A typical old Dutch expression is: “To lie for Pampus”.

It has a literally (A) as well as a metaphorically (B) meaning.

A replica of a Dutch VOC ship in the Amsterdam harbour today.

Ad A:

Before the island of  Pampus was build (around 1880, read my story  “Pampus II”), it was only a sand bank by that name, not too far from the harbour of Amsterdam. The VOC (United East India Company), founded in 1602, was a Dutch merchant navy company and a truly multinational. In its hey days it had over 28,000 employees, warehouses, offices around the world, an accounting department, even a kind of trade union and a fund for sailor’s women, who had lost their husbands at sea. Its huge ships sailed the eastern world, especially to India (Now Indonesia), where spice trade was booming business. Those journeys were rather dangerous and usually took over two years.

When they finally sailed home, filled up with very  profitable cargo, these huge freight ships could not get past Pampus’ sandbank to enter Amsterdam harbour. They had to anchor on this sandbank first for a few reasons:

-In case of illness on board the ship had to be held in quarantine;

-At low tide it had to wait for flood to come up;

-When the ship was loaded (too) deeply, they had to wait for so called “ship camels”[1].

Thus the literally meaning of the expression is explained:

The ship and its crew lie for Pampus.

Ad B:

The management of the VOC did not want the crew to go on shore leave to Amsterdam’s entertainment centre right away[2]; After a two years journey the crew might lose (part of) their two years pay because of getting sloshed, for womanizing or for getting robbed or a combination of any of these three issues. Therefore food, booze and women were brought on board of the anchored ship. No wonder the men, after two years of isolation, went  berserk with lots of roasted meat, barrels and glasses full of beer and affectionate women…. For a day and a night… So the next morning most of them were worn out, exhausted, dead to the world:

they lie for Pampus….

Should I be given the opportunity to go back in time -thàt time- I’d prefer by far its metaphorically meaning, especially in the period, building up its credits… How about you?

[1] Usually two or even more sailing boats, filled up with water, were chained on to the mid ship of the VOC ship. The water was pumped out of the “camels” which made the VOC ship lift up. Thus, if the wind was ashore, they were able to sail past the Pampus bank into the harbor. The entire process usually took a couple of days.

[2] VOC management did not want to ruin the company’s reputation through excesses as they needed (the better) sailors again for future journeys.


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