31
Aug
09

the dutch

I got a table at my restaurant who didn’t tip me well. They were dutch.

So, at first I wanted — in the spirit of some great idiom posting on Amateur Night (here and here)– to list a bunch of pejorative idioms making fun of the dutch.

And I’ll still do that:

Examples from the time of the Dutch wars include Dutch reckoning, a bill that is presented without any details, and which only gets bigger if you question it, and a Dutch widow, a prostitute. In the same spirit, but recorded later, are Dutch courage, temporary bravery induced by alcohol; Dutch metal, an alloy of copper and zinc used as a substitute for gold foil; Dutch comfort or Dutch consolation, in which somebody might say “thank God it is no worse!”; Dutch concert, in which each musician plays a different tune; Dutch uncle, someone who criticises or rebukes you with the frankness of a relative; and Dutch treat, one in which those invited pay for themselves (this last one first appeared only in the twentieth century, but it continues the associations).

But what’s more interesting is that, as this brief article explains, these idioms are only in English because they entered the English language as a result of the various Anglo Dutch wars in the late 17th century. Basically, the dutch were blamed for everything at this time and mocked at every turn, and this hatred became a linguistic artifact.

Also, just stumbling around, I found this blog discussing Dutch idioms (but I didn’t find any about the English, so the hatred must have not been as intense the other way around). One of the idioms is “the monkey comes out of the sleeve,” which means that a previously critical but hidden piece of information has just been revealed. Aha, the monkey’s out of the sleeve!

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