Posted by: Jack Henry | December 27, 2016

Editor’s Corner: Going Dutch

Before I get started with today’s topic, I want to thank everyone for sending in new subscriber names and hundreds of idioms! I still have a few to add to the list, so I will announce the winners tomorrow. Now back to our regularly scheduled program.

Today’s Editor’s Corner is about the Dutch. Specifically, the idiomatic phrases going Dutch and Dutch treat. The following definitions come from The Grammarist.

Going Dutch and Dutch treat are two related idioms that have their origins in the 1600s. We will look at the meaning of these two terms, where they came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Going Dutch describes a situation where each participant in an activity pays his own way. Dutch treat also describes a situation where each participant in an activity pays his own way, the idea being that a Dutch treat is in fact no treat at all. The idea of the Dutch treat is a pleasant way to avoid any misunderstandings, though the terms going Dutch and Dutch treat were once great insults. In the 1600s, the British and the Dutch sparred over trade routes and political boundaries. The British used the word Dutch to refer to anything false. For instance, a Dutch auction refers to offering an item at an increasingly lower price until a buyer is found, the opposite of a true auction. Dutch courage is false bravado gained by consuming alcohol. Most of these uses of the word Dutch to mean something false have fallen out of use, but going Dutch and Dutch treat remain in the language. The terms no longer have a pejorative meaning, in fact most people are unaware of their origins as insults. Related terms are go Dutch, goes Dutch, gone Dutch. Note that the word Dutch in each of these terms is capitalized.


The latest survey revealed that most men would now ask for a contribution from a female partner on a first date with the vast majority (51 per cent) happier to go Dutch and split the bill.

Then there’s the Flying Dutchman, a ship from legends that is never allowed to come to port; it is destined to spend eternity traveling around the sea. The Pirates of the Caribbean adopted the lore of the Flying Dutchman and put it under the command of the fictional Davy Jones (of Davy Jones’s Locker fame). Davy Jones’s Locker is a idiom for the bottom of the sea, the home of dead sailors and shipwrecks. Yikes. This turned dark quickly!

The Flying Dutchman

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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