From 16 November 1942 onwards, Anne Frank had to share her room with the dentist Fritz Pfeffer, who had a number of habits that Anne couldn't stand. In the German biography Anne Frank (Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlts Taschenbuch Verlag, 2002), Matthias Heyl writes:

In ihrer überarbeiteten Tagebuchversion revanchierte [Anne Frank] sich damit, dass sie ihm den weder im Niederländischen noch im Deutschen schmeichelhaften Namen «Dussel» verpasste.

My translation:

In the reworked version of her diary, [Anne Frank] took revenge on him by giving him the nickname "Dussel", which is unflattering, both in German and in Dutch.

(More literally translated: "flattering neither in German nor in Dutch".)

The German Wiktionary defines Dussel as "ungeschickter Mensch" (awkward/inept/unintelligent person). Something similar can be found in the online Duden dictionary.

But as far as I know, dussel is not a word in Dutch (my native language). So why would the name be unflattering in Dutch? I am looking for evidence in a reliable offline source; I have seen too much nonsense on the Web.

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    Apparently at least one site on the Internet believes it to be a valid Dutch word too. But to be honest I'd tend to take the author's word for it if she reported that the Dutch people surrounding her were familiar with the term ... – Will Crawford Aug 20 '18 at 2:38
  • @WillCrawford The link you posted is to a German - Dutch dictionary entry that translates the German word "Dussel" as "sufferd" in Dutch. (In German, unlike Dutch, nouns start with a capital letter.) I see no evident there that "dussel" is a word in Dutch. – Tsundoku Aug 20 '18 at 13:03

After reading Anne Frank's diary, I also read Het Anne Frank Huis: een biografie by Jos van der Lans and Herman Vuisje (Boom, 2010) and Herinneringen aan Anne Frank by Miep Gies (Bakker, 2009). These books do not comment on the name Dussel as being somehow unflattering.

In addition, I have checked two editions of the three-volume Van Dale dictionary and asked other native speakers of Dutch. I have not found any evidence that "dussel" is a word in Dutch.

Based on this, I assume that biographer Matthias Heyl, whose native language is presumably German, simply thought that the German noun "Dussel" also existed in Dutch with the same meaning. Note that Anne Frank was born in Frankfurt, Germany, and was raised speaking German before the Frank family moved to the Netherlands, so it is safe to assume that she knew what the German word meant.

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