I'm looking for a way to say that something it is really difficult, like when you start learning a new language, or reading something that you are not familiar with and there are terms that you never heard before. I found this "double Dutch", but not sure if it is still used or substituted by doublespeak or double talk.

The sentence is

[...]better understand all the "technical" terms that sometimes sound double Dutch.

I'm wondering if I should add like:

sound like double Dutch.

From the comment (thanks @Phill Healey): Adding 'like' would make it a literal statement, and thus mean something that had the same phonics as 'double Dutch' So for example 'bubble hutch' would "sound like" 'double Dutch' as opposed to something which is not-understood.

edit: Do the words gobbledygook OR gibberish make more sense for what I want to say?

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    AFAIK, Double Dutch has an entirely different meaning than doublespeak. I think the former belongs in the same family of expressions as "It's all Dutch to me" and "It's Greek to me" (Thank you, Shakespeare), while doublespeak belongs to a family of expressions that denote deliberate ambiguity.
    – Tsundoku
    Dec 23 '16 at 11:20
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    @BladorthinTheGrey Have you got examples of the references to Chinese as used in Britain? I've not come across that, so it might be a regional change. I don't think I've heard 'double dutch' used in this sense for a long time, but in my experience its been replaced by referenced to gobbledygook and gibberish.
    – Spagirl
    Dec 23 '16 at 12:13
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    @Spagirl I'm wondering if I should use gobbledygook or gibberish, it sounds more actual.
    – overkill22
    Dec 23 '16 at 12:46
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    I'm a native AmE speaker - when I hear "double dutch" I think of the jump-rope game.
    – John Feltz
    Dec 23 '16 at 13:05
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    I would use gibberish. Gobblygook comes across to me as a word that kids would use. I've never used Double Dutch in my life. It's all Greek to me means something you are trying to learn is very complicated and confusing; you can even use it when you are trying to learn Greek. Dec 23 '16 at 14:37

Double Dutch is an expression which I still hear from time to time, but I would say it used less frequently now than it once was. I have always taken it to be synonymous with expressions such as It's all Greek to me. I am absolutely not familiar with the idea of double Dutch being synonymous with double talk, although some online dictionaries do indicate that this is the case. That said, the dictionary entry for double talk to which I have linked here would seem to suggest that this latter term is used to refer to deliberately opaque or misleading speech.


I heard the phrase “double Dutch” often growing up—but never in the sense you have here. I didn’t know it ever had that meaning until just now.

Rather, “double Dutch” to me refers exclusively to a form of jump rope, with two ropes being swung simultaneously. This was popular in the playgrounds of New York City at least as recently as my childhood (call it fifteen years ago, last time I had playground recess), and I imagine it still is. The linked Wikipedia page mentions it having become a varsity sport in New York City public schools in 2009.

On this basis alone, I suspect that this usage would confuse a lot of Americans, or at least New Yorkers, in your audience.

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    I don't know how widespread it's used, but can confirm it's the same in Maryland (DC Metro, at least)
    – Joe
    Dec 23 '16 at 17:48
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    Double Dutch, meaning gibberish or gobbledegook is clearly uniquely British. It is a bit dated these days. Like a lot of expressions that cast aspersions on other nations they it has probably fallen victim to political correctness - as have French leave, Dutch courage, Spanish practices, sounds Irish, Welching on a bet etc.
    – WS2
    Dec 23 '16 at 18:21
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    First thing I thought of related to double dutch was the bus. youtube.com/watch?v=fK9hK82r-AM
    – barbecue
    Dec 23 '16 at 18:28
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    To be fair, double Dutch jump rope does look really difficult. They used to televise competitions of it on ESPN. However, if you used it metaphorically in that sense, I would indeed be one of those very confused Americans.
    – T.E.D.
    Dec 23 '16 at 20:11
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    The same in Texas. Dec 24 '16 at 6:22

The Online Etymology Dictionary gives us this information about Dutch (emphasis added):

Since c. 1600, Dutch (adj.) has been a "pejorative label pinned by English speakers on almost anything they regard as inferior, irregular, or contrary to 'normal' (i.e., their own) practice" [Rawson]. E.g. Dutch treat (1887), Dutch uncle (1838), etc. -- probably exceeded in such usage only by Indian and Irish -- reflecting first British commercial and military rivalry and later heavy German immigration to U.S.

So be aware that the term has a potentially offensive connotation. Although this offensiveness has been lost over time, the origin remains less than friendly.

I first came across this concept when looking up why a Dutch oven is so-called, and have since only referred to as a cast-iron camp oven or similar.

Likewise, as stated in a comment, the only context where I have ever heard the phrase Double Dutch, is that of rope jumping.

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    As a Dutchman, I feel a little bit conflicted after reading this answer. Dec 23 '16 at 20:12
  • @StephanBijzitter - I'm with you. I generally claim to be of mostly Anglo-Saxon decent, but with one great-grandparent born Zimmerman and another VanDerSlick, the truth is more complicated. I grew up hearing and saying "Dutch treat" and "Dutch oven" thinking they were simple everyday terms. As soon as I learned the real meaning a few years ago, I sought to remove these from my vocabulary. I hope I am helping others to learn the same and take similar actions.
    – cobaltduck
    Dec 24 '16 at 13:46

I've heard 'Double Dutch' throughout my 60 years and still do from time to time. It always has the one meaning: incomprehensible gibberish; the speaker's intention doesn't matter but the listener doesn't understand.

'Doublespeak' I've never met, though it sounds very like Orwell's 'doublethink', meaning the ability to comfortably hold in the mind two contradictory thoughts at the same time.

'Double talk' always and still means nonsense, perhaps grammatically correct but in the end semantically worthless, with the sole intent of misleading the audience; we might call 'double talk' something like 'jargon squared'.


According to the American Heritage Dictionary of Slang (second edition, Christine Ammer - 2013) the expression is now less commonly used. Its synonym expression "double talk" appears to be more frequently used instead:

Double Dutch:

  • Language that cannot be understood, gibberish, as in "They might have been speaking double Dutch, for all I understood." This usage dates from 1870 (an earlier version had is as high Dutch) and is heard less today than the synonym double talk.
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    If double-talk is a synonym of double-speak, then I do not consider it the same thing as double Dutch. Double-speak is the deliberate misleading of someone by saying something which carries ambiguity, as someone else has pointed out.
    – WS2
    Dec 23 '16 at 18:26
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    I don't think double-talk is a synonym for double dutch; M-W say it is 1 : language that appears to be earnest and meaningful but in fact is a mixture of sense and nonsense 2 : inflated, involved, and often deliberately ambiguous language i.e. it's deliberately misleading. On the other hand double-Dutch is simply confusing with no comment as to whether this is deliberate.
    – k1eran
    Dec 23 '16 at 18:27
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    @k1eran I think you meant "simply unintelligible" didn't you? Yes, with double-Dutch there is no implication of any intent to mislead, simply that it is nonsense - e.g. He's working like a Christmas pudding is double Dutch, it makes no sense and is not idiomatic.
    – WS2
    Dec 23 '16 at 18:33
  • @WS2 Agreed - think we're on same page here. [I had just tweaked my comment whilst you commented.]
    – k1eran
    Dec 23 '16 at 18:36
  • I've never come across High Dutch before but Dutch and Flemish used to be referred to as Low German whereas Prussian, Saxon, Hannoverian and so on were called High German. Swift had Gulliver saying that the Houyhnhnms (the horse people) spoke a language that was similar to Low German.
    – BoldBen
    Jan 6 '17 at 8:50

I've always heard double Dutch or ubbi dubbi as a made up language similar to pig Latin wherein after the first vowel in a syllable, you place "ib," so that "hi" would become "hibi." In your case I'd use "Greek to me" as in "that phrase is Greek to me."

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