One morning, somewhere on holiday, my partner and I woke up. I wanted to use the little bathroom first, so I asked him if I could use the bathroom first, or if he wanted to go first. It was an unnecessary question, for I knew he’d want to stay in bed for a while longer. So he said generously: “Of course, you go first”, “dat gun ik je wel”. It made me think of the word gunnen. In the Dutch language, there are more words met gun like vergunning (permission or allowance) or gunst (favour or goodwill). My train of thought about this word, accelerated. Thoughts about its origin, the use, and the meaning. I thought the origin could be Germanic, and the meaning is interesting because it means something like ‘allowing’ or ‘not forbidding’, a kind of passive activity.

But we had holiday activities planned and, I had no problem waiting for the moment I would know everything about gunnen, I didn’t look it up in an online dictionary. It wasn’t a matter of life and death.

When I was home again, I looked it up in my Etymological Dictionary and I found it means ‘not envy’ or ‘to allow’. And the word has Germanic roots as I already suspected.

I love it, thinking about language. Language never ceases to fascinate me.

December 2015

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