The semantics of Malt in the Netherlands - a true story

The semantics of Malt in the Netherlands - a true story

Several years ago a couple of my friends went out for diner in a small-town Chinese restaurant. After diner, they were asked whether they were in for a desert. The usual chocolates and ice-cream were ordered as well as some coffee. One of my friends asked for a nice Malt whisky.
Soon the deserts appeared, but no sign of the whisky. Even after all the others had finished their desert the whisky had still not been served. So, at one point my friend asked the Chinese waiter: “so what happened to my whisky?”. The Chinese waiter went to the bar to ask and came back with a interesting answer, he said: “I am terribly sorry sir, but we have even gone to the basement but were not able to find an alcohol free whiskey in our collection”.
This might not make sense to most of you but in the Netherlands, beer without alcohol was introduced at the time as Malt beer (see picture, the top part reads alcoholvrij bier, I guess you can figure out what it means). So if someone wanted an alcohol free beer they would just say… a Malt Beer please. So Malt became the equivalent for alcohol-free…but the semantics generalized a bit too much (at least for our chinese friends).

Lish