Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews

Discovering hidden meanings of tart, ironic, and sweet

Everyone seems to know that tart means sour. The question should be asked, then what’s the difference between the two?

In Dutch, we see the same with the adjectives wrang and zuur.

The Dutch leading dictionary Van Dale suggests that wrang refers to something so sour that it wrings one’s lips.

I thought for a long time about the question of why we have an extra word next to sour. On Shabbat, I suddenly knew.

We use tart when we mean: [sour but] it should have been sweet(er)!

The fruit, the grapes, the wine, the life story, the difference between the good fortune of my brother and my misfortune, etc. These don’t just give or leave a sour or bitter taste in the mouth. They mourn that they aren’t any sweeter. The word tart contains a complaint, a disappointment.

Also when the word is used as a derogatory noun, there is a regret that this prostitute or old lady — also in Dutch: ouwe taart — isn’t any sweeter.


Dictionaries also seem troubled explaining all of the adjective ironic.

They tend to point out that irony can mean an unexpected development.

But it’s not an irony when someone after 20 years of infertility gives birth to a child. So we see that irony needs to be something negative. It would be an irony if she got a child years after giving up on infertility treatment. The new baby is not ironic but the time and nerves wasted in treatment are.

But just as with tart, it’s not just negative. It’s a negative that should have been positive. It’s bitter where it should have been sweet.

Ironically, he worked his whole life to get wealthy but ended up without a penny to his name while his lazy brother became rich by winning the lotto.


What is called sweets in English and Hebrew, the Dutch call zuurtjes if they are meant for sucking, which literally means: little sour ones. Of course, candy must be sweet but some are special because a little sour is added to enhance their taste: zuurtjes. (And a little sweet added makes sour stuff tastier.) For many years, my children, early-on well versed in the junk food universe, assumed that zuur was Dutch for sweet and so, zoet must be sour.


Isn’t the interface between sour, sweet, and bitter linguistically interesting?

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (, born in 1953 to two Dutch survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork, and holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam). He taught Re-evaluation Co-counseling, became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His most influential teachers (chronologically) are: his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach, and, lehavdil bein chayim lechayim: Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff, and Rav Meir Lubin. * Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years, he wrote hasbara for the Dutch public. His fields of attention now are varied: Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (statistics), Politics (Israel, the US and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight Truth), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, LGBTQIA, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), Ecology and Veganism. Sometimes he's misunderstood because he has such a wide vision that never fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what many love about him. Many of his posts relate to affairs from the news or the Torah Portion of the Week or are new insights that suddenly befell him. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, reassure the doubters but make the self-assured doubt more. He strives to bring a fresh perspective rather than bore you with the obvious. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds must be disputed. In short, his main political positions are: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, democracy, anti the fake peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, Science, Free Will, anti blaming-the-victim and for down-to-earth optimism. Read his blog how he attempts to bridge any discrepancies. He admits sometimes exaggerating to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quite a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second-generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. November 13, 2018, he published his 500th blog post with the ToI. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having a peek outside of your cultural bubble. * NEW: To see other blog posts by him, his overspill blog you can reach by clicking on the Website icon next to his picture at the head of every post. There you may find precursors to later TOI blog posts, addition or corrections of published TOI blog posts, blog posts the TOI will not carry, and some thoughts that are too short to be a TOI blog post. Also, the TOI only allows for one blog post per blogger per 24 hours. Sometimes, he has more to say than that. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.
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