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Dutch rose

28 Aug 2018

 

Here’s one for all you failed DIYers out there. When you go to hit a nail with a hammer, and the hammer strikes the wood around the nail leaving a circular dint, that impression is called a Dutch rose

 

Why? Well, there’s some history here...

 

Both England and the Netherlands are great seafaring nations. They’re also only 270 miles apart. Put two highly successful, highly competitive countries that close together and, well—things are going to get fraught.

 

For that reason, over the past nine centuries or so England and the Netherlands have gone to war on as many occasions as they could possibly manage. And for that reason, the Dutch ... err ... let’s just say, they don’t do all too well in the English dictionary.

 

All those years of mutual animosity and belligerence for a long time made the Dutch something of a go-to punchline for English jokes and quips—some of which have survived in the language even after more than a century or so.

 

So a Dutch auction (a term from the 1850s) is an auction at which a high opening price has to be lowered to attract the first bidder; Dutch courage (first recorded in 1814) is bravery only elicited with liquor; and double Dutch (from the 1870s) is still a common expression denoting nonsensical speech, and a slight on how unintelligible Dutch would once have sounded to English speakers. 

 

The Dutch rose likewise falls into this category of anti-Dutch sentiment: supposedly first recorded in the jargonish speech of the turn-of-the-century American art market, it refers to the damage done hammering in a nail—presumably, given its origins among the art scene, while hanging up a canvas. Although never a particularly widely used expression, it’s nevertheless found its way into the language and into the dictionary—alongside a host of other similarly unkind, and similarly seldom-used terms. 

 

So a Dutch bargain is a bargain that only benefits one side, while a Dutch account is one constantly in the red, or one that defies balancing. Among journalists, a Dutch lead is an eye-catching but deliberately untrue opening sentence, while a Dutch turn is a story that overshoots one column, and has to be awkwardly completed elsewhere below another story. In bowling, a Dutch two-hundred is a score of 200 made entirely of spares with no strikes. And in nineteenth century slang, a Dutch wife was a bolster cushion. 

 

 

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