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Thread: Waterloo: why is the most famous name in the so-called: Walloon Brabant Dutch?

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    Waterloo: why is the most famous name in the so-called: Walloon Brabant Dutch?



    How comes the most well known name in (French speaking) so-called Walloon Brabant so happens to be Dutch? Anyone ever wondered about this glaringly historical dodginess.

    How did the placename: Waterloo withstand later Frenchification programmes in Belgium - was it luck owed to the world community already being familiar with Waterloo's original Dutch name at the time of the Napoleonic war's endgame there - thus thwarting the concealment of its Dutchness worthless(?)

    In light of the aforesaid, would there be at least a slither of truth, that Walloon Brabant betokens the latest colonial designation for a not so bygone Dutch speaking land which has fallen to Francophone imperialism which is ongoing in other bits of Belgium to this day?

    In the Anglo-Saxon world, Belgium weirdly seems to be seen through a Francophone/Wallooon bent - which belies the historical truth that: the nation of Great Britain historically always saw the Netherlands and Germany as the threat to its might, and notwithstanding the history books - France.

    Anyway, anyone know the everyday 'stock answer' given by Francophone imperialism to explain away Waterloo's Dutch name?

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    There are plenty of Germanic names in Wallonia. I have analysed the origin of Belgian place names in detail, and found that most Walloon names are actually of Germanic origin, with only a minority of Gallo-Roman names (either Celtic or Latin) in the centre and south of Wallonia.

    This can be explained by the numerous Frankish settlements across all Belgium (not just Flanders) from the late Antiquity to the Middle Ages. Actually, the Franks appear to have settled more intensively in Wallonia than in Flanders. Flemish place names cognate more with Saxon toponyms, notably in England, as well as with Batavian (Holland) and Frisian ones. It is well documented that the Salian Franks had their capital in the modern Walloon city of Tournai, which became the seat of the Merovingian dynasty. The Carolingian hailed from the region of Liège, where most toponyms are overwhelmingly Germanic, although often corrupted by Francisation. Wallonia was primarily Germanic-speaking in Merovingian times, then became increasingly Latinised after Clovis' conquest of Gaul and the adoption of the old Roman customs and language by the Franks, as far north as Tournai and Liège. The high number of Merovingian cemeteries in Wallonia gives an idea of just how Germanic this old Roman territory had become.

    The earliest parts of Wallonia to adopt Latin, and the bastard tongue of the Latinised Franks that is Old French, are those where the original Germanic toponyms are the most corrupted. I had to look at Renaissance maps and medieval records to see just how much some names evolved over the centuries. Nowadays a name like Bouvignes may not look Germanic at all. That is until you know that it was called Bovingen in the Middle Ages.

    Places close to the modern linguistic border between Flanders and Wallonia kept more obvious Germanic spellings because they were the latest to adopt French. Walloon Brabant was most Dutch-speaking (well the Brabantine Flemish dialect) until the late Middle Ages. When Brussels became the capital of the Burgundian Netherlands in the 15th century, French became the official language, and progressively became dominant (around the 18th century). Walloon Brabant became stuck between an increasingly Francophone Brussels and the French speaking region to the south, and became French-speaking itself. A similar process can be observed more recently in the Nord department of France north of Lille - an area that was completely Flemish-speaking until its annexation to France in the late 17th century, and where Flemish was still widely spoken until the early 20th century (notably around Dunkirk and Bergues).

    Waterloo being really just across the modern linguistic divide, it is only natural that it has kept a Dutch name. This one couldn't be Frenchified easily. Other places in Walloon Brabant with obviously Germanic though Frenchified toponyms include: Ohain, Wisbecq, Clabecq, Rebecq, Gottechain... (-becq is one French version of the Flemish -beek, while -hain is one of many ways of rendering the Flemish -em or German -heim). Other got more radical name changes. All the names in -hoven, for instance, were changed to -court when they became French speaking. Even less obvious, Enghien is Edingen in Flemish.
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    The explanation is straightforward enough. Waterloo used to be in the Flemish/Dutch speaking part of Belgium, but language creep has placed it firmly in the French speaking part in the modern era (a gradual northwards move of the Taalgrens over the centuries).
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    By sheer coincidence, I was reading Bruce Donaldson's Dutch: A linguistic history of Holland and Belgium, published in 1983, and it touched on this very question.

    On a section on the language question in Belgium, Donaldson writes on page 31:

    A good Dutch sounding place name like Waterloo, situated south of the language border twenty kilometers from the capital shows, for example, that Dutch has already lost ground to French in this area in the past.

    Then Donaldson adds this interesting footnote:

    When the Flemings reformed the spelling of Dutch in 1946, they also applied the new rules to place names, unlike Holland where it remained optional. Thus Waterloo became Waterlo ... But these areas had become French speaking and the Walloons had nothing to gain by recognising a Dutch spelling reform, thus the Wallons retained the spelling Waterloo...while the Flemings write these and other such names according to the new spelling.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Joey D View Post
    The explanation is straightforward enough. Waterloo used to be in the Flemish/Dutch speaking part of Belgium, but language creep has placed it firmly in the French speaking part in the modern era (a gradual northwards move of the Taalgrens over the centuries).
    Within Belgium's lifespan, methinks not an inch has the Dutch speech nor German ones dared to ever find themselves encroaching on the historic Walloon/Picard and later French speaking bits of Belgium. Tis been all thoroughly one sided.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Joey D View Post
    By sheer coincidence, I was reading Bruce Donaldson's Dutch: A linguistic history of Holland and Belgium, published in 1983, and it touched on this very question.

    On a section on the language question in Belgium, Donaldson writes on page 31:

    A good Dutch sounding place name like Waterloo, situated south of the language border twenty kilometers from the capital shows, for example, that Dutch has already lost ground to French in this area in the past.
    Quote Originally Posted by Joey D View Post
    By sheer coincidence, I was reading Bruce Donaldson's Dutch: A linguistic history of Holland and Belgium, published in 1983, and it touched on this very question.

    On a section on the language question in Belgium, Donaldson writes on page 31:

    A good Dutch sounding place name like Waterloo, situated south of the language border twenty kilometers from the capital shows, for example, that Dutch has already lost ground to French in this area in the past.
    Warning! warning! warning!

    Be wary of how one handles what is the believed pathways of Frenchification of Dutch, German, Walloon and Picard speaking Belgium. For example, despite ongoing official enforcement, Luxembourg is an hundredfold less everyday Francophonelike/French-speaking in truth, than what it is made to seem by way of maps, wiki articles, roadsigns and suchlike in English-speaking medias. One just have to google English-speaking wikis anent Luxembourg stuff and placenames - its so misleading and downright archaic in the utterly needless use of Frenchlike exynoms over their inborn Luxembourg German ones. The aforesaid phoniness might be nice and flattering to the French and Bel. Francophones and their 'La Francophonie' but it ends up dumbing-down the English-speaking worldview of Luxembourg. Rather than a truthful take on Luxembourg one is left with some kind of warped 'Francollywood' Luxembourg.

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    ^ You might be right about Luxembourg, but I'm not sure what this has to do with the Taalgrens cutting across Belgium, which at one point cut into the far North-Western corner of France. It's fairly well documented that it has moved North over the last few centuries, and Waterloo is a good example of that, now sitting South of the Taalgrens, and Brussels is heading that way as well (if it hasn't already happened).

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    Hullo Joey,

    What I think I was trying to show, is that, yes, the Frenchification has been going on for a long time, but despite the aforsaid, "Walloon Brabant" even now, is not FULLY Frenchified - even on it's English wiki noone will dare byword that the history of the title:"Walloon Brabant" only goes back to the 1990s! - little leads like the aforesaid, show that the Frenchification hasn't quite completed itself. Frenchification doesn't have the confidence yet to be open about how late-wellspringing 'Walloon Brabant' is.

    The said historic Frenchification of what is now WB (and other bits of Belgium) always looks more thorough on paper (ie maps, officialdom, suchlike, Francophonecentrism of the English-speaking world over its sister-tongue, Dutch) than what would of been the truelife status of Dutch amongst the folk in lands earmarked for Frenchification.

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    Worth keeping in mind that Steenkirque in Hewynowes/Hainaut seems to of more or less withstood Frenchification of any worth, likely because (like Waterloo) its also named after a well-known battle and therefore it's name got known to the wider-world before Frenchification made landfall with it.

    Bytheway, one is led to believe there never where any Dutch placenames in Hainaut.

    Edit* please note the historic official English name has always been Steenkirk (cf Dunkirk) and googebooks, yet its wiki pages bear the worthless part-Frenchification: Steenkirque - again, this is more proof that Dutch placenames are STILL actively being Frenchified as we speak. English-speaking Wiki policy is always to go with the known English exynoms but yet the same historic forces behind Frenchification in Belgium are able to override the aforesaid guidelines without worry nor bother.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Denderplankenware View Post
    Hullo Joey,

    What I think I was trying to show, is that, yes, the Frenchification has been going on for a long time, but despite the aforsaid, "Walloon Brabant" even now, is not FULLY Frenchified - even on it's English wiki noone will dare byword that the history of the title:"Walloon Brabant" only goes back to the 1990s! - little leads like the aforesaid, show that the Frenchification hasn't quite completed itself. Frenchification doesn't have the confidence yet to be open about how late-wellspringing 'Walloon Brabant' is.

    The said historic Frenchification of what is now WB (and other bits of Belgium) always looks more thorough on paper (ie maps, officialdom, suchlike, Francophonecentrism of the English-speaking world over its sister-tongue, Dutch) than what would of been the truelife status of Dutch amongst the folk in lands earmarked for Frenchification.
    Are you making the case that it's not as bad, or happening as quickly as many of us might think (who live outside of Benelux)?

    Do you mind clarifying what you mean by "lands earmarked for Frenchification"?

    I would view the Northward march of the Taalgrens over the last few centuries as not something which has happened as part of a deliberate policy.

    Having said that, it wouldn't surprise me if the reverse is true, that the Dutch-speaking population of Belgium have become more proactive in protecting their language, especially in terms of government policy (which I don't have a problem with, I might add).

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