Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sat Jun 10 02:35:52 UTC 2006

At 3:31 PM -0700 6/9/06, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>When the English and Dutch were trade and military rivals in the
>17th and 18th Centuries, the English liked to think of the Dutch as
>mere blocks or pieces of wood.  Hence the common noun "dutchman."

Farmer & Henley list a whole bunch of anti-Dutch slurs and epithets,
whose origin they associate with the Herring Wars over supremacy of
the North Sea fishing routes.  Among examples like

Dutch act:  suicide
Dutch auction:  a sale at minimum prices (so F&H; as we've discussed,
the meaning 'reverse auction' is now predominant)
Dutch bargain:  a bargain all on one side
Dutch-clock:  a bedpan; a wife
Dutch concert/medley:  a hubbub, whereat everyone sings and plays at
the same time
Dutch consolation:  Job's comfort ("Thank heaven it is no worse")
Dutch courage:  pot-valiancy, courage due to intoxication
Dutch fuck:  the practice of lighting one cigarette from another
Dutch milk:  beer
Dutch treat:  an outing at which one pays one's own way
Dutch widow:  a prostitute
Dutch wife:  a bolster (on a bed)
That beats the Dutch:  a sarcastic superlative
to do a dutch:  to desert, run away
to talk double-dutch:  to talk gibberish, nonsense


they include "Dutchman", but only in the context "I'm a Dutchman if I
do", which they gloss as 'a strong refusal', along the lines of 'I'm
damned if I will'.  The Dutch in these expressions come off slightly
worse than mere blocks of wood, but I suppose the sentiments are in
the same ballpark.


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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