Letter: Dutch courage

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Sir: Thomas Sutcliffe (18 November) offers an Old English etymology for the word 'forlorn' while ignoring its more interesting and proximate source in the very phrase he uses, 'forlorn hope'. Veloren hoop is Dutch military jargon that entered English as 'forlorn hope' in the 16th century. The Dutch words mean 'lost troop' and were given to the poor devils who went first into battle to test the enemy's defences, and who were not expected to return alive. The French call them enfants perdus, 'lost children' - although enfants here may have more to do with the infantry than with the under-age.

Yours faithfully,

ALAN ISLER

London, SW5

Comments