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When I first became interested in genealogy and started asking my grandparents about their parents and grandparents, they both described my grandmother's grandmother as "Dutchy". I initially thought I had stumbled on a family connection to the Netherlands that I never knew existed but then it became clear they were talking about her personality or mannerisms. The sense I got was that they both were very fond of her, but...(she was "Dutchy").

Both of my grandparents were born in 1914 and this great-great grandmother died in 1933, so I'm wondering if this was an expression from their youth (in the Midwest U.S.). I did a Google search and there are several expressions that incorporate the word Dutch, usually in a pejorative sense. I found this page, which includes the expression "His dutch is up," meaning dander/temper. Is anyone else familiar with this usage?

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    Is it possible that Dutchy is a misunderstanding or mondegreen (on your part or your grandparents') for touchy? – StoneyB Nov 18 '16 at 14:33
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    The onlineslang dictionary shows "dutchy/duchy" : - Usage-- You look dutchy. Means you look like a dutchess. In other words you look nice or even classy. – user66974 Nov 18 '16 at 14:36
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    @JOSH It's dutchess that's the problem. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 18 '16 at 15:01
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    Never heard that before. Maybe you heard 'dodgy' (currently a Britishism)? Or maybe 'douchy' (very new US slang)? Making an adjective out of another word (by adding -y) is common nowadays but I thought was a very new thing. Also the adjective already would be 'Dutch' is that were meant. Lots of possibilities, especially given that no one has claimed evidence for it yet for a few generations back. – Mitch Nov 18 '16 at 16:16
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    Yeah, I didn't get the impression that it was extremely pejorative. It was a quality that definitely stood out, though. – McCaverty Nov 18 '16 at 16:21
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I am of German heritage and raised in the Midwest. My parents and grandparents used the term dutchy to describe a woman who dressed in and old-fashioned, overly conservative, unflattering manner. They didn't use the term specifically to describe a personality trait, but it could apply to a stern, conservative, old-fashioned person.

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From my research, I have found this definition for Dutchy that I think suits your situation:

adjective

  • Difficult to understand, slurred, imprecisely articulated (of one's speech) (dialect: regional to rural Central New York State)

He is so dutchy that we can hardly understand him.

I would assume this has a slight negative connotation so would fit into your impression that "they both were very fond of her, but...(she was Dutchy)"

  • If I had to replace Dutchy with another adjective, based on the sense of how it was said, I would be inclined to use words that describe a person's personality or habits, like stern or aloof or frugal or sharp-tongued. – McCaverty Nov 18 '16 at 15:21
  • Or imprecisely articulate? That is the only adjective definition I have been able to come up with. Without actually asking your grandparents, it may be hard to know exactly how they meant it. – Hank Nov 18 '16 at 15:23
  • I appreciate the effort, Hank! I wish I could ask them or that I had pressed them further to explain at the time. It was a large family gathering and I expect the subject got changed or some other distraction happened and I failed to follow up. – McCaverty Nov 18 '16 at 15:25
  • No problem at all! Maybe they were a little dutchy and you had trouble understanding them? haha – Hank Nov 18 '16 at 15:26
  • Lol - maybe so! – McCaverty Nov 18 '16 at 15:26
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The Urban Dictionary online has a number of ideas, but I suspect the OED gets closest

Frequency (in current use): Etymology: < Dutch adj., n.1, and adv. + -y suffix1. Dutch-like. 1893 J. H. Ross in King's Business (New Haven, Connecticut) 127 The faces [in Rembrandt's Scripture pictures] are not ideal but Dutchy.

My suspicion is that this was a late-nineteenth/early-twentieth American expression for a person of Dutch, or possibly German descent, perhaps one who didn't speak English entirely fluently.

Did your great, great grandmother have Dutch or German connections?

  • I haven't been able to trace her family back very far, but both her parents were born in Indiana. And when I misunderstood my grandparents to mean she was from Holland, they corrected me. So I'm inclined to think it's just a saying or an expression about how she was rather than an accent or regional way of speaking. – McCaverty Nov 18 '16 at 16:47
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When I wore badly matched or loud clothes as a child, my mother told me I looked Dutchy. I took it to mean rather outlandish.

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I know it's been a while since this thread was last posted on, but my mother who was from the midwest used the term "dutchy" to describe slurred speech. So you would be dutchy if you were partially deaf, or had just gotten your mouth numbed at the dentist office.

  • A new and relevant answer to an old question is always delightful to see. Bear in mind that Stack Exchange answers are “right” answers. Anecdotes can be useful, but they are usually not sufficient on their own to show that an answer is right. An answer should include explanation, context, and supporting facts. For example, you could offer peer-reviewed evidence, such as the definition from a good online dictionary. This is what makes answers useful – to the asker, and to future visitors. – MetaEd Oct 4 '18 at 15:37
  • @MetaEd The post you link is almost entirely about what sort of questions we should accept on SE. – David Richerby Oct 5 '18 at 14:00
  • @DavidRicherby It is good guidance on how to ask questions that have real answers, but that means it is also good guidance on what a real answer is. – MetaEd Oct 5 '18 at 15:48
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My ultra-modern German mother used the term interchangeably with “kitschy.” It was not flattering. She thought her old fashioned mother-in-law’s floral, knickknack laden decorating was DUTCHY!

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    Is "Dutchy" a German word then? How old is your modern mother? Does she still live in Germany? Are you German/British/American (which state)? These are all important details that makes your answer more credible. – Mari-Lou A Mar 14 at 17:47

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