WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Dutch Comfort

Every cloud has its silver lining.
It is what it is.
Call it even and go home.
Six of one, half dozen of another.
But did you die?

There are quite a few ways to simply say “it could have been worse.” Last week the term was Dutch Feast, meaning the host went into a drunken stupor before his guests. This week, I found another term with Dutch in its name. I need to take a stroll down a rabbit trail or three and find out why the Dutch were a favorite slang adjective.

But it’s nigh on December and that means writing, parties, concerts, plays, shopping, and myriad other deadlines are nipping at my heels, so deep diving into Google is not on the agenda. I think I’ll just claim this week’s word for the whole month.

Very Slippy-Weather by James Gillray, 10 February 1808, The Trustees of the British Museum.

Dutch Comfort

Thank God it is no worse.

Miseries of Travelling by Thomas Rowlandson, 1807, Victoria and Albert Museum.

The inscription reads:

Just as you are going off with only one other person on your side of the coach, who you flatter yourself is the last- seeing the door suddenly opened and the L and lady coachman guard [illegible] craning shoving buttressing up an overgrown puffing, greazy human Hog of the bucher or grazier breed. The whole machine straining and groaning under its cargo from the box to the basket- by dint of incredible efforts and contrivances the Carcase is at length weighed up to the door where it has next to struggle with various obstructions in the passage.

Is there any Dutch Comfort to be taken in the ability to travel by coach rather than foot? Even if another adult sits in your lap the entire journey?

Matrimonial-Harmonics by James Gillray, 25 October 1805, The Trustees of the British Museum.

From the British Museum description:

The couple torment each other in the breakfast-room. A round table is drawn close to a blazing fire. The lady has left her seat to thump on the piano, singing loudly, with her back to her husband, but turning her eyes towards him. He sits in the corner of a sofa, crouching away from her, his hand over his ear, food stuffed into his mouth, reading the Sporting Calendar. The pages of her open music-book are headed Forte. Her song is: ‘Torture Fiery Rage \ Despair I cannot can not bear’. On the piano lies music: Separation a Finale for Two Voices with Accompaniment; on the floor is The Wedding Ring – a Dirge. She wears a becoming morning gown with cap, but has lost the slim grace of early matrimony and her soft features have coarsened. Behind the piano a boisterous coarse-featured nurse hastens into the room holding a squalling infant, and flourishing a (watchman’s) rattle. On the lady’s chair is an open book, The Art of Tormenting, illustrated by a cat playing with a mouse. Her sunshade hangs from the back of the chair. On the breakfast-table are a large hissing urn, a tea-pot, a coffee-pot, &c., a bottle of ‘Hollands’ (beside the woman’s place), and a full dish of muffins. The man’s coffee-cup is full and steaming. He wears a dressing-gown with ungartered stockings and slippers. An air of dejection and ill-nature replaces his former good-humoured sprightliness. Under his feet lies a dog, ‘Benedick’, barking fiercely at an angry cat, poised on the back of the sofa. A square birdcage high on the wall is supported by branching antlers. In it two cockatoos screech angrily at each other, neglecting a nest of three young ones. Beside it on the left is a bust of ‘Hymen’ with a broken nose, and on the right a thermometer which has sunk almost to ‘Freezing’. On the chimney-piece is a carved ornament: Cupid asleep under a weeping willow, his torch reversed, the arrows falling from his quiver. This is flanked by vases whose handles are twisted snakes which spit at each other.

Is there any Dutch Comfort to be taken in the fact that the single life is firmly behind them, that they will never be alone – or left alone – again? Or in the fact that each can have only one spouse to torment? And that there is only one squalling infant?

At least the dreaded mother-in-law is not also in residence.

 

Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

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