Beat The Dutch
Posted by Elyse Bruce on August 4, 2011
The phrase beat the Dutch has been replaced by other expressions over the years such as beat the band and beat all. However, it’s a strange phrase indeed and one wonders why beat the Dutch would mean that what is being spoken about surpasses anything else those speaking have ever seen or read, especially in a strange, incredible or amazing way!
The phrase beat the Dutch, was referred to by the writer as a less than complimentary expression, in a piece published in the New York Times on February 16, 1953. The piece reflected on the manner in which expressions have marginalized those from Holland. The piece began by stating:
It is unfortunate — and remarkable — that in our English language the adjective generally has an opprobrious or uncomplimentary connotation — especially since the residents of the lowlands of Holland have time and again demonstrated their courage and tenacity in the face of tremendous odds.
On September 27, 1899 the New York Times published an article entitled, “Dewey Arrives Ahead Of Time: The Olympia, Two Days Early, Anchors In The Lower Bay.” It was a very lengthy news story which included part of a conversation overheard on the streets between foot patrolman, an elderly lady, a pretty girl and a bystander on the street. It had to do with the Dewey triumphal arch and other works of art in Admiral Charles Dewey’s honour that were being completed at Madison Square.
It’s the Metropolitan Museum ya mean, Mum. Take this care, and tell the conductor to transfer ye to the Fourt’ An’noo cars at Astor Place, and git off at Eighty-second Street and walk west. Wait till the passengers gets off, Mum. There you are all right — go ahead, Jack. Say, young feller, (to a bystander) don’t these here sightseers beat the Dutch?
Back on May 17, 1850 the Daily Evening Transcript published a theatre review of a play showcasing at the Boston Theatre. The review was included in the column entitled, “Walks About Town.” It stated in part:
Whether human or not, we wouldn’t like to say, but this much we do say, that Javelli comes as near, in deeds of deviltry, & c, the Luciferian gentleman as anybody ever seen in Boston; “and that’s something,” as Daniel Webster said of Old Tip’s honesty. In fact, they all “beat the Dutch” and everybody knows the Dutch beat the Devil.
Essex Gazette published a delightful song parody in their December 7, 1775 edition that included this verse:
And besides all the mortars, bombs, cannon and shells,
And bullets and guns— as the newspaper tells,
Our cargoes of meat, drink and clothes beat the Dutch;
Now who would not tarry, and take t’other touch?
In the end, however, the expression came into vogue in the years following the purchase of the Island of Manhattan from the North American Indians living on the land by the first Dutch Governor of the Province of New Netherland, Peter Minnewit (1580 – 1638) on May 24, 1626. The selling price was 50 guilders worth of trade goods, or just $24 USD. From that point onward, anything that was more impressive than this transaction was said to “beat the Dutch.”