Dutch Curses …

oddly seem to focus on disease much more than English ones.


Victor Mair (Language Log) has a fun post on this, quoting portions from an Economist article.

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  1. To be fair, English expressions tend to disproportionately slur the Dutch, especially for their (alleged) dishonesty. Think: Dutch Oven, Dutch Treat, Dutch Courage, Dutch Uncle, Dutchman (in carpentry), and Getting in Dutch.

    And don’t get me started in Dutch Elm Disease.

    1. Dutch Ovens are ingenious cooking pots that enable you to have the benefits of an actual oven while cooking with the Boy Scouts.

    2. Article is about curses, swearing, not expressions. English curses are excretory, sexual, or religious.

    3. Look up “Dutch wife” in the context of “sailors”.

  2. Hey Eugene, since you’re chilling at home and apparently have time to make offtopic language posts ever thought about putting that fat law professor salary to work and getting into VR or AR again? A new crop of machines are coming out and they’re supposed to be quite bit better than the originals. Alyx in particular is getting some rave reviews. At the very least you can track the improvement over time. Maybe you can become an expert in another field.

    1. Yeah, I’d love to — maybe over the summer. I still think that technology has huge potential, once it’s worked out.

  3. In English, “invalids” as an insult, and of course “lame”, is somehow still respectable.

    1. That’s an invalid argument. And that’s polite usage, not an insult at all.

    2. I don’t think “invalid” as a noun is an insult — “invalid” as an adjective is negative, but that has a different meaning, and is generally applied to arguments, authorizations, and the like, not people. (The noun apparently stems from the adjective, not vice versa.)

      “Lame” is indeed a mild insult. “Sick” strikes me as actually somewhat stronger (though I hear that kids these days actually use it as a positive term).

      1. When I checked Wikitionary it includes an entry saying invalid could be offensive.

      2. “Retard” and references to mental illness definitely are.

        1. In that case, the Volokh Conspiracy thanks you for taking advantage of the perceived opportunity to use that term.

  4. Are we sure that the dutch canker means exactly the English cancer, and doesn’t have any of the connotations of the English word canker (an open, oozing, puss-y, ulcerous sore, with connotations of being both really gross and potentially venereal in origin).

    I suspect translating swear words into formal medical terms doesn’t really explain what they mean or why they are swear words. It seems the same sort of mistake as translating a word like “fuck” into some some sort of technical term like “vaginal intercourse” or polite euphemistic term like ‘marital relations.’ Canker is both colloquial and graphic. Cancer isn’t.

    1. Yes and no, respectively. (As in: yes, kanker means cancer, and no, it doesn’t have any of the connotations you list.)

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