Farting under the covers – How the English language is unkind to the Dutch

If you didn’t know any better after reading this article, you’d believe that the British harbour a particular dislike towards the Dutch. I must admit that after living in the UK for 11+ years, I have never encountered such sentiments among the British. Quite the contrary, I’ve met a great deal of Britons over the years who love the Netherlands and its quirky inhabitants.

The warmness I’ve experienced from the British is an excellent evidence for the saying that ‘time heals all wounds’: the Dutch and the English were fierce competitors of one another in the 17th and (less so) 18th century and regularly tried to bash each other’s heads in, culminating in four Anglo-Dutch Wars. Not only did this rivalry lead to armed struggle, but also to a war of words as it enriched the English language with an entire catalogue of (negative) expressions about the Dutch. Many of these have since fallen into disuse over the years, but I’ve compiled a list of them for your entertainment.

Dutch cureCommitting suicide
Dutch actCommitting suicide or fleeing/deserting
Dutch defenseA very poor defense. (Also, a chess opening)
I’m a Dutchman if I do!A very strong refusal
Taking Dutch leave Running away, feeling, deserting… Also, leaving a gathering without saying goodbye to anyone
Do the Dutch(Again) Committing suicide
Dutch agreementAn agreement made between two people who are very drunk
Dutch concertDrunk people who have broken out in song
Dutch headacheA hangover
Dutch nightingaleEither a frog or a drunk person singing
Dutch comfortDeriving comfort from the fact that things could be worse
Dutch courageConfidence gained from drinking alcohol
Being in DutchBeing in trouble
Dutch uncleSomeone who dispenses blunt advice/criticism (but who isn’t necessarily a bad person)
Dutch generosityStinginess
Going DutchSharing the cost of a food or drinks bill (which started off as an insult, but many people have since realised that doing this makes sense)
Dutch treatSomething that is initially perceived as a treat, but which you ultimately end up paying for yourself
Dutch auctionAn auction where the price keeps being lowered until a buyer presents themselves
Dutch widowA prostitute
Dutch ovenA fart under the bedsheets, preferably while holding another person’s head under the sheets as well (Also, a cooking pot)
Getting your Dutch upGetting angry
Dutch bargainA rip-off
Dutch leafFake gold leaf made from base metals
Dutch goldFake gold made from base metals
Dutch reckoningA very high bill that isn’t itemised at all
Double DutchIncomprehensible, unintelligible gibberish (Also, a jump rope game)

You may of course wonder: did the Dutch retaliate with negative expressions of their own? The answer to that is ‘no’, but perhaps they were too drunk or too scared to think of any good ones. In order to not leave you entirely empty-handed, I’ll share a Dutch joke about the English that I heard when I lived in Amsterdam:

Which three things can typically be found in an Amsterdam canal? Ducks, shopping trolleys and drunk Englishmen.





2 responses to “Farting under the covers – How the English language is unkind to the Dutch”

  1. Suchitra Harnahalli avatar

    Oh my God, I had no clue! This was so insightful and that chart made everything so clear, there are so many phrases! I know you’ve said many of them have fallen into disuse but have you ever heard someone still use any of them? One only wonders! Love the joke at the end XD


  2. Owen Daniel avatar
    Owen Daniel

    Godverdomma! awesome blog post… linguistics never cease to amaze me – thx for sharing…


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