This week we'll look at an etymological question in 'Dutch' terms such as yesterday's 'Dutch auction'.
Nation-names are often used as derogatory epithets. 'Dutch' is no exception: OED gives as one definition "characteristic of or attributed to the Dutch, often with an opprobrious or derisive application." "Since 1608, Dutch has been "'an epithet of inferiority'," says Etymology On-line.
Interestingly, as we'll see this week, many 'Dutch' terms have the specific sense of phony; not the real thing," rather than other sorts of derision. For example, a Dutch treat is "no treat at all".
Dutch treat - an outing, as for dinner or a movie, in which each person pays his or her own expenses; no one is treated.
Dutch reckoning – a bill given as a flat amount due, without details or breakdown [that is, no reckoning at all].
(also, say some, a bill that is raised if one disputes it)
quote:A spunging-house was apparently a temporary lock-up. See Early 18C Newspaper Rpts; Women of Pleasure, at bottom of left column.
Thank you for starting the thread -- The one on Securities Markets was already morphing into this, following Dutch auction.
There are many more Dutch expressions at
Also, what a great phrase: Dictionary of Thieving Slang. Reminds one of Fritz Leiber's character - Gray Mouser, a member of the "Ancient and Almost-Honorable Thieves' Guild."
How can you mention the Gray Mouser without his sidekick, Fafhrd? Not to mention Ningauble of the Seven Eyes and Sheelba of the Eyeless Face. Some of the best names in literature in my opinion.
Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
I'd said, "This week we'll look at an etymological question," and that question is, "How did these 'Dutch' epithets arise, and why?" OED says that 'Dutch', meaning of characteristic or attributed to the Dutch, is "often with an opprobrious or derisive application, largely due to the rivalry and enmity between the English and Dutch in the 17th c." This is the standard view. We'll evaluate it over the next few days.
Yesterday's word dates comes that century's end (OED has a 1700 cite), and today's word from its start.
Dutch widow – a prostitute [but as noted below, the definition may have changed]
quote:Compare Dutch wife, which a dictionary politely defines as "a firm bolster used in bed to support the upper knee while somebody is sleeping on his or her side." [from the practice in the hot and humid Dutch colony of Java; the pillow would soak up sweat]. If you note that a pillow "to support the upper knee" would be placed between the legs, you will understand why it might be referred to as a "wife".
Continuing the etymology question. Facts on File agrees with OED, saying that the practice of anti-Dutch epithets traces from "the bitter hostilities between England and Holland in the 17th century, when the Dutch colonial empire threatened to usurp Britain’s own ... Below is a short list of abusive terms using the word. Though it runs to some 60 expressions, surely a complete list would more than triple this amount. All of these terms but a few are derogatory." (Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins)
But does that theory make sense? The bitter Anglo-Dutch rivalry presumably ended no later than the 1688 "Glorious Revolution", in which a Dutchman was given the English throne as King William III, which would end any vogue for anti-Dutch epithets. Yet the vast majority of those epithets arose after that date. We will inquire further.
Dutch courage – courage acquired from drinking liquor.
We noted yesterday that most 'Dutch' epithets are first recorded far later than OED's etymology would suggest.
Further, they are not just at the wrong time; they are also at the wrong place, many of them first recorded outside of England. One authority, rejecting the OED view, says, "Various derogatory expressions compounded of Dutch, such as Dutch courage (1812) and Dutch treat (1887) are, according to the OED, largely a legacy of the commercial rivalry between the Dutch and the English in the 1600's and 1700's; however, the latter formations are more likely to be simple random references as found in any language, or in some cases the result of contact between the Dutch and other settlers in America ... For instance, Dutch courage and Dutch treat, first recorded in American English." (Chambers Dictionary of Etymology)
But today we will enjoy a term first found in England, fairly early on. You'll find here a very provocative "battle of the amorous kind", ending with our hero's surrender to a woman's charms.
Dutch defense – surrender
I've heard that there was a cultural/linguistic interchange that affected American English much later, and in a postive way. When the USA entered WW I, American soldiers in Europe encountered two major differences in their experiences with European women. The first was that the women were used to paying their own way, and this led to "going Dutch" (when each pays his own way). The second was the term "French kiss" because "American girls never kissed that way." My grandmother and I had a discussion about such things (she was born in 1894) and from what she told me, this could certainly have been the case, since one didn't even refer to a table- or chair leg as a leg, but as a limb - the reason being that one would not want to refer to something as racy as a human leg (WOW!). Associations such as that were considered vulgar.
I have no idea whether this is only pop etymology or not, but it sounds good!
Nice correlation, markmywords..
I suspect that human nature always makes the next-country-over to seem more exotic and interesting. SO in English we talk not only about French kiss, but also French leave (abrupt), frenching the coffee (floating cream), French cut lamb chops, and so on. (Very oral, the French.)
As to the Dutch, although there was only a few years of open hostility, I suspect English and Dutch mariners competed more than they cooperated, for many years. Both countries had "East India" and "West Indies" companies, vying for exports. As late as Peter Stuyvesant, the two were rivals in the new world.
Quote "...The second was the term "French kiss" because "American girls never kissed that way..."
Good grief. I hope they'll have learnt how to do it by November - or I'm not coming to Florida!
Florida is not the USA. It's Cuba Lite.
And remember, in the UK a condom is a "French letter" while the opposite is true in France!
Quote "...Florida is not the USA. It's Cuba Lite...."
Well, having been to both places I have to say I can't see any similarity at all - apart maybe from the sunshine!
Dutch comfort – cold comfort (as in the 'comforting' reflection, "After all, it could be worse").
Rare. I found barely any recent examples. The best, below, uses the term somewhat differently.