Peter A. McGraw pmcgraw at LINFIELD.EDU
Thu Jan 17 16:38:19 UTC 2002

Indeed I should have checked my Dutch dictionary first.  The name of the
figure is in fact Jan Kaas, which my Nederlands Koenen (M.J. Koenen-J.B.
Drewes, Verklarend Handwoordenboek der Nederlandse Taal) defines as
"verpersoonlijking van Nederland, van de Nederlander, z. John Bull"
(personification of the Netherlands, of the Dutchman, cf. John Bull).

Confusion about the pronunciation could have arisen from an earlier
spelling "ae" to indicate /a:/, still to be found in a few place and family
names.  But I doubt that English-speaking colonial Americans could have
picked up a form /jan ke:s/ directly from the pronunciation of
Dutch-speaking neighbors.

Peter Mc.

--On Wednesday, January 16, 2002 9:48 AM -0800 "Peter A. McGraw"
<pmcgraw at linfield.edu> wrote:

> Can anybody suggest a source of information on this folklore figure?  Or a
> source connecting Kees with cheese?  The modern standard Dutch word for
> cheese is kaas, while Kees is a nickname for Cornelius.  Jan-Kees is a
> common enough compound first name in Dutch, with no echo of a folkloric
> figure of ridicule as far as I can tell, and certainly no connection with
> cheese.  So I'm at a loss for an internal Dutch explanation for a
> connection between Kees and cheese.  Well, maybe not completely at a loss:
> given that both the German and the English cognates have an umlauted
> vowel, I suppose a Dutch dialect with umlaut might be the source of a form
> kees=cheese, but this is just a guess.  (I should perhaps check my big
> Dutch dictionary when I get home to see if it sheds any light.)
> Peter Mc.
> --On Wednesday, January 16, 2002 9:56 AM -0500 "Dennis R. Preston"
> <preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU> wrote:
>> Joe; I think you have this backwards.
>> One proposed etymology does indeed come from the Dutch Jan Kees (John
>> Cheese), the traditional nincompoop in Dutch folklore. The
>> explanation is, therefore, that the Dutch saw their surrounding
>> English-speaking neighbors as nincompoops and laid this "Jan Kees"
>> label on them. The rest is interlingual phonological history.
>> What's the latest word on this proposed etymology? I guess I reckoned
>> it to be a fairly well-established one (so much so that Roger Shuy
>> and I reported it as gospel in the old language variation films we
>> made for USIA), but the word history hunt is doubtless filled with
>> new findings I haven't followed.
>> dInIs
>>> Another food-related ethnic tag might be "Yankee"
>>> According to some source I have since lost, the term came from the
>>> English settlers of New York, who called the cheese-loving Dutchmen who
>>> populated the area "Jan-Cheeses."  Does this explanation ring a bell for
>>> anyone? --Joe F.
>> --
> *************************************************************************
> *** Peter A. McGraw
>                    Linfield College   *   McMinnville, OR
>                             pmcgraw at linfield.edu

                               Peter A. McGraw
                   Linfield College   *   McMinnville, OR
                            pmcgraw at linfield.edu

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