Double Dutch 2You have absolutely no idea what that person just said to you and your blank look says it all. They might as well be speaking to you in double Dutch!

The term ‘double Dutch’ originated after the Anglo-Dutch wars, a time when all things Dutch were spoken of in an unflattering light by the English. For example:


  • Dutch courage – a brash form of bravery induced by alcohol.
  • Dutch comfort – a cold comfort which is only a comfort at all because things could have been worse.
  • Dutch treat – this doesn’t constitute a treat in the general sense as each person actually pays for their own expenses.
  • Dutch defence – a term used for a legal defence whereby the defendant seeks clemency at the expense of those they deceitfully betray.

‘Dutch’ was also the original generic name for Germans, with High Dutch being spoken in southern Germany and Low Dutch being spoken in The Netherlands. As the dialect was so hard for the English to understand, they came to reference all incomprehensible phrases as ‘double Dutch’.

Nowadays, the phrase is still used, although with a much lighter note now that those bad relations between the countries have disappeared.

Do you find it hard to understand other dialects? When was the last time you used the phrase ‘double Dutch’, and can you think of any similar phrases?