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The Dutch – famous or infamous?

There are a number of colourful sayings in English in which the Dutch play a central role. But what exactly do these reveal about the way Dutch people are viewed by their neighbours across the water? Time to find out!

Dutch shipThere are countless English expressions featuring the word ‘Dutch’. Perhaps not surprising when you consider that the Netherlands is just over one hundred nautical miles from British shores. Throughout history the British and Dutch have enjoyed frequent contact with one another – if not for commerce, then to do battle! In fact, it was thanks to extensive trade with the Netherlands that many typical Dutch products were introduced to Britain during the eighteenth century, including Dutch cheese (circa 1700), the Dutch barn (circa 1742) and the Dutch oven (circa 1769).

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands were often embroiled in war, resulting in a negative British portrayal of the Dutch. Sayings that emerged from this period include:

  • Dutch bargain – a purchase that is made ​​while the buyer is drunk and therefore unable to make an informed decision (first used in 1654)
  • Dutch defence – someone who gets acquitted in court by betraying someone else (1749)
  • Dutch comfort – an inconvenience that is ironically referred to as a ‘comfort’, as the situation could have been even worse (1796)
  • Dutch metal/Dutch gold – a cheap, gold-like alloy (1825)
  • Dutch courage – strength or confidence gained by drunkenness (1826)
  • Dutch treat/going Dutch – a treat that’s not really a treat, because everyone pays for themselves (1887)

Prefer to read this article in Dutch? Then why not visit our sister blog, Heimwee.info, specifically intended for Dutch emigrants abroad?

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