Friday, August 14, 2009

Rachel Hedman: So I looked out the window to see pants in the sky one day. . .

I can usually discover all kinds of creations in the clouds, though rarely to I find a pair of pants in the sky.

That was. . .until Marjorie exclaimed, "It's almost as much blue as a Dutchman's pants out there."

While at her home, we had hoped to eat on the balcony on Friday, July 17, 2009 at 1:20pm.

I stared out the same window that she looked out of and saw that clouds had gathered so thick and dark.

I saw a patch or two of blue sky.

Then the word "Dutchman" lingered in my mind. I tossed around what I knew about the Dutch since I am 1/8 Dutch. That is the most that I am of any ethnicity, and to honor it I wear a Dutch cap as my storyteller's trademark.

The saying relates to the folklore of "if you can see a patch of sky as blue as a Dutchman’s pants it won’t rain”. As with any folklore, it has as story.

The Dutch loved the seas for the trade and commerce and all the luxuries that came with it. For a long time, the Dutch controlled the seas and were the center of power in Europe.

Then, England became jealous.

By 1652, the English gathered enough ships and soldiers to attack Holland. The Dutch retaliated and thus started the first of four Anglo-Dutch Wars.

England's navy was strong and won the first of the four Anglo-Dutch wars. They became cocky and looked for any way to make fun of the Dutch. As most of the Dutch were connected to the nautical world, the sailors tended to wear blue poofy breeches. At times, the breeches needed to be mended and sometimes patches scattered about on the uniform.

This was just what the English wanted for their jokes.

The term "Dutchman's breeches" became slang for a sailor's pair of trousers. The English used it as a derogatory term.

After the second, third, and fourth Anglo-Dutch wars, the Dutch's economy plummeted. England secured control of the seas in 1684.

In case you feel bad for the Dutch, think on this. . .

In 1688 the Dutch William III of Orange became the King of England since the former English King James II was thrown off the throne due to the people's intense dislike of his practices. As William III of Orange was the closest relation to the English Royal Family, he was chosen.

England still controlled the seas, but the land was ruled by a Dutchman.

So that explains the contention between the Dutch and the English, but how did the pants get in the sky?

It still has a nautical connection.

Sailors used the sky as a way to determine the forecast. They were their own weathermen.

They usually looked to the West for their weather verdict.

The conditions were if--
  • It had already rained
  • There was enough blue in the West to make a Dutchman's breeches
  • The weather would soon clear off
Sailors needed something to define "a patch of blue sky" and when they remembered the patches on the Dutch sailors' blue pants, then the image was chosen.

Other cultures and ethnic groups took this idea and used other bits of garment to define their "patch".

Besides Dutchman's breeches, the following have also been used:
  • Dutchman's jacket
  • To cut out a pair of pants
  • Sailor breeches
  • To make a Scotchman a jacket
  • To make an old woman's apron
  • Make a sailor a pair of trousers if seen before ten o'clock
  • Shirt for a sailor
  • Large as a handkerchief
Now. . .what kind of garment do you see in the sky?

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
(801) 870-5799

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