Christ Loses Capital in Dutch

An official multinational body has decreed that the surname of Jesus Christ should be written without a capital as from August 2006. That is, if you are using the Dutch language. Though today Dutch-speakers in the Netherlands, Belgium and Surinam write "Christus", next year they will have to change their habits and write "christus".

The change is part of a new spelling norm, to be published in a new edition of the so-called "Green Booklet". Previous spelling reforms date from 1946 and 1996.

Another novelty is that the word for Jew will be written without a capital ("jood") when designating the member of a religion, and with a capital ("Jood") when designating the member of a people. Not all jews are Jews, but not all Jews are jews either.

Apart from "Christus", terms like "Renaissance" and "Middle Ages" will also lose their capitals. But other words will acquire capitals. An Aztec is now an 'azteek' in Dutch, but he will become an 'Azteek' next year, just as an 'eskimo' will become an 'Eskimo'.

Many people in the Netherlands and Belgium are fed up with this second modification to the spelling in less than 10 years. According to some the changes are only intended to increase the sale of school books (which will all have to be reprinted) and dictionaries in what is normally a limited market.

However, I fully welcome at least one change: electronic mail will be written as 'e-mail' again, instead of 'email'. That is good, because the Dutch word 'email' (as in French) also means 'enamel'.

The Nederlandse Taalunie (Dutch Language Union) is the official multinational organism which establishes guidelines for the Dutch language as it is used in the Netherlands, Belgian Flanders and Surinam. The Dutch as it is spoken in Belgium is often called "Flemish", but it is as much Dutch as American English is English. Surinam became a member of The Nederlandse Taalunie only last year. One consequence of its membership is that the Dutch word for elbow, "elleboog", will now get a synonym: "handknie" (literally "handknee").

Christ or christ

As long the debate will be only limited to the discussion about writing 'C(c)hrist' with a capital letter or not, we don't have to worry yet. Indeed, I can only conclude that the Dutch Language Union is busy with the veiled introduction of 'positive discrimination' in the language by minorising the impact of Christ by writing his name in miniscule caracters, whereas the Azteke are able to write their names in capital letters. But more scandalous is the fact that 'Muhammed' will be remained to be written in capital letters. This has a very simple reason: On the television, somebody of the Dutch Language Union has explained that 'christ' (=the statue) will be written in miniscul caracters, because the statue of 'Buddha' (= a buddha) will be also written in miniscul letters. But this is not the case for 'Mohammed'. The reason? It is in islamic culture strictly forbidden to figure anybody related to the islam!! That's the reason why there are no statues of Muhammed, and because they don't exist, there will be never a need to write them in miniscul characters. And so 'Muhammed' will be written at any time in capital letters. So, in fact we can conclude that the supremacy of islamic culture is slightly squeezing into our Western culture, even in our own language. Isn't that a dangerous fact?

But more dangerous are the planned discussions not only in the spelling rules, but in the debate about the general update of the Dutch vocabulary list. From leftist corners, whe hear nowadays a plea to remove the word 'allochtoon' (= allochthone)from the Dutch wordlist; because it has a too negative connotation which would make life for our coloured neigbours in country more hard. But the word 'allochtoon' is in fact clearly enough definited by the dictionnary of 'Van Dale'. By the opinion of Van Dale, 'allochtoon' means: "iem. die van elders afkomstig is" (= somebody whose origin is elsewhere). This means that a tourist, an inhabitant or a worker in a country A who isn't born in that country, is an allochtone. But the meaning of the word is also very polyinterpretable: If an inhabitant of Mortsel would move to Antwerp, he's also an allochtone in the eyes of the native inhabitants of Antwerp. This is of course a very extreme example, because Mortsel and Antwerp are two communities that border eachother (Mortsel in the South, Antwerp in the North); but on the other hand we could also give the example that if there would be life on Mars, and a green tiny mortal would land on our planet, whe could also say that he or she (or whatever ;-)) is an allochtone, because he/she/it doesn't live on planet Earth. What I wanted to prove, is that the word 'allochthone' isn't an invective to discriminate other people, as the leftist organisations would like to believe us; but just a word whit a very logical meaning. So it would be a shame if the word would be submitted from our daily vocabulary list.


@Xavier, the fact that some people want te drop "allochtoon" from the Dutch vocabulary is verry funny, because the word has been introduced to replace other words that had negative connotations. We first called them "gastarbeiders", guest workers. When that word had collected too much negative connotations, we started calling them "migranten", migrants. That too became too negative, and the media started calling them "allochtonen", which is in fact exactly the same as the word "alien" in English.

It seems that some politically sensitive concepts are in heavy need for some 'recyclable' or 'sustainable' words...

Luc, your analysis about


your analysis about 'christus' is not correct. It's only when you use 'christus' as a statue of Christ, that it's written with a lowercase letter. In the name 'Christus', like any proper name, capitalization is retained. The same is true for e.g. 'croesus' (a wealthy man) and 'Croesus' (the ancient king in Asia Minor).


I got my information from the newspaper "Het Nieuwsblad" where the following example was given:

today we are writing: "In the Middle Ages, Christ paid his horseflower (dandelium) with 50-eurobills".

next year we will write: "In the middle ages, christ paid his horsesflower with 50 eurobills".

So I guess what they were writing was not entirely correct.

And yes, I saw some linguist on television saying "if you really are referring to the historical figure of Jesus Christ, then the capital remains". But does that mean that someone is praying to christ, or to Christ?

historical is not religious

The linguists on television saying that the historical person Jesus Christ's name should be written with Capitals just like anyone's name, do not specify whether the religious person Jesus Christ (which is a fairy tale character and not a historical person in the eyes of postmodernism) be written without capital. I suspect this. I suspect that refering to a statue of Christ is meant exactly the same as refering to the religious character of Christ and in this case, Christ in his religious context would be written WITHOUT a capital, which is a typical nuanced and subtle micro-attack on religion from the leftchurchian corner. Something they easily can deny but nevertheless scornfully grin about.


What is the penalty for the incorrect use of capital letters? Loss of one's writer's licence (or "license" for Molly)(or "lisense" for people who just can't spell)?

Is it "Three Strikes And You're Out"?

Bet e. e. cummings is turning in his grave. He'd have got "life" at the very least.