James A. Landau JJJRLandau at NETSCAPE.COM
Sun Jun 11 23:41:50 UTC 2006

In stagecraft "dutchman" is a strip of cloth soaked in glue or size that is used to cover up something on the set that needs covering---not necessarily a defect, very frequently what is covered is simply the join between two separate stage pieces.  There is also the verb "to dutchman" meaning to apply such a strip of cloth.  I don't recall every having heard the noun used in the plural; it was more of a mass noun.

I have always assumed that the original usage was an ethnic slur on the Dutch.

In a book published in 1941, which I can't find in my library at the moment, regarding modifications to a sailing ship: "If they haven't taken the speed out of that beauty, then I'm a Dutchman". (This could easily have been a nonce usage.)

Isn't there a "Dutch boy" brand of paint?

A former coworker who had lived in several North Sea countries told me that the Dutch told stories about dumb Belgians and the Belgians told stories about stingy Dutchmen: "How can you tell when you've reached the Netherlands?  When you see the toilet paper on the clotheslines hanging out to dry."

    - Jim Landau

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

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