who is, among other things, a writer, cabaret artist, poet, and composer.  The double dactyl form is known in Dutch as ollekebolleke (compare English higgledy piggledy and the like); Dutch Wikipedia page here. Drs. P.’s book Zeslettergrepigheid (‘Sixsyllabicity’) runs to 234 pages of ollekebollekes, not including footnotes and index; he’s good at finding single double-dactylic words for the 6th line (even, Anne tells me, masturbatorium).

Double dactyls (including background information about the verse form) on this blog include:

5/25/11: Double dactylic sniff (link), using the line “Musk and testosterone”, which is cheating, since it’s not a single double-dactylic word; as an English double dactyl of Drs. P. explains: Second line, second part / Hexasyllabical

12/5/11: Rudy the Christmas elf (link), a double dactyl for Christmas

4/8/12: Double dactyl for Easter (link)

That brings us to Anne’s verse, about the dearth of women professors in the Netherlands. Reproduced here with her permision, the Dutch original on the left, Anne’s more or less literal translation (with very light amendment by me), not in double-dactylic form, on the right:

Rector magnificus                        Rector magnificus*
rijen decanen en                         rows of deans and
gans het bestuur                         all the [university] executive
stellen hoofdschuddend vast:             decide, shaking their heads:

Mannen zijn simpelweg                    Men are simply
professorabeler**                        more suitable to become a professor
Vrouwenvolk, bliif maar nog              Womenfolk, just be good and
braaf in de kast***                      stay in the closet


*vice chancellor/university president.

**literally ‘professor-[suit]able-er’; even long adjectives can take comparative –er in Dutch.

***yes, in de kast means ‘in the closet’.


2 Responses to “Double dactyl in Dutch”

  1. Bob Richmond Says:

    I wrote what may be the world’s only quadruple dactyl in memory of my professor of organic chemistry at Harvard in 1957 (no, his name doesn’t fit the meter):

    Cisity transity
    Louis F. Fieser who
    tied on the Harvard
    premedical bib:

    speaking of napalm or
    he’s equally glib.

    (Dr. Fieser was an expert on steroid chemistry. The quadruple dactyl is the name of the core molecule of steroids. He also invented napalm.)

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      This sets up an interesting tension in line division. Dividing into metrical units, you get:

      … tied on the Harvard pre-
      medical bib:

      … cyclopentanoper-
      hydrophenanthrene he’s
      equally glib

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