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Neutral national identifier becomes ethnic slur
Posted: 04 August 2010 12:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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OP Tipping - 03 August 2010 05:38 AM

‘take French leave’

What’s that mean?

It means, to my mind, rather, “leave without saying good bye” or “slip away on the quiet”.

Interestingly, I was speaking to a Kazakh who lives in Britain and she said she’d noticed that the English have a habit of leaving without saying goodbye.  She was unaware, before I mentioned it, that this was supposed by the French to be a national characteristic.

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Posted: 04 August 2010 01:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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I’ve always used it in the sense of unauthorized leave but OED confirms that it can indeed also mean unnoticed departure.

to take French leave: to depart unnoticed or without permission; (also spec. in military contexts) to escape or take flight; to desert, to take absence without leave. Occas. in simple use.

1751 Polite Politician II. 54 French Leave is a phrase we had often in use, When one slily elop’d; nor left coin or excuse.

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Posted: 07 September 2010 02:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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OP Tipping - 24 July 2010 07:05 PM

In the UK, I gather, Paki is considered a term of abuse, whereas in Australia it is no ruder than Aussie: just a short form.

The reason as I see it is because ‘Paki’ in the UK is an - at the least very dismissive when not outright degrogatory - way for the ignorant to refer to anyone with darker skin, be they from the Indian subcontinent or the middle East. If you wanted to refer to a person actually from Pakistan, you would have to say ‘Pakistani’.

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Posted: 07 September 2010 10:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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I am surprised to see “Dutch Courage” described as a derogatory expression. Derogatory to whom?  The dictionary definition is “courage derived from drinking alcohol”. The alcohol in question is Hollands gin. Gin (imported from the Netherlands) was what poor Englishmen (and women) once drank, being much cheaper than brandy (Britons still refer derisively to gin as “Mother’s Ruin").  The courage of Dutchmen has never been in question. Wikipedia has a good take on “Dutch courage”, though with no citations.
I myself find Mr. Bols’s oude genever a delightful drink (when I can get it), infinitely superior to what passes for gin in the U.K. But I wouldn’t recommend it to any poor person, alas.......

Useless trivia dept.: As late as WW2 and after, gin was still being used by English working girls to procure abortions. They took it together with massive doses of Beecham’s Pills, sometimes sitting in a mustard bath. Gin contains extract of Juniper, while Beecham’s Pills contain aloin. Both were believed to promote contraction of uterine muscle.  Well-heeled English ladies would go to the Continent for their abortions.

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Posted: 07 September 2010 11:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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I would say that using “Dutch courage"for drink or drunkenness carries the strong implication that the Dutch are brave only when drunk.

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Posted: 07 September 2010 01:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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It’s usually easier to feel insult than to imagine it.

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Posted: 07 September 2010 08:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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I would say that using “Dutch courage"for drink or drunkenness carries the strong implication that the Dutch are brave only when drunk.

Absolutely. But it didn’t originally. When people use an expression without knowing its etymology and original meaning, the sense is very likely to change eventually.  That’s what this thread is about. It’s one of the reasons this site is so valuable, I think - it helps those who participate in it to avoid error. How many posters on this site would think “syntax” meant a levy on naughtiness, or that “Bombay duck” is a bird?

;-)

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Posted: 08 September 2010 03:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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I would say that using “Dutch courage"for drink or drunkenness carries the strong implication that the Dutch are brave only when drunk.

Absolutely. But it didn’t originally.

Do you have any evidence for the statement that Dutch courage originally referred specifically to jenever or Hollands Gin and not to the supposed general drinking habits of the people? Neither the OED nor HDAS, nor any of the cites of the phrase in them, refer to Hollands gin. And the earliest citations are in the meaning of “brave while drunk,” not in reference to the specific drink itself.

I don’t put much stock in the Wikipedia article. There are the lack of cites, and it states that the phrase arose during the Thirty Years War, yet the phrase does not appear until the beginning of the nineteenth century, some 180 years later.

And the phrase appears in the midst of a eighteenth and nineteenth-century rash of Dutch _____ phrases that heap opprobrium upon that people, including Dutch treat, Dutch act (suicide), Dutch defense (surrender), and Dutch feast (drinking party). The last two also refer to supposed lack of bravery and heavy drinking. It’s pretty clear to me that Dutch courage originated as an ethnic slur. I don’t see any evidence to the contrary.

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Posted: 08 September 2010 04:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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I agree with Doc and Dave. I don’t really see how it could be understood as anything but a slur. Drunken courage is equated with the courage of the Dutch; how could that not be derogatory? The implication is that there is no such thing as true sober courage in that nation. I’d certainly like to see some evidence for the assertion that “it didn’t originally” (carry such a meaning).

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Posted: 08 September 2010 06:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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I guess you’re right, Doc, Dave, aldi.... I have just come across a quotation from a minor English poet, Edmund Waller:...“The Dutch their wine, and all their Brandy lose, /Disarm’d of that from which their courage grows”. The date given is 1665.
I was carried away by my prejudices - there is no nation on earth I admire more than the Dutch. Their courage is attested time and again by their history, and it takes a grumpy Englishman to deny it. 1665 was a bad year for Englishmen - the Plague had already started, and was soon to be followed by the Great Fire. And the British navy had taken some very hard knocks in the first Anglo-Dutch war. No wonder Mr. Waller was in a bad mood, and all too ready to say something spiteful. He had his comeuppance, though:  just two years after his outburst, in 1667, on the river Medway, the British Navy received what was probably the most disastrous thrashing in its entire history, from the Dutch navy under Admiral de Ruyter (as to whether the Dutch were drunk or not, the historian is silent). One is tempted to remark “Poetic justice”.  ;-)

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Posted: 08 September 2010 07:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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One wonders if the Dutch responded in kind. Any old expressions in Dutch which cast aspersions on the English?

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Posted: 08 September 2010 07:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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Not Dutch, but the Afrikaans refer to the English as rednecks (rooinekke) - if that counts.  Rosbif/rooinek - who cares?

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Posted: 08 September 2010 11:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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Well, actually in my reaction to the OP, you can read that the Dutch won’t stoop so low…

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Posted: 08 September 2010 11:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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Deleted as inappropriate and offensive

[ Edited: 14 September 2010 05:50 AM by lionello ]
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Posted: 09 September 2010 07:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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Bigotry is unfortunately an international phenomenon.  Though I wonder if the above would have been posted if “blacks” or its alternative had been used instead of “Poms”.

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