phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Phrases, Sayings and Idioms Home > Discussion Forum

Re: Dutch Courage

Posted by James Briggs on April 10, 2008 at 17:03:

In Reply to: Dutch Courage posted by Jo Jones on April 10, 2008 at 15:36:

: On the subject of the term "Dutch Courage" We were informed by the commentary on a boat going up the Thames to Greenwich a couple of years ago, that the term referred to the times of the Plague when London was virtually isolated from the rest of the country as people were afraid to go there. The only people willing to go there and deliver goods to the beleaguered City were the Dutch Trading vessels and hence the Phrase.

That's just one of the several theories. The word 'Dutch' has been associated with many other phrases and all these seem to come from the time of the 17th century when the Dutch were hated military and commercial rivals of the English. Examples 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 are Dutch auction, one in which the prices go down instead of up; 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.
These sayings have persisted in English, certainly British English, even though our relationship with the Dutch is now vastly different from the 17thC.