Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Going Dutch

One of my friends wanted to meet me for lunch the other day. And typically, unless it's a romantic date or someone explicitly offers to pick up the tab, I just assume that people will pay their own way. But in my friend's email invitation, he specifically used the words "dutch treat", which IMHO, is an archane and extremely perjorative term. So that got me thinking about the etymology of the phrase "going dutch".

Here's what I found in wikipedia:

Going Dutch is a slang term that means that each person eating at a restaurant or paying admission for entertainment pays for himself or herself, rather than one person paying for everyone. It is also called Dutch date or Dutch treat. The phrase "going Dutch" probably originates from Dutch etiquette. In the Netherlands, it is not unusual to pay separately when dating. The Dutch were already internationally known as scrooges, and English rivalry with The Netherlands especially during the period of the Anglo-Dutch Wars gave rise to several phrases including Dutch that promote certain negative stereotypes. Examples include Dutch courage, Dutch uncle and Dutch wife. The particular stereotype associated with this usage is the idea of Dutch people as ungregarious and selfish.

There are many ethnicities and races that have a reputation for frugality. So, rather than single out the Dutch, I think we should all just offer to pay our own way and leave the poor Dutch out of it.

I can think of some other racially charged phrases that are, thankfully, going the way of the dinosaur. The first time I heard someone say "Jew them down," it was in the context of a negotiation session in law school. Insert collective gasp of outrage, particularly since the professor was Jewish. The individual who made the statement was actually shocked that people were upset with her. Anyway, it's something to keep in mind. We need to be sensitive to other races and cultures, particularly in the context of conversations about money.


Anonymous said...

I have family from Hawaii, where Chinese people are belittled as cheap. The Hawaiian word for Chinese is Pake (pronounced Pa Kay). You will still hear people in Hawaii say, "He's too Pake to leave a tip."

Another shocking term: Indian Giver.

IRA said...

Sigh. Chinese people get a bad rap, not just in Hawaii, but all over the world.