Monday, February 12, 2018

Microstory 776: Neener

Neener, neener, neener. We’ve all heard the phrase, but where exactly does it come from? Well, most will tell you either that they personally don’t know, or that no one knows. But I’ve discovered the truth. It comes from a long dead language—a branch in the Germanic language—that few have even heard of. In the thirteenth century, a schism arose between the Western Frisian Islands, and the Eastern Frisian Islands. While the rest of the Netherlands was busy evolving towards the Late Middle Dutch language, the Frisians Islands were sort of doing their own thing, especially the Eastern islands. They decided to arbitrarily develop their own dialect, almost completely independent of all others. Their goal was for their words to be completely unintelligible with their origins, which meant they would have to come up with a slew of new vocabulary, and a new way to organize them. Unfortunately for them, for as few people as there were living there at the time, this was proving to be easier thought than said. People were used to the way language was spoken before, and had underestimated what it would take to get used to something else. This constructed language quickly died out, but not before a complete list of new vocabulary and grammar was written down, in a dictionary so rare, only one copy of it survives today, possibly out of a total of only three. The words are bizarre, and their usage even more complicated. There appeared to be a set of grammatical rules with far more exceptions than true adherences, making it even more difficult to learn than Modern English. One word stands out amongst them, and answers the age-old question of where the childish taunting song comes from. Their word for no was neener, which resembled the standard Dutch form at the time more than any other translated word. With family ties to the Eastern Frisian Islands, this historical anecdote is what led tech magnate, Katrijn Arbeider to choose this when she founded her conglomerate, Neener Neener Corp.

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