He recalls a time at a social event in Amsterdam where the conversation was very animated until one of those unplanned breaks or gaps interrupted the discussion leading to what we probably all have experienced as "awkward silence." He writes:
To break the silence one of my Dutch friends said, "Er gaat een Domine voorbij!" I replied, "What did you say?" The strange phrase was repeated. I knew what the words meant but the expression made no sense. To break the awkward silence he had said, "A minister walked by!"
Again I asked my friends for an explanation. They explained that it was a custom in Holland to use this expression whenever an awkward silence threatened a lively conversation. To say that a minister walked by was to offer an explanation for the sudden silence. The idea was that nothing could ruin the conviviality of a party faster than the presence of a clergyman. When the minister appears, the fun is over. There can be no more laughter, no more lively conversation, only a stilted silence [emphasis mine]. When such silences came, the only explanation could be that a minister had just walked by.