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It's Dutch!

In honor of Dutch-American Heritage Day on Nov. 16, here are 10 things you may have thought are American, but are really Dutch.

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1. Wi-Fi

Where would be without our ever-connected tablets and smart phones? Stuck in the 1990s with a phone that only makes calls and tablet that’s just a bunch of paper stuck to a spiral wire, that’s where.

And it’s thanks, in large part, to Victor “Vic” Hayes, a senior research fellow at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.

Hayes was the first chair of the IEEE 802.11 group, which in 1997 finalized the wireless standard for radios that would operate in the unlicensed spectrum opened up in 1985 by the Federal Communications Commission.

That chairmanship has earned him the honorary title of “Father of Wi-Fi.”

So every time you see the Wi-Fi signal on your tablet light up, just say “dankjewel.” (That’s “thank you” in Dutch).

2. Yankee

Via "The Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origin," Fourth Edition, Robert Hendrikson, 2008. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Not the team, of course. Not even the slugger who is among the team's most historic players. We’re talking about the word itself: “Yankee.”

While the origin of the word “Yankee” has long been disputed, one popular explanation is that it comes from Jan Kees, a common name of many Dutch settlers who arrived on the land we know today as New York.

In Dutch, the “j” in Jan is pronounced like an English “y.” Over the years, the theory goes, Jan Kees evolved into Yankees.

Go Yanks!

3. Doughnuts

Via Elaine Ross Baylon via Wikimedia Commons.

No one wants to go to work on Monday. Especially the rainy Monday when you get a ticket for a broken turn signal, you spill coffee all over yourself, and traffic is twice as bad as normal.

But wait. What’s that sweet smell wafting from the office kitchen? It smells like fresh cotton candy on a warm summer night. Why it’s (sniff), it’s (sniff, sniff), it’s doughnuts!

All of of sudden, your miserable Monday morning just became a little brighter. Again, you can thank the Dutch, those sea-faring people from the lowlands of Europe.

American doughnuts go back to the time of the Pilgrims, who learned to make these “nuts” of fried sweet dough in Holland before coming to the New World.

You can also thank the Dutch for cookies and pickles.

“Lekker” is the word you’re looking for here.

4. Golden Earring

Via Wikimedia Commons

Ever drive all night with your hands wet on the wheel?

Or maybe you’re just stepping into the Twilight Zone.

Either way, you might think “Radar Love” and “Twilight Zone” arose from the minds of musicians who grew up on the streets of Los Angeles or New York.

But you have to look at little farther to the east, like, all the way across the Atlantic Ocean, to find the streets this band once roamed.

Golden Earring formed in The Hague in 1961, and found international success with “Radar Love” in 1973 and “Twilight Zone” in 1982.

That’s right. The band many Americans consider a one- or two-hit wonder has long found success at home in the Netherlands.

All together now: “We’ve got a thing that’s called radar love!”


5. Snellen Eye Chart

Who could blame you for thinking this eye chart is an American invention. After all, the letters are English, which as an American you undoubtedly speak.

But the Dutch have the same 26 letters in their alphabet. They’re even in the same order. The Dutch just pronounce the letters differently.

Every time you go to the eye doctor and read the letters on this chart from across the room, you can thank Dutch ophthalmologist Herman Snellen.

Snellen, who studied medicine at Utrecht University, developed his chart in 1862 to measure visual acuity. Though other charts existed at the time, his quickly became the global standard to measure a person’s eyesight and remains a staple of eye exams in doctor’s offices across America.

Once again, just say “dankjewel.”

6. Ben & Jerry's

We know what you’re thinking: Ben & Jerry’s was founded in Vermont, not Amsterdam. How can it be Dutch?

Well, you’re right in thinking that this heavenly frozen treat first found its way into American freezers from the great state of Vermont.

But the company sold itself in 2000 to Unilever, a multinational consumer goods company headquartered in Rotterdam.

That makes the pint of Chubby Hubby and Chunky Monkey in your freezer decidedly Dutch.

7. Darth Vader

Not Darth Vader himself, of course (everyone knows he’s from Tatooine), but the inspiration for his name. After all, “vader” means “father” in Dutch, and fatherhood is one of the key plot elements to the complicated character.

So could it be Dutch? One thing is clear. George Lucas has said in interviews that “Darth” is a variation of “dark” and “Vader” is a variation of “father.” But in Dutch, vader means father, no variation needed.

Coincidence? Inspiration? Dutch? As Darth Vader told Luke just moments after saying he was Luke’s father: “Search your feelings.”

8. The Voice

You probably know “The Voice” as the NBC show on which singers Christina Aguilera, CeeLo Green, Adam Levine, and Blake Shelton pick who they want to coach through the competition by the sound of their voice alone.

But the singing competition did not start in the United States.

In fact, the show debuted in the Netherlands as “The Voice of Holland” on Sept. 17, 2010. Producers Talpa Media Holdings have since licensed the show to countries around the world, including Vietnam, Ukraine, South Korea, Russia, Poland, Portugal, Denmark and more. The show even has a children’s version in nearly 20 countries.

And this isn’t the only television show of Dutch origin. You can add “Big Brother” and “Deal or No Deal” to the list of shows that originated in the Netherlands.


9. Rutger Hauer

Via Wikimedia Commons

You might know Rutger Hauer best from “Blade Runner” (1982), “The Hitcher” (1986) or maybe even “Batman Begins” (2005).

But before he was a replicant evading capture on the futuristic streets of Los Angeles or terrorizing solo drivers on desolate roads, Rutger Hauer was making a splash in Dutch movies theaters.

The Dutch actor was born in 1944 in Utrecht, the Netherlands, and made his American debut in Sylvester Stallone’s 1981 film “Nighthawks.”

Carice van Houten from "Game of Thrones," Famke Janssen from the X-Men movies, and directors Paul Verhoeven and Jan de Bont are also Dutch.

10. Speed Cameras

Via Photo by comedy_rose via Flickr.

Traffic-enforcement cameras can be traced back to Dutch company Gatsometer BV, founded by Monte Carlo racing champion, engineer and inventor Maurice Gatsonides.

He wanted a device that would monitor his speed around corners on the track, and in 1964 invented the device that drivers the world over have come to love or hate. Today, the Gatso is among the world’s best-selling traffic-enforcement cameras.

Yeah, you don’t have to thank us for this one.

View this video on YouTube

Want to see more innovations from the Netherlands? Just watch this video, or check out Daily Dutch Innovations.

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