Amster! Amster! Dam-dam-dam!

Sent in by Stan, who says he gets the point of the main joke, but has grave doubts over why Amsterdam would be an attractive fantasy destination for these kids — if one main association is that the tourism pitch is centered on availability of drugs and sex workers.

Even if they have a special interest in art history, and canals, and a cycling populace … that hasn’t been put forward either.


  1. Not to be flippant, but that’s the joke. It’s just an incongruous option amongst other mundane ones. That’s it.

  2. Seeing as A’dam is my birthplace, I’d rather go there than all the other places he mentioned. And what, if anything, do American kids of that age know about European cities, anyway? Even the fact that he knows the name of a European city is disconcerting to me.

  3. uhh… It seems obvious to me, and I’m sort of doubting myself that no one else sees it, but: Amsterdam Ave., in New York City, as 10th Ave. is known above 59th St.

    CIDUBill would have known!

  4. Thanks for sharing about your native city, Andréa!
    You say Even the fact that he knows the name of a European city is disconcerting to me.

    They do come up in children’s rhymes and songs. Besides “I see London, I see France!” there is mention of Amsterdam in the song referenced in the title of this CIDU post, a “schoolbus song” or camping song, allowing a sneak utterance of forbidden word “damn”.

    1. They should have gone to Amsterdam.
      They should have gone to Amsterdam.
      Amster, amster, dam, dam, dam.
      Amster, amster, dam, dam, dam.
      They should have gone to Amsterdam.
    2. You mustn’t say that naughty word.
      You mustn’t say that naughty word.
      Naughty, naughty, word, word, word.
      Naughty, naughty, word, word, word.
      You mustn’t say that naughty word.

    It probably is unknown to kids today, but in my childhood we knew “Wonderful Copenhagen” from “Hans Christian Andersen” (but behind the big hit from that, “Inchworm”.)

    Since there were no lyrics on my family’s 45rpm album from the Broadway recording, a mysterious incantation from my childhood was “I sail up the Skagerrak, and sail down the Kattegat” — no less than “Klaatu barada nikto”.

  5. Excellent info/insight, larK!
    Every once in a while we also get reminders from the media that New Amsterdam was a name for some of New York!

  6. Mitch4: Why they changed it, I can’t say.

    People just liked it better that way.

  7. I could flip either way. Obviously going to Europe’s Amsterdam is not something one does on a whim nor can be done by simply wheedling money from Dad. And as an incongruous throwaway it’s distracting from the actual joke. But then again Curtis is very inconsistent in its exposition and in my opinion tends to this malformed tropes.

    But is Amsterdam Avenue a common and attractive destination for New York kids. And would the say “traveling to Amsterdam”. And does Curtis take place in NYC?

    I am rather fond of St. John the Divine though.

  8. It’s not really pronounced that way, tho, which is why I never got why it’s a ‘naughty word’. However, as an adult, I realized what the song was about . . . both ‘a’s are pronounced as the ‘U’ in Ulster. Slow learner, here ‘-)

  9. It was supposed to be Hamsterdam. However, the editor is not a fan of “The Wire” and changed it. Now it doesn’t make any sense.

  10. “It was supposed to be Hamsterdam. However, the editor is not a fan of “The Wire” and changed it. Now it doesn’t make any sense.”

    I was going to make that joke (or comment) but I just couldn’t form it.

    Well-played. Very well-played.

    (In seriousness, I did wonder if “Amsterdam” a regional area of a city supposedly with cultural interest to a teen (like Haight-Ashbury, or SoMa, or SoHo, or Tribecca or Temescal or Telegraph Avenue) but all I could think of was Hamsterdam … and that was fictional. In all, I do think incongruously weird as Powers put it, is probably the joke.)

  11. In my grade school days – 1940s in New York City – we learned a ditty featuring Dutch cities Maarken, Leiden, Volendam, Alkmaar, Delft, & Amsterdam. Can’t say we studied much, if anything, about them.

  12. Amsterdam is just a three or four hour drive from New York City. It’s just past Schenectady. I know because I lived in Schenectady as a kid.

  13. “. . . Volendam , . . .”

    I fell off a pier in Volendam when I was a mere child. Also, it seems my family likes to put on the distinctive clothing . . .

    (Dity=my Mother; Hans=her brother; Mea=my father’s sister; Kobus=me. A few months before we emigrated.)

  14. “Amsterdam is just a three or four hour drive from New York City. It’s just past Schenectady. I know because I lived in Schenectady as a kid.”

    This seems to be the most likely option to me. Curtis lives in an unidentified big city, so it could be New York, and this Amsterdam would be close by. Although I don’t know what would be there for kids, but travelling anywhere as a youngster is fun. Also, as Woozy pointed out, if it’s Amsterdam Ave they’re referring to, this would be a weird way to phrase visiting it.

    Still though, if this is correct, why choose Amsterdam? Most people are not familiar with the smaller cities of New York state, and I think would automatically imagine the original, as I did, leading to confusion. There are lots of other places more familiar to the masses…Albany, Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and Schenectady…MiB used this as a reference we’d be familiar with.

    Yea, I’m going with a poor choice of summertime-family-trip-location on the part of the artist.

  15. If it’s supposed to be realistic, then it needs to be Amsterdam Ave. It doesn’t make sense for him to hope to get some money from his dad and use it to take a three hour bus ride to a different city.

    If it’s not supposed to be realistic, it might as well be Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

  16. I once got from in my bed (I slept unusually late that day) in Luton (in the UK) to the front door of the office I was going to in Amsterdam in under two and a half hours… luckily, Luton airport is a 4-min taxi ride from where I lived, the plane was on time, the distance is only 220 miles so flight time 45 mins or so, I got quickly into a train at Schiphol, and the office was only a ten-minute walk from Centraal Station, on Singel. One of the longer travel sectors was the walk from where the plane parked, through customs and to the station.

    @Mitch 4 – my father flew over the Skagerrak and Kattegat in the dying weeks and days of WW2 (on Coastal Command patrols in a Liberator).

    And finally, Al Stewart had a song called Amsterdam on Orange (his 4th album, 1972) –

    The Dutch people were friendly
    You know they put me up and they fed me
    All along a tour of one night stands
    All my days and all my ways
    Are so confused
    I tell you right new
    I’m going to make it back to Amsterdam

    And you can feel fine anytime
    You choose to lose yourself for a while
    Bottle of wine
    In some back street cafe
    Or out on the street, there’s a chance
    For you to meet anybody you please
    Taking the time
    To ease your blues away

    Being a musician, the one-night stands are plausibly singer-songwriter gigs but, given his 2nd album (1969) was called Love Chronicles, featuring apparently the first appearance of the f-word in the printed lyrics on the cover, they are also plausibly the other kind.

  17. True enough. Could be pocket money for the trip? I dunno’. Still, would his father let a young kid travel around NYC by himself? And why would he want to go to Amsterdam Ave to begin with? Being full of universities, opera houses and prime real estate, there doesn’t seem to be much there to attract a kid. Why not Central Park, or any of the numerous museums dedicated to children’s interests? Does this character have some connection to this location that regular readers of the strip would know about? Maybe that’s it.

    The incongruity/unrealistic theory doesn’t really sit well with me either. The temptations that many people associate with Amsterdam seem very odd to foist upon a child of that age for a quick laugh. Quite creepy and disturbing if you ask me.

  18. Amsterdam is a perfectly normal city. If you’re reading “temptations” into it, that’s your own baggage, not the author’s.

    The Amsterdam upstate makes far less sense because there’s really nothing there, and there’s no indication Curtis lives in NYC anyway. Which makes “Amsterdam Avenue” equally nonsensical.

    It’s the European city. I’m sorry if you don’t like it, but it’s the most famous one by far and thus the only one that makes any sense in this context.

  19. Took a 2nd try, but after seeing the punchline I read it as the more mundane trips are no more likely to be funded as a trip to Europe. A movie ticket is just as unattainable for these kids this day as an airline ticket.

  20. “A movie ticket is just as unattainable for these kids this day as an airline ticket.”

    That’s a good interpretation. I’m with you!

    “If you’re reading “temptations” into it, that’s your own baggage, not the author’s…it’s the most famous one by far…”

    Are you trying to say that the first thing that comes to most people’s minds when Amsterdam is brought up is something other than, as Mitch put it, the availability of drugs and sex workers? That this is merely my “baggage”? And that Amsterdam is a more famous European city than Paris or London…by far?

    I’ve been to Amsterdam numerous times, and it’s a beautiful place. It’s relaxed, safe, and has stunning architecture, history and cultural centres. It’s a great place to spend a few days to unwind. However, I don’t think it can be denied that it’s most famous for its liberal approach to what other nations criminalize. Sorry, but I really don’t think that this is my baggage. That’s why I thought it was an odd choice, especially for children.

  21. “it’s the most famous one by far”

    Ahhh, wait. You’re saying it’s the most famous ‘Amsterdam’, aren’t you? Not the most famous European city. Apologies. Still, my other points stand.

  22. I don’t know what there is to do in Amsterdam, NY. Even though I lived nearby, I never went there. It was a city that got mentioned in the TV weather report but that’s all.

    A New York City kid would be better off continuing up to Herkimer, where he could hunt for diamonds. Well, not really diamonds; “Herkimer diamonds” are actually a kind of quartz. But still, it’s something to do.

  23. “A movie ticket is just as unattainable for these kids this day as an airline ticket.”

    But that reveals to punchline two panels too early…

    But the cartoonist botching his own creation is hardly a rare occurrence.

  24. If you had a date to fly to Amsterdam, you would obviously need to each pay for your own ticket.

    Since you’re going Dutch!

  25. OK, but I hope when your 11-year-old boy tells you he wants to travel to Amsterdam, it’s because he wants to see the tulips.

  26. “. . . it’s because he wants to see the tulips.”

    Depends on the time of year, and Keukenhof would be the place to see them. The tulips, I mean. All A’dam has is the flowers sold on the Bloemgracht.

  27. Albany, NY has a big tulip festival, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Amsterdam, NY has places where you can see the tulips.

  28. Pella, Iowa was founded by Dutch immigrants and has a Dutch character, including a tulip festival. We used to go through it on the way from St. Louis to Fort Dodge, where my dad’s family was. Also the HQ for the window maker.

  29. One year, my parents and I went to I-Forget-What-City in upper Wisconsin for a ‘Dutch Festival’, thinking it would be neat to hear someone other than ourselves and my Mother’s sister speaking Dutch.

    Imagine our excitement when we heard Dutch spoken!! Unfortunately, it was my aunt who, unbeknownst to us, had also come to this festival, for pretty much the same reason.

  30. I lived in Amsterdam for several months, and found it a wonderful city, with great museums, architecture, etc. . . However, I think it’s fair to say that as a tourist attraction, it’s primarily famous for the drugs and the prostitution.

  31. Perhaps we need to look at it from a child’s point of view – by saying Amsterdam they get to say a word that normally they would be punished for saying as in the song “They ended up in Amsterdam – Amster, Amster, dam, dam, dam – you mustn’t say that naughty word”.

    The house our reenactment unit interprets at the Candlelight nights event in December was built and owned by a Dutch colonist. I get to say”Amsterdam” a lot during the event. (As in – He himself had never been to their old country and had sent back to it – to their city of Amsterdam – for instruction on how to build a house in the manner of the houses there even though neither he nor the men building the house had ever seen one. My husband said the instructions are called “plans” and gentlemen will understand when I say this.”)

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