Afkrabsel van mettekouwskluute

Brussels Travel Blog

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St Gilles
I went yesterday to change my registration to our new commune, in St Gilles. The town hall in St Gilles is meant to be one of the most beautiful in Brussels, and several people have risen up from politics in this small commune to reach heights (such as Henri Spaak "Mr Europe" who started his political career as mayor of St Gilles, before going on to become Belgian foreign minister, President of the General Assembly of the United Nations, Secretary-General of NATO and President of the Organisation of European Economic Cooperation). Despite this, St Gilles is not a prestigious or rich commune, in fact it is one of the poorest and one of the hardest to control. When riots break out in Brussels they are normally in St Gilles, such as riots around 10 years ago in protests that non-Europeans face in dealing with the government.
St Gilles
Even now, as an EU citizen I was allowed to make an appointment and just show up at my appointment time, while Lydia (not being EU) was not allowed to make an appointment and had to wait for three hours until a vacancy came up.

Difficulties in St Gilles are by no means new - St Gilles covers part of what was once called the Marollien. The Marollien were always the poor of Brussels, migrants, unemployed, petty criminals or illiterates, they made a fusion culture known for its swaggering style with a hard edge. A mixture of the poor and immigrants, the Marolliens could speak neither French nor Dutch well, sticking to a simplified fusion of the two languages, with a smatter of Spanish and other immigrant languages mixed in, eg:

Clachehop ("bald") - modified from the Dutch for slap head
Choukelief ("darling") - fusing the French chou (cabbage) with the Dutch diminutive
Faire scampavie ("to cheat on your partner") - from the Spanish word for a small boat used to pursue smugglers
Zwanzer ("to joke") - from the Yiddish word for penis

One linguistic area where they were admired is in creative insults, such as afkrabsel van mettekouwskluute (scrapings of a monkey's testicles), and the descriptive degrees they had for being drunk:

schijlzat - squint drunk
duudzat
- dead drunk
strontzat - shit drunk
crimineelzat - criminally drunk
strontcrimineelzat - criminally shit drunk
bordiklegzat - whorehouse drunk

When Leopold II started to destroy the Marollien with the construction of mega-projects like the Palace of Justice (destroying 3000 homes) the poor people of the Marolles hated it, adding architek and schieven architek (twisted architect) to their already creative set of insults.
St Gilles
The day after the Palace of Justice was inaugurated on October 18, 1883, it was thrown open to the public, and the Marolliens protested by urinating on the carpets, and destroying statues.
lamadude says:
I use "zwanzer" in my everyday conversation, and might occasionally use "strontzat" :-)

A dutch friend of mine in Leuven (so an EU citizen) had to wait nearly 2 days at the very crowded Leuven city hall before she could register for the city, so waiting 3 hours doesn't seem that bad :-)
Also the procedure for EU citizens is simply much quicker because of the free movement within the EU, very little paperwork needs to be filled out.

Brussels is a strange city with those 19 communes, it will be interesting to hear about some of those since most people only ever write about "the city of brussels" and not about the other 18.
Posted on: Aug 27, 2009
lamadude says:
I use "zwanzer" in my everyday conversation, and might occasionally use "strontzat" :-)

A dutch friend of mine in Leuven (so an EU citizen) had to wait nearly 2 days at the very crowded Leuven city hall before she could register for the city, so waiting 3 hours doesn't seem that bad :-)
Also the procedure for EU citizens is simply much quicker because of the free movement within the EU, very little paperwork needs to be filled out.

Brussels is a strange city with those 19 communes, it will be interesting to here about some of those since most people only ever write about "the city of brussels" and not about the other 18.
Posted on: Aug 27, 2009
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St Gilles
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photo by: Vlindeke