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Translating "alstublieft"


Several people have written to me in attempt to help simplify a translation of the good Dutch word "alstublieft."

Alstublieft does not translate into English. While various applications are equivalent to English terms, none of these encompass all of its meanings. This is normal between languages, of course — but English lacks a cognate for the most beautiful and pragmatic function of the word.

Alstublieft can translate, roughly, variously:

• "Please."
• "Here you go." — on the simple transfer of physical goods.
• "You're welcome." — which is to say, graciously, "please, accept" (spoken, of course, after the receiver's expression of "thank you.")

It is in the second of these, the cognate of "here you go," where one finds the magic of alstublieft. This is because it serves that same function, but it is elegant.

And the elegance of "alstublieft" gives it the ability to conduct a simple transaction in a way that is formal and respectful — and simple, without unnecessary or awkward familiarity.

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