There are many apocryphal stories on the history of Double Dutch Skipping with statements including:
‘The Dutch settlers brought the game to the Hudson River trading town of New Amsterdam (now New York City). When the English arrived and saw the children playing their game, they called it Double Dutch.’
Having spent a long time researching the origins of Double Dutch Skipping I can find no historical reference whatsoever for this story. Though it does nicely tie up the Dutch reference it does seem unlikely to be true. Maybe the origins of the story stem from the origins of the phrase ‘double Dutch’, a disparaging remark use by the English in regard to what they felt was the incomprehensible language of the Dutch.
The earliest mention of the phrase ‘double Dutch’ in linguistic terms seems to be
“Mr Adams – What devil language is that? Is it double Dutch coiled against the sun?”
John Davis’ Travels of Four Years and a Half in the United States of America, 1803
The coiling refers to the winding of rope. Sailors called anti-clockwise winding ‘coiling against the sun’. This was generally seen as the wrong way to do it is therefore an indication that ‘double Dutch’ was equivalent to a badly coiled rope.
Double Dutch Skipping invented by the Phonecians or the Chinese or the Egyptians.
There are many statements during trawls of the web along the lines of: ‘Like many sports, Double Dutch is traced back to China, Phoenicia, and Egypt.’ Again, although this sounds great, I can see no evidence of an actual ‘trace’. It seems to me that it is reference to ancient maritime cultures that would have been making hemp ropes for boats so perhaps Double Dutch Skipping originated in these cultures. (I talk more on The History of Skipping on a separate post but for this post I am specifically looking at Double Dutch Skipping.)
The Traditional Games of England, Scotland, and Ireland.
The Earliest reference that can be found for Double Dutch Skipping is in the book’ The Traditional Games of England, Scotland, and Ireland.’ by Alice Gomme. Alice wrote page 185 of her book:
Two other games are as follows:—(1.) Two ropes are used, and a girl holds either end in each hand, turning them alternately; the skipper has to jump or skip over each in turn. When the rope is turned inwards, it is called “double dutch,” when turned outwards, “French dutch.” (2.) The skipper has a short rope which she turns over herself, while two other girls turn a longer rope over her head.
The Traditional Games of England, Scotland, and Ireland Book by Alice Gomme : Published 1894
So there you have it – the earliest reference to Double Dutch Skipping found in a book written right here in dear old Blighty in 1894. I would love to hear from anyone who has any older references or citations so that I could update this information. I look forwards to hearing from you.