In phrases such as Russian Roulette, Dutch Courage and French Letter the nationality changes the meaning of the noun. Is there a word for this?

  • I've only ever heard these called idioms of nationality (or ethnicity). I'm not sure there is a specific term for this, but I would be interested to hear the answer. A caveat: I expect many of these may be offensive to the nationalities mentioned. It is not a big step from "Dutch courage" to "a Chinaman's chance" (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinaman's_chance) or "Indian giver" (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_giver). And the group degraded changes depending on the nationality of the speaker. For example, the German for banjo used to be Negergitarre (literally, "nigger guitar"). – Robusto Jan 11 '11 at 18:33
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    Indeed, Dutch Courage was originally a back-handed insult. It was originally coined at a time when Britain and the Netherlands were at war, and was meant to insinuate that the Dutch were only courageous when drunk. It would be a thin-skinned Dutch person that would be offended by it nowadays though surely? – user3444 Jan 11 '11 at 18:57
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    I am Dutch, and I don't think you could find a single person here who'd be offended. The same applies to "going Dutch", mostly because, well, that is actually quite a normal thing to do here. No offense, but we might call this sort of sensitivity "American thin skin" or something like that <ducks>. – Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica Jan 11 '11 at 23:53
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    Sometimes the feeling is mutual - the phrase "to take French leave" (meaning to take holiday from work without permission) is expressed in French as "filer à l'anglaise"... – psmears Jan 12 '11 at 18:05

Although I can't locate a technical term for these, the terms nationality idioms and ethnicity idioms appear to be commonly used.

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