Dutch Treat (1885)

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Wed Nov 6 13:45:13 UTC 2002

In a message dated 11/6/02 2:09:08 AM Eastern Standard Time,

> I gather that "Dutch treat"--along with other "Dutch ____" terms such as
>  auction, bargain, concert, courage, wife--is part of that ignoble English
>  tradition of Dutch disparagement (dating from the 16th or 17th century, I
>  think) which we continued in the US. All, describing things that fell short
>  or were decidedly *not* the thing thus modified.

Ethnic disparagement by language is hardly an "ignoble English tradition" as
it has occurs in many other languages as well.  (Sounds like a topic for
sociolinguists to study.)  A "classical" example is from Classical Greek,
where non-Greeks were lumped together as "barbarians".

Does anyone know if this Greek word "barbar" passed into Arabic and became
responsible for the names "Barbary coast" and "Berber"?

Back to the Dutch.  While in English "Dutch" is used disparagingly for
"things that fall short" (e.g. "Dutch courage"), I am told by a former
coworker who lived in the Low Countries that Belgians tell jokes about stingy
Dutch people (and the Dutch respond with jokes about dumb Belgians).  It
seems we can't even get a consistent negative stereotype.

One more question: in theatrical work there is the noun and verb "dutchman"
meaning a strip of cloth soaked in size that is used to cover joints and gaps
in the stage set, and to apply same.  I have never heard it outside the
stage, but MWCD10 defines it as "a device for hiding or counteracting
structural defects" with no restriction given to any particular field.

Is this use of "dutchman" one more example of English's negative stereotype
of the Dutch?  (The alternative seems to be that at one time English
stagehands all went to Holland for training, which does not seem likely.)

        - Jim Landau

P.S.  I picked up the habit of referring to Merriam-Webster's 10th Collegiate
as "MWCD10" from Jeff Miller's Web site on history of math words (URL
http://members.aol.com/jeff570/mathword.html).  Is this a standard
abbreviation, or did Jeff invent it?

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