Posted by Bruce Kahl on November 14, 2001
In Reply to: 'dutch' prefix posted by Papoolie on November 14, 2001
: Does anyone know the derivation, and if there's a correlation, of the use of the word 'dutch' to modify other nouns, (door, uncle, date, treat, oven)?
In the seventeenth century, the Dutch and British were enemies. Both wanted maritime superiority for economic reasons, especially control of the sea routes from the rich spice islands of the East Indies. The two countries fought three wars at sea between the years 1652 and 1674. At the lowest point of the struggle, in May 1667, the Dutch sailed up the Medway, sank a lot of ships, and blockaded the Thames. The Dutch were powerful, they were the enemy, they were the bad guys, and their name was taken in vain at every opportunity.
The stereotype of the Dutchman among the English at this period was somebody stolid, miserly, and bad-tempered, and these associations, especially the stinginess, were linked to several phrases.
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 auction, one in which the prices go down instead of up; 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.
Pejorative to say the least. Offensive racial stereotyping. Hate words.