Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Dutch in Me

Louise Gouge here, continuing to explore my matrilineal descent. This month I’ve been learning about my Dutch heritage.

When you think of the word “Dutch,” what comes to mind? Here are a few expressions gleaned from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
Going Dutch: each person pays his/her own way;
Double dutch: the rotating of two jump ropes in opposite directions;
Dutch door: A door divided horizontally so the lower or upper halves can be shut separately;
Dutch courage: a drink taken to bolster courage (that seems a bit insulting!);
Dutch oven: a cast iron kettle with a tight fitting lid used for cooking over an open fire;
Dutch uncle: one who admonishes sternly and bluntly;
In dutch: being in trouble with someone;
And who would turn down a piece of delicious Dutch apple pie, with its crumbly, sugary top crust?

Then there’s the Flying Dutchman, a mythical, mystical ghost ship doomed to sail the seas forever because of some sin the captain committed. In truth, the Dutch were master shipbuilders and sailors who vied with the English and Spanish in conquering the New World. Today, people in countless countries around the world claim some degree of Dutch heritage because of those maritime wanderers.

You may have heard of Pennsylvania Dutch, but that term actually refers to German settlers from Alsace, Germany, and Switzerland, who settled in Pennsylvania in the 17th and 18th centuries. No doubt many of their German words, referred to as Pennsylvania Dutch, have become a part of American English.

But who are the Dutch? If you’re like me, you find it confusing to hear the names Dutch, Holland, and the Netherlands. Aren’t they all the same? And how are they related to Germany, aka Deutschland?

As it turns out, the words Dutch and Deutsch have a common etymology, and the two peoples have a common ancestry. You can read more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_people . A decidedly different land from Germany, the Netherlands is the name of the country where the Dutch live, and Holland is a region in the western part of the Netherlands. Holland is also where the legendary tulips come from.

Years ago when I worked for a television station in Orlando, I was responsible for producing public service spots, so people were always contacting me to promote their interests. One gentleman who called on me was the Dutch consul. I had never met anyone from Holland, so I enjoyed learning about his country. What interested me the most was his statement that the Netherlands was the first foreign country to salute the American Flag on November 16, 1776, (five long years before we won our independence from the British), and thus was the first foreign nation to recognize the United States as in independent nation. You can’t forget a good friend like that.

As with all of my ancestry, I’m proud of my Dutch pedigree. We Americans are such a hodge-podge of nationalities, and most of those who come to these shores enrich our melting pot society. Deeper reading reveals many traits among the Dutch that I am proud to claim.

If you have an interesting bit of information about the Dutch or if you’ve ever travelled to the Netherlands, please leave a comment and let us know. I don’t have a book giveaway this month, but I’d still like to hear from you.

Louise M. Gouge writes for Harlequin’s Love Inspired Historicals. She is an English and humanities instructor at Valencia College in Kissimmee, Florida. Please visit her Web site at
http://blog.Louisemgouge.com .

Louise's upcoming July 2013 release is A Lady of Quality, a Regency romance.


  1. I have Pennsylvania Dutch ancestry but as far as I know no "real" dutch. :-) Thanks for this post. I love wooden shoes!

  2. here double dutch means if you speak something no one understands its talking double dutch.

    I actually went through Amish country in Pennsylvania a few weeks back. A lot of Dutch moved to South africa and Afrikaans is a form of Dutch.

  3. Love the post! I live in a very dutch area, 45 minutes from Holland, Michigan. Love visiting the tulips every may. Here to be "dutch" means you are thrifty and like a good cheap deal! I have dutch on one side of my family, straight from the Netherlands.
    Susan P

    1. Susan, I know what you mean about the dutch being thrifty--I lived in Grand Rapids for several years and whenever I had a yard sale, I was amazed at the Dutch's negotiating ability! I wanted to learn their secret!

    2. Patty, you sure do know what I'm talking about then! I live in one of the farming villages outside Grand Rapids. :) I have lived here my whole life and have yet to master the negotiating. Must be because I'm not 100% dutch. Haha

  4. Great post! We visited friends in the Netherlands last summer. What a beautiful country with a fascinating history! So much fun to see people of all ages bicycling!

  5. Enjoyed the post, Louise, and the chance to learn more about Dutch I grew up in Lancaster County, PA among the Amish and Pennsylvania Dutch. Always enjoy going back to this beautiful county and eating the delicious meals served in a PA Dutch restaurant with a windmill.

  6. I can only add my dog trivia--I am a big fan of Great Danes, and they call them Deutsch Dogs, which is often confused with Dutch, or the Dane implies Danish. They are German in origin, bred to hunt wild boar. If I'm not mistaken, an example of a Dutch breed would be Schipperke, the little furry black boat dogs.

  7. Much of the information you told about "Dutch things" I am familiar with. too funny-you don't think much about Dutch since it is not an everyday thing...thanks for sharing today about this as it is always nice to remember something we knew but had just not thought about...
    Isn't their also slang about "Dutch Uncle" not sure on that one.
    Paula O(kyflo130@yahoo.com)

  8. My grandparents and my mother came to Grand Rapids, Michigan from The Netherlands when my mother was only 4 years old. Western Michigan is a very large Dutch community. Many families who initially came to this area in Michigan encouraged their relatives to settle here because of the availability of jobs. There are a few Dutch stores in this area where authentic Dutch goods can be purchased, such as Delft pottery, cheeses, candies, Dutch lace, etc. My home was built by my father and I have numerous Delft pieces and Dutch lace curtains for all the windows. Thank you for taking me down memory lane today!

    1. Yes, you nailed it, Nancee. Here in GR it is very Dutch! I bought my daughters their first pair of wooden shoes (mini) this past month during the Tulip Festival. They loved the Delft store!

  9. Thank you all for your comments. I appreciate learning more about this part of my ancestry. Please come back next month for my article on "The English in Me," on the Fourth of July, no less!

  10. Ive never been out of the U.S. and I have no interesting facts on the Netherlands or any "Dutch" for that matter but I really enjoyed all you shared and was wondering if any of you books - past, present, and/or future - take place over there or involve Dutch characteristics? You've piqued my interest and cant wait to give your work a read!