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What do you know about the words you use. Do you really know all the American language and the words that make it up. Today we present the fifth program in a new series on the American language by Medford Matthews. Mr. Matthews is editor in chief of the Dictionary of American isms published by the University of Chicago Press and he's lecturer in linguistics at the University of Chicago. Today's program is on more from the Dutch. Mr. Mathews. Of course by no means all the Dutch word borrowed by English speaking settlers in this country were placed not a few of the borrowings have never passed out into the mainstream of American English but have remained as localism in the region. Former Dutch settlements Licky is such a word in some parts of New York. It is used in the sense of a small vessel in the church it is used to provide in this country it called a can. And in
England but teen Licky is a diminutive of bleak meaning. Also in New York and especially in the region of the Catskills there is in use mummy the diminutive of the Dutch Bloom meaning a flower. It is as anyone might guess the same word as the English bloom and the German Bruma. Another of these local isms is not so easily guessed and may indeed be easily misunderstood. This is the word Father used in the sense of the basic law of our cloth for wiping the floor after scrubbing. Dutch cooked early won an excellent reputation for the quality of their products with the result that modified Dutch terms for food. Found their way into American English. One of these terms cole slaw earlier led to confusion on the part of the English speaking settlers who first heard it.
They did not understand how the word is made up and apprehended it as cold war. Slow that is slow all that is not hot. Those who are fortunate enough to know a little about the Dutch language know very well that the first element in cole slaw is the Dutch word for cabbage and the other element in the combination is the equivalent of our word salad. This borrowing cole slaw is the Dutch way of saying cabbage salad. Those acquainted with the history of the English language know that Dutch is closely related historically to English and that relationship may account part of the ease with which some Dutch words have made themselves thoroughly at home in English and have momma taking on new senses they never had in Dutch but have also added in the
combinations with well-established English term. The next food Perm to be noticed. Cookie illustrates this tendency very well. According to the best evidence available cookie has been borrowed into the English language twice. It occurs in Scottish and it is possible that settlers from Scotland may have brought the word with them to this country. But in view of the fact that as early as seventeen hundred and three the word had already been borrowed from the church in New York justified one in concluding that it was from the Dutch that we adopted it. Cookie is so much a part of the language now that we do not hesitate to form combinations with it and speak of a cookie cutter cookie jar cookie sheet cookie can. Also for over 100 years. Those of us who are too cautious in financial matters to wager huge sums
have been willing to bet a cooky on matters about which we are reasonably sure. Also those of us who are not of Verse 2 using slang sometimes refer to a person as being a cookie. Sometimes we have applied to Alicia's looking girl and sometimes with a different implication altogether. We refer to a bad man as being a tough cookie. Perhaps the choicest of all the food terms we have taken over from the Dutch in this country is waffle. It has been in the language for over 200 years and its popularity showed no signs of diminishing father object which it denotes as a favorite with young uno. A story is sometimes told of how Thomas Jefferson and induced his countrymen to waffle. He having made the acquaintance of this delicacy bile and Europe this story has to be given up however far we now know that the word waffle
was already well-known here long before Jefferson went to borrow a cookie. The word we have just discussed is very easy to explain. It is the diminutive of the Dutch word for cake and its literal meaning is a little cake but the basic meaning of waffle is not so easy to explain. Scholars who have studied the word believe that its remote ancestor was a germ Manik word which meant honeycomb and that centuries ago the French borrowed it and used it in that same then later the same German people from whom the word had been pillaged long before barred it back again to serve as the name of this quick break which looks somewhat like a honeycomb. Undoubtedly the food term of Dutch origin which has had the most interesting development in American English is dough which to begin
with was nothing more than the Dutch word for gravy in the sense of gravy it came into English use in New York City as early as 1870 and there may be places where it is still used with this original meaning. But after a time Americans found it convenient to use for any one of various preparations for which a more accurate nation was not readily available. Those who like to ski use what they called though on the running surface of their ski to make them glide over the snow better. For more than 50 years dope has been used for any preparation especially want of opium that is used to stupefy. It is another name for an opiate. While dope was serving in these different capacities being applied to many things for which a better term was not immediately at hand it occurred to someone to use it for information or knowledge
especially over time not widely known are easily available. It is often used in this slang sense since the word in the course of its experiences have become associated with opium and other drugs. It required on me a little stretching of the imagination to apply it to one bitch under the influence of some form of drug and to refer to such a person as a poor old though and this use in a short time gave rise to the closely related want in which the term is applied jocularly to anyone who acts foolishly. It is interesting to observe lot of word which to begin with meant gravy accumulated such a multitude of senses and in addition has entered into numerous combinations so that now speaking on the slang our colloquial level we can refer to the old dope bucket and make much of the fact when it gets upset. We can also speak of the
themes and the floor the existence of the rain and of dope peddlers. This sketch by no means covers the entire career of the word hire. It has become a verb with meanings too numerous to point out here. Besides it has given rise to the mound dumpster Parwan who dopes things out and to the adjective. Don't play it violin makes one dopey to contemplate the interesting career of this word which to begin with merely meant grave. Perhaps the most widely known of the Dutch terms taken over in this country is bollocks. It seems to be the oldest of the American Dutch borrow 300 years ago the word began its career in the English of the Plymouth settlers. The social attitudes of the new settlers called bollocks to flourish a few other words I've ever done.
Two of the most hated words in the vocabulary of the pilgrims who landed that plane were servant and master in this new country. They gloried in the fact that they had among the most servants and no masters everyone in the little group stood on a social level with everyone else. Each man was his own master and he turned a cold shoulder on any vestiges in the language which pricked his sensitiveness by reminding him of the role he had played in a society in which there were many servants and few Masters. Just when the free men of America needed it most they found ready for their use the Dutch word boss which was quickly appropriated by all. They and their descendants have used it ever sales often with the zeal that is modern knowledge by this new word means master just as surely as the English word proper for which it has been substituted.
But Bart had NO such an unpleasant overtones as did the hated term master. If boss is impossible to be regarded as the oldest and most widely used of our borrowings from Dutch There is no doubt but that Santa Clause is the best loved word taken from the same source. It is nearly 200 years old in American English and there is no chance that it will ever be supplanted. Dictionaries have not perhaps done as well by as they should have for the impression one gets from looking at the word in the usual dictionary is that it is a corruption. So call off Saint Nicholas and that this damage to St. Nicholas was perpetrated by careless Americans who all but tore the word UP in assuring it into our language to be sure Santa Claus does trace back to Saint Nicholas. But the Americans
had no hand in changing the word from its earlier to its modern state. This modification of St. Nicholas had taken place in the church before the Americans appeared on the scene. Those in this country who introduced the word in the English changed its physical a pair that is its spelling. But they made virtually no change in the pronunciation of the term. It is interesting to observe that the present day conception of sanity as of the whiskered old gentleman with quote a bottle of toys he had flung on his back end quote clad in a red suit. He is one for which we are indebted to a remarkable German American illustrator and cartoonist Thomas Nast who was born in Bavaria. In the 1860s. When I asked was illustrating a volume of Christmas poems he called to mind the pale cynical of his but they in boyhood. He drew upon his vivid
recollection of this village character for his representation of Santa Claus and the picture he drew became popular overnight. He was dull aged with orders for the drawing and sense that time his depiction of Santa Claus had become the standard one. Santa Claus as we have said is derived from St. Nicholas and it happens that in American English we have both these terms. Santa Claus and Saint Nicholas in the sense of the jolly old elf who visits children at Christmas. Saint Nicholas was one of the earliest of the saints passing to his reward about sixteen hundred years ago. The Mini Storage told about him one of the best is the story of how he secretly gave a fine and ours to three poor sisters enabling them to secure her spot. It is thought that from this episode it became popular in earlier times for friends to
exchange gifts on the eve of St. Nicholas. The Saints Day in the calendar being the fifth or sixth that they sent him. According to our American way of doing things we have switched this giving of gifts from the first part of the summer to the last of the month and now use St. Nicholas as a synonym for Santa Claus. We began this practice at Lago a 1773 day use of St. Nicholas. In that well-known poem a visit from Saint Nicholas by Clement Seymour must have done much to make popular the name of the old saying it in the sense we now use it. You have heard Mitford Matthews in a talk on more from the Dutch. This is the fifth programme in the series the American language. Mr Matthews is editor of the Dictionary of American isms and lecturer and language sticks at the
University of Chicago. This program is produced in the University of Chicago radio office by Thomas de Paris. This is the end I ybe tape network.
American language
More from the Dutch
Producing Organization
University of Chicago
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
The fifth program in this series continues to discuss the influence of Dutch upon American English.
Series Description
A series of talks by Mitford Mathews, editor of the Dictionary of Americanisms and lecturer in linguistics at the University of Chicago.
Broadcast Date
Dutch language--Influence on English.
Media type
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Producer: Parrish, Thomas (Thomas D.)
Producing Organization: University of Chicago
Speaker: Mathews, Mitford M. (Mitford McLeod), 1891-1985
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 54-8-5 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:14:54
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Chicago: “American language; More from the Dutch,” 1954-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 10, 2023,
MLA: “American language; More from the Dutch.” 1954-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 10, 2023. <>.
APA: American language; More from the Dutch. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from