The history behind “Going Dutch” |

As Singapore celebrates its Bicentennial since Raffles’ founding of Singapore, everyone’s getting caught up in a bit of British history. While the Brits made their stronghold in Malaya/Singapore, the Dutch were in nearby Indonesia.

Both the British and the Dutch were superpowers back in the 17th-18th centuries, especially when it came to their prowess at sea. So it comes as no surprise that during the Anglo-Dutch Wars in the 17th century, the English were using words in their language to jest at their Dutch opponents. Some of these have survived to this day, including:

Go Dutch – which means to have each person pay for their own meals when eating out together. This is possibly a British stereotype of Dutch frugality

Dutch courage – refers to the bravado that someone gets when they drink alcohol. This is possibly related to the stereotype of the Dutch being heavy drinkers, or that being Dutch means being ‘false’

Double Dutch – means something incomprehensible or gibberish

Dutch bargain – while less common today, it refers to a deal struck over booze (likely related to Dutch courage)

Back in the day, the British were also not too fond of the French – and many English words associated the French with promiscuity, stereotyping French wantonness. You get various idioms for syphilis and other STDs like ‘French compliment’, ‘French goods’, or ‘French measles’ – all of which could perhaps be prevented by the use of a ‘French letter’ (a condom).