Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Dutch Treat

Posted by Elyse Bruce on August 29, 2011

A Dutch treat, also known as going Dutch or a Dutch date, refers to an outing where everyone involved pays his or her own expenses.

Just three days ago, the Leesville Daily Leader newspaper in Louisiana published a story about the local Chamber of Commerce’s newest developments in the community entitled, “Fort Polk Progress Seeks To Predict Region’s Destiny.”  More than 44 area business leaders were in attendance at the meeting which took place over the lunch hour.  A photo accompanied the news article with the following description included:

The Vernon Parish Chamber of Commerce conducted its general membership meeting for August at Catfish Junction Wednesday during a dutch treat luncheon. Speaker for the event was Mike Reese, of Fort Polk Progress.

On October 16, 1974 the St. Petersburg Times ran the Ann Landers column aptly titled that day as, “Husband’s Dutch Treat Lunches Worry Her.”  A woman in her 60s, married to her husband for 36 years, was worried about the latest work arrangement at her husband’s new job.  The distraught wife wrote in part:

He has been going to lunch nearly every day with his secretary, who is in her 30s.  He told me about it himself, making a big deal out of the fact that they go Dutch.

The Day newspaper published an interesting human interest story on November 14, 1931 that reported that a group of University of California co-ed students announced to the media they were in favour of splitting the cost of a “date” between a man and a woman provided the man met their standards of the perfect date. 

A date was rated as follows:  20% for intelligence, 20% for personality, 15% for cultural and social background, 15% for personal appearance, 10% each for courtesy and for dance ability, and 5% each for physical fitness and for social poise.  However, the catch was that if such a man existed, he wouldn’t allow the woman to go Dutch; he’d pay for the date.  The news story was entitled:

College Girls Describe Perfect Male Escort For ‘Dutch Treat’

On July 21, 1893 the Morning Herald of Baltimore, Maryland published a news story that set tongues wagging.  It told the story of the exploits of 13 Newport women who set society talking by engaging in a unique feast.  In fact, what they did was so unheard of that they made the idea fashionable.  Yes, they had a “very jolly dinner without the men and boldly braved superstition” by actually having what the newspaper headline announced was a “Ladies’ Dutch Dinner.”  The story reported in part:

In the private dining-room, trimmed and decorated with yellow striped silk, the women referred to decided to have their “Dutch treat” or, in other words, each lady was to pay her own expenses, little realizing that they were setting the seal of their approval on a custom which needed it.  Had this custom been inaugurated before Newport would have been benefited in a substantial manner, and many families would not have ceased their social functions as summarily as they did.

The term, according to the The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, dates back to 1870.  Idiomation is willing to concede that this is most likely the correct year for the expression since the 1893 article states “the seal of their approval on a custom which needed it.”  It was a known social convention that hadn’t been given a place in society until people such as those delightful 13 Newport women brought society up to speed on the option.

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