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WORDS AND THEIR STORIES - Dutch

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Now the VOA Special English program Words and Their Stories.

Today, we tell about American expressions using the word "Dutch". Many of the "Dutch" expressions heard in American English were first used in England in the seventeenth century. That was a time of fierce neighbor competition between England and the Netherlands. At that time, the British used "Dutch" as a word for something bad, or false, or mistaken.

A Dutch agreement was one made between men who had drunk too much alcohol. Dutch courage was the false courage produced by their facts of drinking alcohol. And Dutch leave was what a soldier took when he left his base without permission.

Some of these old expressions are still used today with a little different meaning. Dutch treat is one example. Long ago, a Dutch treat was a dinner at which the invited guests were expected to pay for their own share of the food and drink. Now, Dutch treat means that when friends go out to have fun, each person pays his own share.

Another common expression heard a few years ago was "In Dutch". If someone said to you, you were in Dutch. They were telling you that you were in trouble. An important person, a parent or teacher perhaps, was angry with you.

Some of the Dutch expressions heard in American English have nothing to do with the Dutch people at all. In the seventeen hundreds, Germans who moved to the United States often were called Dutch. This happened because of mistakes in understanding and saying the word "Deutsch", the German word for German. Families of these German people still live in the eastern United States, many in the state of Pennsylvania. They are known as the Pennsylvania Dutch.

During the American Civil War, supporters of the northern side in the central state of Missouri were called Dutch, because many of them were German settlers. In California, during the Gold Rush, the term Dutch was used to describe Germans, Swedes, and Norwegians as well as people from the Netherlands.

President Theodore Roosevelt once noted that anything foreign and non-English was called Dutch. One expression still in use to talk to someone like a Dutch uncle did come from the Dutch. For Dutch were known from the firm way they raise their children. So if someone speaks to you like a Dutch uncle, he is speaking in a very severe way. And you should listen to him carefully.

You have been listening VOA Special English program -- Words and Their Stories. This is Warren Scheer.

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