In where?  Give me what? 
Posted: 10 July 2007 09:32 PM   [ Ignore ]
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First entry.  Hello, all.  I’m interested in finding out the origins and how the meanings of the phrases, “In Dutch” and “What for”, as in, “He’ll be in Dutch!” to mean in trouble, and, “I’ll give him what for!” as to mean ream him a new one came about.  Hope anyone can help.

Whitefang

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Posted: 11 July 2007 12:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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’In Dutch’ is US slang and the first cite in the OED is from 1912 for this usage. Not sure why except that ‘Dutch’ has a perjorative implication of ‘foreign’ (un-American?) in many phrases (’double-dutch - incomprehensible language, for example. ‘The Dutch act’ was slang for suicide from about the same period, also ‘To do a Dutch’ was to escape or run away. OED suggests the perjorative way of using the word may have come from the fact that the English were at war with them for a time in the 17thC, but there are also numerous phrases in which it is complimentary - ‘that beats the Dutch’ means something really good. The US slang usages which are perjorative are mainly from the early 20thC.

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Posted: 11 July 2007 05:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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there are also numerous phrases in which it is complimentary - ‘that beats the Dutch’ means something really good.

I don’t see that as necessarily complimentary; doesn’t it treat the Dutch as an enemy to be beaten?

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Posted: 11 July 2007 06:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Yes it does, but it’s a phrase (’American colloquial’ says OED) for something extraordinary, amazing or startling so it suggests they’re difficult to beat which is more complimentary than otherwise.

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Posted: 11 July 2007 07:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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As to “give someone what for”, the OED cites it back to 1873 and lists it under “what for” meaning “why, for what cause”.  The development is not further explained, but I suspect it may have originated in the pattern of ”X?  I’ll give you X!” as an angry response to a remark or question about X.  Someone impertinently asking “What for?” might get a response “I’ll give you what for!”.  But this is speculation.

Edit: See also this at Word Wizard.  Anybody know what the “H-C” in “H-C Dict of Am. Slang” would be?

[ Edited: 11 July 2007 07:55 AM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 11 July 2007 08:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Highly Controversial? ; )

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Posted: 11 July 2007 11:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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My guess is that HC is Harper Collins. I thought it could be an error for Random House, who publish HDAS, but I’m not so sure now.

Edit: Yes, HC publish Chapman’s Dictionary of American Slang.

[ Edited: 11 July 2007 11:29 AM by aldiboronti ]
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