I guess every language has its share of grunts and groans, but the Flemish seem particularly gifted in the art of non-verbal, yet phonetic, communication. Gokgoz goes on to give three examples, the easist of which is “man, man, man!”
It is a simple, yet effective, repititon of the word “man”, which means exactly the same in Dutch as in English but is pronounced with an “a” like in the English “far”. And, notes Gokgoz, “with a strong emphasis on the ‘n’ and with a man-like voice.”
It expresses feelings of exasperation, the intensity of which is measured by the longevity of the repetition. Whenever you hear someone say “man, man, man, man, man, man, man!” – that’s bad.
Another example is “goh!” - whose “g” may make it more difficult to pronounce but also more powerful to say. I agree with Gokgoz when she says that it means something like: “You asked a very difficult question, let me think - preferably accompanied by a very strong sigh.”
But it’s her last example more than any other that will help you win the hearts and minds of the natives, partly because it is so manifestly Flemish (not Dutch from the Netherlands, for example).
It is pronounced “ah-my”, which immediately betrays the origins of the expression: oh my, or ah, poor me. Its meaning has evolved, however, and, says Gokgoz, “this very cute expression can be used for multiple reactions”. I would like to add that those are often reactions of surprise or awe.
Like “man”, it can be repeated almost indefinitely for extra gravity, or followed by the equally incongruous “zeg!”, or “say!” It is a funny little word that once again shows the common ancestry of the Dutch and the English languages.
Some, however, believe it comes from the Portuguese “a mãe”, which means “mother”. It is argued that Portuguese Jews, persecuted in the late Renaissance, introduced the phrase when they fled to Flanders.