The Beatles' Influence on English-language in the Netherlands

The Beatles’ Influence on English-language in the Netherlands

Fifty years ago today, the Beatles arrived in the Netherlands – minus drummer Ringo Starr, who was hospitalized in London. The band was embarking on its first world tour. It would be the first and last time the Beatles performed in the Netherlands, but their impact was enormous, not only on fashion but also on English usage in the Netherlands.

Thousands of fans were present at Schiphol to greet George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and fill-in drummer Jimmy Nichol. More than 50,000 people lined the canals of Amsterdam while the Beatles toured the city by canal boat.

The next day, the Beatles performed in an auction hall in the village of Blokker. Photojournalist Eddy Posthuma de Boer, then 33, had full access to the band during their visit, and his photos feature in a new book, Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!: Twee dagen met the Beatles in de polder.

In one of Posthuma de Boer’s photos, you see a young fan holding a sign reading “No live without the Beatles.” An easy enough mistake – live and life are quite similar and the meaning of the sign was clear. But it illustrates, according to Ton Den Boon, editor of Van Dale, that at the time English was not as familiar to Dutch people as now.

Prior to the Second World War, French was a far more common second language in the Netherlands, but in the years that followed English became more prevelant. But according to Den Boon, the Beatles also had a profound impact.

Beatlemania was rampant in the Netherlands at the time. They had, by June 1964, two number-1 singles and six other records in the charts. “Thanks to the many hits the Beatles had in the Netherlands from the start of 1964, teenagers became familiar with English words and began using them in everyday conversations, such as “love, honey and yeah,” writes Den Boon in this month’s Onze Taal.

According to Den Boon, many English phrases entered the Dutch lexicon through the Beatles’ music, including “all you need is love,” “a hard days’ night,” “a little help from my friends,” and “nowhere man.”

Tracy Brown Hamilton
Latest posts by Tracy Brown Hamilton (see all)