Friday, January 9, 2009

From "Clin d'oeil" to "Faux-Pas"

As a New Yorker, you probably rarely get exposed to the internal kitchen of Belgian politics. But today is the day.
I got wind today of my latest faux-pas. It actually happened months ago, in August, but I wasn't aware of it until a Walloon (French speaking Belgian) friend mentioned it to me today. I think I have upset the entire Walloon community (Flemish Belgians tend to be very good at that lately, see our latest Prime Minister!) with a comment I made in the New York Observer. So, before rumors about a separatist waffle-truck in New York spread even further, let me make amends here to my fellow Belgians. Here's what the Observer said:
"Thomas Degeest's Wafels & Dinges truck might just be the perfect metaphor for Belgium. Painted in the country's colors -- red, yellow and black -- the truck sells Belgian waffles at several Manhattan locations. It looks patriotic. It flies a Belgian flag out its back window. But then there's that name.
"Every time we get Belgians [ordering] we get, 'Whoa, what a crazy name,' because it's really Flemish slang that we've got on the truck," Mr. Degeest said.
"Wafel" is spelled the Flemish way. "Dinges" (pronounced ding-us) is Flemish slang for "stuff." And the "liege cinnamon royal" waffle is served how King Albert II likes to eat them: "on a silver plate while serenaded by Flemish virgins."
For Mr. Degeest, the cinnamon royal "symbolizes the way that the Flemish are supporting the rest of the French-speaking community" in Belgium, a sentiment shared by many of his compatriots in the north of the country, as media outlets have reported."

Especially that comment about "supporting the Frenchs-speaking community" must have really inflamed Walloon passions and pride. So, to my Walloon friends, apologies. The metaphor I created was meant as a fun and graphical depiction of the Belgian situation (of course, there is a reality to the money transfers but that's political, no need to take it personally) - the "clin d'oeil" (the joke) didn't really come through in the reporting. Just rest assured that I love Wallons as much as Flamands and more than the French, Dutch or the Germans...;-). And that's what makes us all Belgians in the end, no?

As for the non-Belgian New Yorkers who got lost reading this blog post about a tiny country that holds Belgians, Walloons, Flemish, Dutch, French and Brussels, all I can say is:
Don't worry, it's complicated.

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TODAY SHOW hosts the Waffle Guy

They don't make 'm anymore like that...