English idioms are colourful expressions we use that have a special meaning. So what is Dutch courage? What does it mean to say you need Dutch courage and where does the expression come from? Watch this video lesson and find out more about English idioms…
Learn English idioms | Dutch courage
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Dutch courage. Some people are naturally confident and some people need Dutch courage. If you’re going to do something that makes you feel nervous or worried or scared or frightened you might need Dutch courage. So let’s say for example a guy is in a bar and he sees a beautiful woman and he wants to go and talk to her but he feels really nervous because he thinks maybe she won’t like him so he has a drink and then another drink. We call this Dutch courage. He might say to his friends ‘I need some Dutch courage before I go and talk to her’.
You could also use it as a criticism. You could say: ‘He only did it because of Dutch courage!’ He’s not a brave person. He doesn’t normally do brave things. It was just Dutch courage. Basically, he only did it because he was feeling confident and relaxed from the alcohol. People often do things they wouldn’t normally do if they’ve had a drink. So this is what we commonly refer to as Dutch courage.
So where does the expression come from? Again, as I said, it’s an old expression and this goes back to the days when England and Holland used to fight against each other and there were lots of battles between the two countries. So the expression Dutch courage relates to a particular battle between the English and the Dutch and someone from England mentioned that the Dutch seemed to be very brave and very confident but he criticised them saying they were only brave because they were drunk and that gave them more courage to fight and without that courage they wouldn’t have fought. So now we have the expression to need Dutch courage.