Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue – Day Fifty-Four

The Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue was first published at the end of the eighteenth century, and given that the Coronavirus crisis is giving too much time to read books, I thought I’d pick a daily word from it until I got bored…..

Butter Box

This phrase is defined by the dictionary as “a Dutchman, from the great quantity of butter eaten by the people of that country”. I’m not quite sure if this is offensive or not, but I guess there could be worse, although I don’t think I’ll use the phrase the next time that I’m in the Netherlands. It was certainly initially meant to be offensive, it dates to the mid-seventeenth century when sailors used it in a derogatory manner during the Anglo-Dutch Wars.

It has also been suggested that the phrase derives from when the Dutch flag looked like this, which was in the seventeenth century, as apparently it looks like a butter box. I must admit, it doesn’t look at all like a butter box to me, so I’m going with the Dutch people binge eating butter.