The English language absorbs words and phrases from a bewildering variety of sources, including our former adversaries.
Take the Dutch. We have a Dutch treat (which is no treat at all); double Dutch (gibberish); Dutch courage (based on alcohol); and "if that's true I'm a Dutchman" (you're lying).
There's no doubt that the Dutch were once ferocious trading rivals who were not afraid of a scrap – the naval encounters between the two nations in the 17th century included the "four-day battle" which reflects the fact that neither side was prepared to give an inch.
But perhaps the most telling Dutch-based phrase is "Dutch cap" as slang for a diaphragm contraceptive device. The use of "French letter" for condom reminds us that we've also been known to fall out with our next-door neighbours – while the infamous aphrodisiac (and toxic) Spanish fly ensures that our third major naval adversary is not left out of this somewhat disreputable list.
The ambiguous Oxford comma
4 days ago