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Dutch courage

Posted by Lewis on April 28, 2005

In Reply to: Dutch courage posted by Victoria S Dennis on April 27, 2005

: : : : Does anyone know the origin of the expression "Dutch courage"?

: : : Dutch courage
: : : :
: : : : SYLLABICATION: Dutch courage
: : : :
: : : : NOUN : Informal -- Courage acquired from drinking liquor.

: : : Dutch courage is one in a series. From a previous post:

: : : From the Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins, New York, 1977):"Probably no nationality has come in for so consistent a torrent of verbal abuse from the English as their neighbors across the channel the Dutch...It was not always thus. Until well after Shakespeare's time, the Dutch were usually well regarded in all literary references by British authors." From the I Hear America Talking: An Illustrated History of American Words and Phrases by Stuart Berg Flexner (Von Nostrand Reinhold Co., New York, 1976): "In the 17th century the English-Dutch hostility over control of the seas and disputed parts of the New World was intense.The anti-Dutch tradition of early English settlers persisted and gives (America) such terms as.'Dutch treat,' 1887; 'go Dutch,' 1931, no treat at all, each person paying for his own meal or ticket." From the Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins by Robert Hendrickson (Fact on File, New York, 1997): "The Dutch people have been so offended by the English language over the past three centuries that in 1934 their government decided to drop the word 'Dutch' and use 'Netherlands' whenever possible." The section on "Dutch" lists three columns of phrases using the word.

: : I had thought that Dutch courage was specifically from gin, since it was the Dutch that invented what the English soldiers and sailors called gin and obtained from Holland. And I had supposed that Dutch treat and going Dutch referred in a non-judgmental way to the well-known and I think uncontested tendency of the Dutch to be frugal. SS

: : Many of the "Dutch" phrases are definitely derogatory - e.g.
: "Dutch nightingale" - a frog
: "Dutch wife" - a narrow bolster put between the legs to soak up sweat when sleeping in tropical climates
: "Dutch concert" - an unmusical racket
: Not to mention "Dutch cap" for a contraceptive diaphragm.

The Dutch had a reputation for being a stolid people and although the English and Dutch as two Protestant peoples were often allied, there were some conflicts between them - usually about trading rights rather than anything more high-minded. The Boer War in South Africa didn't do much to help relations, but in modern times, the Dutch and the English usually get on particularly well.

gin is called 'genever' in Dutch - named after Geneva, where they cite as being the origin of the drink. it is pronounced something like 'henniver' and comes in many varieties. the malt whisky of the genever world would be 'oude genever'.

so far as naming their country is concerned - the provinces of northern France, the Low Countries and Germany were not settled states like they are now until fairly recently in historic terms.
'Dutch' was an anglicised version of "Deutsch" i.e. what is now German (there wasn't a Germany as such then). in any event, the English weren't always very accurate!

The Nederlands means 'Low Countries' because of their low height above sea-level. what is now Belgium was split between that region and Flanders, which is now partly in France and partly in Belgium. Lille, for example, is a Flemish city, but in France, whereas Ghent/Bruges are in Belgium. despite this, the Flemish cities are more alike than they are more culturally similar to each other than Bruges is to say Brussels or Lille is to Paris. the human geography of North Western Europe is a melange with regional characters that do not always share political/national borders.

anyhow, 'Dutch courage' is not specific to gin and, if historic records of the alcohol supplied to British service personnel are correct, a mi te hypocritical: see the records for the Battle of Waterloo - it is surprising that the soldiers could stand up. no wonder so many fell.


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