Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘I’m a Dutchman’

I’m The Queen Of England

Posted by Elyse Bruce on June 24, 2013

When you hear someone mention that they’re the Queen of England (provided that the person really isn’t the Queen of England or that the person isn’t certifiable), it’s usually in conjunction with another phrase preceding the expression.  For example, when David Michael Green wrote an OpEd piece for OpEdNews.com that was published on November 22, 2007 the title of the article was:

If Conservatism Is The Ideology Of Freedom, I’m The Queen Of England

Back on September 27, 1989 the Denver Post newspaper published an article about Forrest Hiller’s amazing lottery win that paid out $6.5 million.  The story reported the following quote as being the winner’s initial reaction to winning the lottery:

“I thought, `Right, and I’m the Queen of England.'”

The fact of the matter is that there are a number of variations on the Queen of England theme.  Some know the idiom with the Queen of Sheba instead of the Queen of England as seen in Ann Lander’s response to a letter sent in to the Dear Ann column, and published in the Montreal Gazette on October 9, 1965:

Teen crime is up.  Teen drinking is up.  Teen car accidents are up.  If this picture doesn’t reflect a change in teenage behavior, then I’m the Queen of Sheba.

When it wasn’t the Queen of Sheba being maligned, Cleopatra’s identity was being sullied as seen in the sports article by Gayle Talbot, published in the Prescott Evening Courier of October 7, 1939.  The Cincinnati Reds were going into the third game of the 1939 World Series against the New York Yankees, and the story had sports fans on the edge of their seats.  The article, entitled, “Cincy Tired Of Ailing Yanks” reported in part:

“I’m weary of hearing that stuff,” said one of the most prominent of the Reds.  “Sure, they’re good.  They’ve knocked our ears down twice.  Maybe they’re even wonderful.  But I’m a little disappointed when Ruffing has to build up his alibi beforehand, and then sticks to it after he’s pitched that kind of a game.  If that guy had a sore arm, I’m Cleopatra, and I never saw the Nile in my life.”

The French are known to say:  “Et moi, je suis la reine d’Angleterre.” (And me, I’m the Queen of England!)

Likewise, those who speak Hebrew say:  “Ve’ani malkat anglia.” (And I’m the Queen of England.)

There are those who speak Czech who say:  “A já jsem čínský papež.” (And I’m the Chinese pope.)

The Greek tend to say:  “Κι εγώ είμαι ο αλί-μπαμπάς.” (And I’m Ali Baba.)

The Spanish respond with:  “Y yo soy la Reina de Saba.”  (I’m the Queen of Spain and Mexico.)

In the end, any identity can (and has) been slipped into the expression over the generations to express incredulity.  Entire cultural groups have been slipped into the expression as in “I’m a Dutchman” or animals as in “I’m a monkey’s uncle!”

Although Idiomation was unable to pinpoint the first time the Queen of England (and there have been more than a few) was used in this way, suffice it to say that it’s been around for longer than many care to remember.

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I’m A Dutchman

Posted by Elyse Bruce on September 21, 2011

When someone who is not Dutch says, “I’m a Dutchman” what that person really means is that what has just been seen or heard is, in that person’s opinion, very obviously not true.  In other words, it’s a statement of disbelief.

Now the word Dutchman is an archaic term that dates back to the 14th century that refers to a member of any of the Germanic people of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and the Low Countries.  These days, it refers to someone from the Netherlands and usually Holland.  As readers of Idiomation now know,  by the 17th century the Dutch and the English were hated military and commercial rivals and so many barbs and insults were thought up with which to insult each other.

Back on January 15, 2005 journalist Ian Youngs wrote an article for the BBC News entitled, “How Busted Rocked The Pop Scene.”  The article was about a British pop trio that formed in late 2002 and over the course of three years, they had eight UK Top 3 singles.  The article began with kudos to the trio for writing their own songs and playing their own instruments.  But not everyone believed that.  In fact, Darren Stephens of lliria, Spain had this to say about the trio:

Talentless trash! If they were playing those instruments, I’m a Dutchman! Good riddance!

Back on March 18, 1976 the Chicago Tribune ran an article in the sports section written by Art Dunn.  It was entitled, “Hawks Rally, Nip Leafs” and reported on events happening in the National Hockey League‘s 50th season.  As is always the case as things draw closer to the Stanley Cup final, things were heating up with the teams, the coaches, the owners and the fans.  Some were less pleased with the final results of the game that night and one person was quoted as saying:

If that’s neutral officiating, I’m a Dutchman.

Now the Chicago Tribune appears to like this expression quite a bit.  On July 25, 1934 the newspaper ran a story written by author, Elizabeth York Miller entitled, “Her Husband’s Fiancee.”  It was the story of Cecily Marshall of Bellchester, England who returned to her husband, Bellchester’s leading merchant prince, after a year’s absence.  What she didn’t know was that Audrey Lowe and her cousin Reggie Davies had ideas of their own about breaking up Cecily’s marriage.  The story provides this tidbit when one of the characters says:

Then his jolly little divorce would go west, or I’m a Dutchman. I told her to go to David and be dammed to her.

The Tuapeka Times published another excerpt of murder mystery story by author, Harold M. Mackie entitled, “A Story Of North Queensland” on June 13, 1891.  He was the author of “The Squatter’s Daughter” and well-known to the Tuapeka Times readers.  On this day, the story continued with more from Chapter XVIII where the following was found:

“There’ll have to be an exhumation of the remains in order to see if there are any traces of poisoning in the stomach,” said Popham.  “That’ll be another job for Brook, and not a pleasant one either.  No one guessed of such a thing as poisoning or attempted poisoning.  This case promises some rather interesting features, and looks very black against Prescott.  He’ll have to give a clear account of how Liscombe came to be in possession of this flask full of drugged whisky.  Of course, circumstances may have occurred by which Liscombe was the rightful owner of the article, but as we have said before it is not likely that Prescott made him a present of it.”

“He might have done so,” remarked Tulloch, “when it contained poison.”

“That, my friend, we’ll prove, or I’m a Dutchman.  A man who’s drugged might certainly have an inclination to dash his brains out against a tree, and whether Maurice Liscombe’s death has been that of his own doing or the work of another this vile compound is indirectly the cause.”

The expression is found in the 1857 book by J.D. Borthwick, “Three Years California” where the invective “damned” is sometimes added to make the expression more colourful.  The expression is identified as a typical sailor’s oath for the day and so it dates back at least to the early 1800s to be used to easily and with such conviction that the expression will be understood by all who hear it.

This makes sense as author George Elliot — the pseudonym for Mary Ann Evans — published a book in 1860 entitled, “The Mill On The Floss.”  In Chapter 4, “Tom Is Expecting” the following conversation is found:

“But they’re our fellow-creatures, Luke; we ought to know about our fellow-creatures.”

“Not much o’ fellow-creaturs, I think, Miss; all I know – my old master, as war a knowin’ man, used to say, says he, ‘If e’er I sow my wheat wi’out brinin’, I’m a Dutchman,’ says he; an’ that war as much as to say as a Dutchman war a fool, or next door. Nay, nay, I aren’t goin’ to bother mysen about Dutchmen. There’s fools enoo, an’ rogues enoo, wi’out lookin’ i’ books for ’em.”

That it should be used by an author of the fairer sex in the mid 1800s certainly speaks loudly to the fact that the expression was indeed known to much of the population at the time.  Now, knowing what the times were like for someone of the fairer sex to have heard such an expression most often spoken by sailors, it had to be an expression that was around for quite some time … at least 2 generations which pegs the expression to the late 1700s.

And so it is!  In the book, “The Old Sailor’s Jolly Boat” published in 1790, the story has this excerpt in it:

“Well, there they are,” declared Phillips, ” and an unrolled ball of spun-yarn from one to the other to keep up the relationship.”

“Capital,” exclaimed the boatswain, rubbing his hands together with greater pleasure than he had enjoyed for some time past; ” if that don’t let her into the secret in spite of all the Tartars, aye and cream of Tartars in the world, then I’m a Dutchman; but there’s a space atwixt the two gallon measures, Jack.”

With it being part of the vernacular back in 1790, how far back does relating the Dutch with something unbelievable go?  Surely it reaches back at least another 2 generations putting the expression to the early to mid 1700s.

English Renaissance dramatist, Ben Jonson (1572 – 1637) was William Shakespeare’s junior by nearly a decade.  In Act I, Scene I of Ben Jonson’s satirical play “Volpone” published in 1606 and performed in 1607, the following exchange is found which embraces the spirit of the expression:

VOLPONE:
True, my beloved Mosca. Yet I glory
More in the cunning purchase of my wealth,
Than in the glad possession; since I gain
No common way; I use no trade, no venture;
I wound no earth with plough-shares; fat no beasts,
To feed the shambles; have no mills for iron,
Oil, corn, or men, to grind them into powder:
I blow no subtle glass; expose no ships
To threat’nings of the furrow-faced sea;
I turn no monies in the public bank,
Nor usure private.

MOSCA:
No sir, nor devour
Soft prodigals. You shall have some will swallow
A melting heir as glibly as your Dutch
Will pills of butter, and ne’er purge for it;

And so the expression dates back to sometime between 1606 and the early 1700s and the spirit of the expression dates back to before 1606.

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