Exploring Historic Dutch New York
March 10, 2013
Authors Gajus Scheltema (Editor), Heleen Westerhuijs (Editor), Russell Shorto
Publisher Dover Publications
Publication Date 2011
This is not a language book, but rather, a guide from the Museum of the City of New York that reveals the layers of the past lying beneath our New York present.
Exploring Historic Dutch New York focuses on Dutch history, landmarks, and culture in New York City and the region generally. If you are studying Dutch, it is a valuable supplement to help you better understand the impact of the Dutch on this area’s development.
Included in the guide are helpful maps, lovely photographs, and 17 brief essays on topics ranging from “Dutch Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art” to “Dutch Footprints on Staten Island.”
Of particular interest to me were two language-related essays: one on “Double Dutch,” regarding the numerous expressions in English that deploy “Dutch” in a derogatory way (“Dutch courage,” for instance), and another entitled “Dutch Words in American English.”
The latter essay, by Nicoline van der Sijs, begins, “Until well into the 18th century, Dutch colonists formed a majority in parts of New York and New Jersey, where the Dutch language, often called ‘Low Dutch’ by English colonists, remained common. As late as 1776 a sheriff had difficulty finding enough English speakers to organize a jury in this region.”
But for history, we might be sounding very different around here today! Exploring Historic Dutch New York helps remind us of what once was, and of what could have been.