WRITING: Adding A Glossary To The Books?

For reasons of authenticity, many non-English locales, phrases, and names in the Amsterdam Assassin Series are written in their original language. Instead of breaking the words down into Dutch/Japanese/German/Arabic/Jamaican, I merely list these words alphabetically, adding explanations where warranted. If you spot other words that require translation or elaboration, please send me an email so I can include them in this glossary.

Alstublieft (Dutch) – shortened form of ‘Als het u belieft’ meaning, ‘If it pleases you’. Most often used as ‘please’. Informal, asjeblieft. Abbreviated, mostly on signs, AUB.
Ascenseur pour l’Echafaud – (French) Lift to the Scaffold, a movie by Louis Malle with music improvised by Miles Davis.
Atari – (Japanese) Go term, meaning a stone is under attack or immediate threat.
Bien merci – (French) That’s right, thanks. Or, ‘I’m fine, thanks’.
BKA – (German) The Bundeskriminalamt (Federal Criminal Police Office) is a national investigative police agency in Germany and falls directly under the Federal Ministry of the Interior. As law enforcement in Germany is vested in the states, the BKA only becomes involved in cases of international organised crime or when requested by the respective federal state authorities or the federal minister of the interior. The federal prosecutor can also direct it to investigate cases of special public interest.
Cartucho, El – (Spanish) The Bullet, a neighbourhood in Bogotá, Colombia, which was destroyed and replaced by a park. At its time, one of the poorest and most dangerous areas in the world during its time, it is now a new part of downtown Bogotá filled with drug addicts and the poverty stricken.
Ça va? – (French) How are you? Response ‘Ça va bien’, it goes well or I’m good.
Chaud – (French) Hot. Trop Chaud = Too Hot.
Chèrie – (French) darling (only used to women). Chèr means ‘expensive’, and if expressed by a man to another man ‘mon chèr’ means ‘my good man’.
Chotto matte kudasai – (Japanese) Please wait a second, also used as ‘hold the line for a moment’.
Cochon – (French) pig.
Dank u wel – (Dutch) thank you very much. Often dankuwel, thankyouverymuch.
DEA – (US) Abbreviation of Drug Enforcement Administration, a federal body mostly specializing in the enforcement of drug laws and persecuting drug crime.
Diu! – (Cantonese) Vulgar expression of dissatisfaction or shock.
Diu nei! – (Cantonese) More vulgar expression of dissatisfaction or shock
Diu nei lou mou! – (Cantonese) Incredibly vulgar expression of dissatisfaction or shock.
Eikel (Dutch slang) – Jerk. Literal translation ‘glans’, the tip of the penis that is shaped like an acorn, which is also called ‘eikel’ in Dutch.
Engelbewaarder (Dutch) – Guardian angel. Name of a jazz cafe on the Kloveniersburgwal.
Fuseki – (Japanese) Go term, the opening moves before the first clashes.
Gaijin/Gaikokujin – (Japanese) Gaijin means ‘strange person’, but is commonly used for ’stranger’ or ‘foreigner’, i.e. any non-Japanese person. The polite word for ‘foreigner’ or non-Japanese person is ‘gaikokujin’.
Gau! – (Cantonese) Vulgar expression of disappointment.
Geld – (Dutch) money
Godverdomme – (Dutch) Goddamn
Graag gedaan – (Dutch) literal ‘Happy to have done it’, similar to ‘You’re welcome’.
Gracht – (Dutch) originally a gracht is the moat around a castle or city, but it’s mostly translated as canal, which can cause confusion as Dutch also has the word ‘kanaal’ which means a (man-made) waterway that’s mainly straight as a ruler. Other waterways are ‘sloot’, a shallow waterway often used to separate meadows from the road and each other, ‘poel’, a natural pool, ‘meer’, a lake, and ‘rivier’, river. Grachten are flanked by ‘kades’ or quays, which are named after the waterway. So riding along the Prinsengracht would consist of riding down the quay flanking the Prince’s Canal. As the quays flanking the grachten are narrow, they’re mostly one-way, with the inner ring heading east to west, and the outer ring west to east. If you need to be at a certain address in the middle of a block, you might have to drive past it on the inner ring, cross the canal by the first bridge and drive back along the other quay to reach your destination. In some cases, the gracht has been filled to make a road, which process is called ‘dempen’, so a ‘gedempte gracht’ is a former canal, now filled up. A ‘burgwal’ is a moat that used to be part of the defense works of Amsterdam. The most famous ‘burgwallen’ are those of the Red Light District: Oudezijds Voorburgwal (Old Side Front Defense Quay), Oudezijds Achterburgwal (Old Side Rear Defense Quay), and the Kloveniersburgwal, which is untranslatable (the ‘kloveniers’ were part of the ‘schutterij’ (militia), who used a rifle called a ‘klovenier’).
Hai – (Japanese) ‘yes’ or ‘affirmative’ or ‘please’.
Hanami – (Japanese) ‘flower viewing’, a custom in Japan to watch the ‘sakura’ (cherry blossom) as they fall like snow in May.
Henna – coloured powder, mixed into a paste. Used to colour hair or adorn the skin. From Arabic ḥinnā.
(Dienst) IPOL – (Dutch) A division within the Korps Landelijke Politie Diensten (KLPD) concerned with gathering information for law enforcement purposes, counter-terrorism coordination and liaising with foreign law enforcement. Similar to MI-5 or Homeland Security’s ICE division.
Joseki – (Japanese) Go term, meaning ‘set pattern’.
Kanji – (Japanese) Japanese script, drawn with brush strokes. Katakana are symbols used to transcribe foreign sounds/names, for instance ma-ru-te-y-n for Martyn. Hiragana and Hentaigana are more intricate and used for Japanese sounds, names and concepts.
Kampai – (Japanese) drinking toast, akin to ‘your (good) health’.
Kankyuto – (Japanese) “sword to pierce head”, small double edged blade used to prop up severed heads for formal viewing. They can occasionally be found in the saya (sheath) in place of a kozuka (utility knife).
Katagi – (Japanese) Useful person, contributing to society. See ‘Yakuza’.
Katana – (Japanese) curved Japanese sword.
Kimono – (Japanese) Kimono (literary ‘thing to wear’) are T-shaped, straight-lined robes worn so that the hem falls to the ankle, with attached collars and long, wide sleeves. Kimono are wrapped around the body, always with the left side over the right (except when dressing the dead for burial), and secured by a sash called an obi, which is tied at the back. Kimono are generally worn with traditional footwear (zori or geta) and split-toe socks called tabi.
Klootzak – although often translated as ‘asshole’, the literal translation of klootzak is ‘scrotum’ or ‘ballsack’.
Madame – (French) Mrs. A married woman.
Mademoiselle – (French) Ms. An unmarried woman or girl.
Mehndi – temporary tattoos made with henna, from Sanskrit mendhikā. Mehndi is a ceremonial art form which originated in ancient India. Intricate patterns of mehndi are typically applied to brides before the wedding ceremonies.
Mi Vida Loca – (Spanish) My Crazy Life. Often denoted by three tattoed dots in the web between the thumb and the index finger, meaning someone is in the criminal life.
Mozambique Drill – (shooting technique) A close-quarter shooting technique in which the shooter quickly fires twice (double tap) into the torso (center mass) of a target and follows up with a carefully aimed shot to the head of the target. The third shot should be aimed to destroy the brain or brain stem, killing the target and preventing the target from retaliating.
Mou lei tau – (Cantonese) makes no sense, non-sensical, crap.
Naggacha – (Arab) also spelled Nakacha. A (female) artist specialising in mehndi or henna tattoos, mostly for bridal purposes.
Nani? – (Japanese) Informal phrase meaning ‘What?’. Although it sounds rude, it’s the most common phrase people say when answering the phone or intercom, but also to express confusion ‘I beg your pardon?’.
Ohayo – (Japanese) Informal phrase meaning ‘good morning’ or ‘hello’.
Oshibori – (Japanese) a hot damp rolled-up towel to clean your hands and face prior to a meal.
Oyabun – (Japanese) Literally, ‘Father’, the Oyabun is the head of a Yakuza family, similar to a Mafia Don.
Peccadillo – (Latin) a minor sin or character flaw.
Petit – (French) Little or little one. Feminine form Petite.
Quintain – (archaic) Medieval jousting training equipment, consisting of a revolving cross figure on a stick, with a shield on one arm of the crosspiece and a bag of sand swinging from the other. The goal was to strike the shield accurately to avoid being hit by the heavy bag of sand when the quintain would revolve around the stick.
Reprobate – (Latin) an unrepented sinner, a morally unprincipled person.
Seppuku – (Japanese) Ritual suicide by slicing open the abdomen with a wakizashi or katana. Often ignorantly called ‘hara-kiri’ (cutting the belly), seppuku is the deepest apology a male samurai can make to his lord for failure. Since the samurai’s life belongs to his lord, the right to commit seppuku has to be granted by the lord. The lord can also prefer for the samurai to atone in another way, like yubitsume.
Shiatsu – (Japanese) Acupressure massage. A form of massage therapy where points on the body are pressed with the thumbs, fingers and elbows. In Japan many blind people become shiatsu therapists because touch is much more important than vision in the practice.
Sodemieter op! – (Dutch slang) similar to ‘fuck off’.
Steeg – (Dutch) an alley, often narrow. Other roads are ‘snelweg’, motorway or highway, ‘weg’, roads intended for vehicles, ‘straat’, streets intended for traffic to the houses flanking it, ‘dwarsstraat’ is a sidestreet often perpendicular on the main street, and ‘laan’ or lane, which are mostly straight and flanked by trees. Steeg, while already narrow, has a diminishing version, ‘steegje’, meaning small alley. Stegen and steegjes are found most often in the old city quarters built for pedestrian traffic.
Sumimasen – (Japanese) Formal apology to a superior.
Tabi – (Japanese) A cross between a sock and a slipper, often blue or white with a thick cotton or thin leather sole. The big toe is separated from the other toes to allow the tabi to be worn in Japanese wooden clogs called geta or wooden slippers called zori.
Trut – (Dutch slang) means frigid bitch. A ‘Teef’ is a female dog or ‘bitch’, and also used as a curse word.
Wakizashi – (Japanese) a short sword, part of a set of two swords, one long ‘katana’ and a short ‘wakizashi’. A wakizashi is longer than a knife ‘tanto’, but not as long and cumbersome in wielding as the katana. Katana are generally wielded two-handed, a wakizashi is handled with one hand. Inside domiciles and narrow spaces, a wakizashi is preferable to the katana. Both katana and wakizashi are sheathed in a scabbard of lacquered wood called saya, and have guards between the handle and the blade called tsuba, although the tsuba of the wakizashi are proportionally smaller. A tanto, or knife, has a saya, but no tsuba.
Waribashi – (Japanese) bamboo chopsticks for single use.
Yakuza – (Japanese) Japanese gangster. The name derives from ya-ku-za or 8-9-3, the losing hand in oicho-kabu, a Japanese game similar to blackjack. Yakuza consider themselves ‘useless’ and they prey on the katagi or ‘useful’ members of society.
Yubitsume – (Japanese) the ritual ‘finger-cutting’ for atonement. Once a ritual specifically for samurai to atone for failure or sins without the right to commit ritual suicide or seppuku, cutting off the little finger of the right hand actually makes wielding a sword more difficult, because the sword is mainly gripped with the little fingers. The practice was adopted by the Yakuza, who are mainly associated with the practice. Some Yakuza display their shortened fingers proudly, others wear prosthetics in public.
Yukata – (Japanese) unlined casual summer kimono.

This post is updated regularly, so check back!


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