Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Nix Cum Raus or "Nix cum a rouse in a Dutchman's house"

For lack of a better spot, I'm putting this post in my North Georgia Kin blog. (I was working on a Civil War history-genealogy project when I found it).

In a play called The Persecuted Dutchman: or The Original John Schmidt (1853), both John Schmidt (the persecuted Dutchman) and Teddy (the Irish butler at the inn) say, "Nix cum a rouse in a Dutchman's house." They say it in the middle of a comical situation, in which the old Dutchman has been accosted during the night, at an inn, by a butler who seems to be stealing his boots.

The literal translation of "nix cum a rouse" or "nix cum raus," found by using Google search, is: "had never come out."

I had already figured out, by context in other sentences, that "nix" meant "never." The translation sites weren't especially helpful: "had never come out" didn't seem to fit the context. However, with a little tweaking, and looking at the saying as it appeared in other works, my best translation of it, as it fits the context, would be, "I wish that I had never come out of a Dutchman's house," or "Would that I'd never come out of a Dutchman's house." This fits the context, in which so many terrible things have happened to the persecuted Dutchman (in a comical way), that he wishes he'd never come out of his own house.

Since they actually use the preposition "in," not "of," a house, it still doesn't quite fit. Possibly it means something like, "Such things never happen in a Dutchman's house." In other words, "Has such a thing ever come out of a Dutchman's house?!" or "No such thing has ever come out of a Dutchman's house." Certainly in the play, the old Dutchman seems to be shaking his head and commenting upon the great ruckus that has disturbed his night's sleep.

Readers: I'd like to know if this is a common saying among the Germans or "Dutch"; and what the colloquial translation might be, instead of the literal translation of it. Thanks!

Link to play:
The Persecuted Dutchman; or The Original John Schmidt





4 comments:

  1. This is a phrase I often heard my mother use when I was a kid, growing up in Wisconsin. There was no particular context for it - just a sing-song type of phrase that she would use. I never asked her where the phrase came from, but it's unlikely she would have gotten it from the play you cite - at least not directly.

    Mom was born in 1918 - part of the "Greatest Generation." I always interpreted the phrase as "Nix come a Russ (Russian) in a Dutchman's house," and assumed it had something to do with World War II.

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    1. Thanks so much for your comment. Yes, I would think that this was an old phrase used in common speech, that was picked up by the playwright in order to characterize the old Dutchman, to use an expression that any old Dutchman of that time period probably used often. I wonder if your Mom had heard older people use it (maybe to fuss about kids making a mess in the house), and that she just liked the sound of it? My Granny used to fuss about us kids "messing and gomming." It took me years to track down what I thought was the source of "gomming." The original citation I found (before Internet research) was an article on appalachian dialect. It defined "gorm," Scottish, as "to mess or muss." Now I find that there are several lines of thought on that, and that the word has other possible origins and other meanings. Granny definitely meant it as "You kids quit messing and prowling." Anyway, I think in the play, considering the context, the old Dutchman was fussing about the rowdiness of the hotel, and expressing dismay at the noise and disruption during the night. But your interpretation is interesting; Americans would have come into contact with German phrases during WWII, and also there would have been a lot of immigration into this country during that time period. "Nix come a Russ(ian)..." is an interesting take on it.

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  2. Note: I revised my post slightly on June 22, 2016, adding extra context from the play in paragraph four, and a link to the 1853 play at the end of the article.

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  3. Hello, I'm just reading a story by O. Henry called Telemachus, friend, in which there is a kind of a 3-way courting going on, and eventually one of the men wins out and the woman says to the other man "do you think you could get it into that Hubbard squash you call your head that you are nix cum rous in this business?" It seems to mean not wanted or irrelevant.

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