phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Home | Search the website Search | Discussion Forum Home|


Posted by Graham Cambray on March 09, 2009 at 14:54

In Reply to: Dutch... posted by Graham Cambray on March 06, 2009 at 18:09:

: : Referring to expressions like dutch courage dutch uncle etc - have you heard the expression "dutch face"? I once heard it used referring to a man with a naturally stern-looking face, but no-one seems to know anything about it.

: --------------

: Robert Hendrickson's Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins - the sort of book you use to keep the door open on a windy day - has a great long list of phrases starting Dutch (or Dutchman's):
: act, auction, bargain, bond, brig, build, cap, cheese, clinker, clover, comfort, concert, courage, cupboard, defense, door, foot, gold, kiss, lap, luck, lunch, anchor, breeches, drink, headache, land, cape, log, pipe, medley, nightingale, oven, palate, pennants, pink, praise, pump, reckoning, red, route, straight, treat, two hundred, uncle, and wife.

: But no "face". So I don't hold out very much hope.

: In the US (is that where you are?), "Dutch" often means German (Deutsch). So it could fit. In the UK, we have a saying "The German sense of humour is no laughing matter". (GC)

I've had another quick look at this, but I'm not much further forward. Although not particularly common, the phrase is in use today (with meanings the same as - or close to - the one you give), but I can't get any reliable track back to an origin. Largely, this is because the "phrase" is capable of simply being used in a literal sense - as "a face which looked Dutch to me", (or, indeed, really was Dutch) and you therefore can't really be sure there's any link or continuity between recorded uses.

For what it's worth, I found two early examples in old books:
at, we have:
"The supper-table was spread, sure enough, and hovering about it was the doctor's sister; a lady in whom Fleda only saw a Dutch face, with eyes that made no impression, disagreeable fair hair, and a string of gilt beads round her neck."
and at
"a square bristle-headed man with a Dutch face".
But I'd be very nervous about extrapolating from these examples to today's usage. (GC)