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double Dutch

incomprehensible language


double Dutch = das Kauderwelsch



“McClaren Speaks DOUBLE DUTCH During Interview”

Sky News

“Talk is cheap, so they say,
It is when politicians come your way.
Beware of the one who promises too much,
Because he is talking DOUBLE DUTCH.”

From the poem “Politicians” (author unknown)

Did you

double Dutch
noun phrase

- talk or writing that is nonsense or that you cannot understand

- a game in which two long jump ropes turning in opposite directions are jumped by one or more players jumping simultaneously

Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary / Wikipedia


In the 1600s, the English and Dutch were colonial rivals. In those days, the English described things they didn’t like, or that were considered foreign, as “Dutch”.

Nowadays, “Dutch courage” is a sarcastic way of describing courage that is gained by drinking alcohol, and a “Dutch auction” is a sale that begins with a high asking price, and which is then reduced until a buyer is found.

It comes as no surprise then, that apart from referring to a complicated jump-rope game, double Dutch also refers to speaking or writing that is difficult or impossible to understand.


In 2005, a minister in Wales tried to explain the need to reorganise the four Welsh police forces by saying:

“The only thing, which isn’t up for grabs, is no change and I think it’s fair to say it’s all to play for, except for no change.”

Rest assured that even native English speakers have no idea what this statement means. It’s a good example of what we would call “double Dutch".


babble, baloney, Choctaw, DOUBLE-DUTCH, Greek, gibberish, gobbledygook, hogwash, hokum, hooey, malarkey, mumbo jumbo, nonsense, rubbish

SMUGGLE OWAD into a conversation today, say something like:

“I thought he was speaking DOUBLE DUTCH until I realised it was just his strong regional accent.”

THANKS to Maria for suggesting today’s OWAD

HERZLICHEN DANK to all readers helping me keep OWAD alive with single or monthly donations at:

Paul Smith

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