Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Catching ducks in decoys

Some Dutch loanwords in varieties of English are well-known, some less so. In earlier blogs in this series I described how words such as 'boss' and 'cookie' derive from Dutch. We find other loanwords related to particular activities. For example, in seafaring, the case of 'skipper' from the Dutch schipper is well-known. Less well-known is the English term 'avast' meaning 'stop' which comes from the Dutch hou' vast ('hold fast'). In fine art, we find 'easel' from the Dutch ezel, which also means 'donkey', 'landscape' from landschap, 'etch' from ets and 'sketch' from schets.
Another loanword from Dutch that is less well-known is 'decoy'. This was a popular method for catching ducks in the Low Countries. The English term is a corruption either of eendekooy meaning 'duck cage' or de kooi meaning 'the cage'. The first recorded decoy in English was built for Sir William Wodehouse at Waxham in Lincolnshire in 1641. In 1665, a Dutchman by the name of Sydrach Hilcus built a decoy for King Charles II in a lake in London. As with other loanwords, 'decoy' has taken on other meanings in English and is now often used to refer to someone who deliberately distracts attention from someone else.

Further reading: 
Christopher Joby, The Dutch Language in Britain (1550-1702) (Leiden: Brill, 2015), p. 160.
C. Hanson-Smith, The Flemish Bond: East Anglia & The Netherlands-Close & Ancient Neighbours. (Diss: Groundnut Publishing, 2004), p. 75

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