On BBC Radio 4 there is a panel game called The Unbelievable Truth. In it, panellists have to speak on a given topic. What they say consists mostly of lies, but with a few nuggets of truth hidden among the rubbish. The other panellists have to try to detect the truths.
Last Monday’s episode, repeated yesterday, had one of the panellists talking on the subject of Cake. One of the purportedly true assertions he made was that the word cookie comes from the Dutch word… well, he said something like ˈkɜːkdʒi. The chair, David Mitchell, later repeated this as something like ˈkœːkjə.
They were both no doubt reading from a script that spelt the Dutch word correctly as koekje. As my readers will of course know, in Dutch this is actually pronounced ˈkukjə, making it a very plausible source for the English word.
What I find shocking is that the first panellist didn’t know that Dutch j is pronounced like English y (as in German, Danish, Polish etc., not to mention IPA); and that neither he nor the chairman knew that the Dutch spelling oe regularly corresponds to the sound u. (Facts about Dutch phonetics here.) It’s like in English shoe and canoe!
All BBC producers and other contributors have access to the excellent BBC Pronunciation Unit, which is staffed by knowledgeable trained phoneticians who know about, or can find out about, any language you care to mention. They are a phone call or a mouse click away. But they won’t tell you unless you ask.
But hey, there are only 22 million or so speakers of Dutch, even if they do live just a few hundred kilometres away (almost as far away from London as Scotland!). Educated people can’t be expected to know the basic facts about such an unimportant language. Particularly in a country where foreign language study has been virtually dropped from the secondary school curriculum.