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From The Dutch

February 2024
2min read


Though Nieuw Amsterdam became English New York in 1664, the Dutch language survived into the late eighteenth century in northern New Jersey and southern New York. In obscure nooks of the Hudson Valley, Dutch lingered even into the twentieth century. From cookie ( koekje ) to noodle ( noodlefe ), the Dutch influence persists. Here are a few examples of how Dutch has made its way into everyday spoken English.

Brooklyn From the Dutch town Breukelen, meaning broken valley or land of brooks and marshes.

Brooklynese The characteristic sound of the accent associated with Brooklyn. It goes back to the Dutch having to learn English very quickly in the late seventeenth century. They tend to pronounce th as t or d , so that think becomes tink, with becomes wit , and them becomes dem . This was reinforced by the later influx of German and Jewish immigrants into New York.

Bushwhacker A guerrilla soldier who ambushes the enemy in the bush (from bos and early Dutch bosch , forest). Bushwick, a neighborhood in Brooklyn, is derived from boswijk (woods town), while Fiatbush, also in Brooklyn, comes from vlache bos , the Dutch term for wooded plain.

Coleslaw From Dutch koolsla (cabbage salad). Dutch settlers on Long Island were the first to grow cabbage in the New World.

Coney Island Hudson’s crew saw hundreds of rabbits ( konijnen ) there, hence konijnen eiland , the root of this Brooklyn beach’s name.

Dope From the Dutch doop , a dipping sauce or a mixture of unknown or suspicious ingredients. By the late 180Os this had come to mean narcotics, especially opium, and from that someone drugged and, eventually, a stupid person.

Dutch A mispronunciation of Deutsch (as in Pennsylvania Dutch). It became associated with people from Holland because they were the Germanic-language people the British most often came into contact with.

Hoboken The name of a wealthy family that left Rotterdam in the seventeenth century to settle in New Jersey.

Hunky-dory Hunky, meaning safe in a game, came from honk , the Dutch word for home in children’s tag games (in the Netherlands, baseball is honkbal ).

Knickerbockers Diedrich Knickerbocker was Washington Irving’s fictitious narrator in his History of New York (1809), which satirized the Dutch and parodied official guidebooks and pedantic histories of the early Dutch in New York. Knickerbocker is a combination of the Dutch knikken (to nod) and boeken (books). So a knickerbocker is somebody who dozes off while reading.

Landscape Landschap was originally a term for the genre of paintings that the Dutch seem to perfect.

Ship From the Dutch schip . Many other nautical terms also derive from the Dutch: skipper, sloop, scow, commodore, deck, boom, bow, hoist, trawler, rudder, freighter , and yacht .

Wall Street Comes from de wal , the Dutch-built fortification marking the northern border of Nieuw Amsterdam.

Yankees There are four theories about where Yankee comes from. Some have thought it was from the Cherokee word eakke , meaning coward; others have hypothesized an Indian mispronunciation of anglais , the French for English . But more likely the word has a Dutch origin, because it was originally applied to the Dutch. Some say it is derived from a combination of two very common Dutch names, Jan Kees and Jan Keese, meaning a Dutch freebooter or pirate; the particularly shrewd business tactics of the Dutch came to be described as “typical Jan Kees deals.” Still others claim that New England’s Puritans were known to Dutch settlers as Janikens (Johnnies).

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