Learn some Pennsylvania Dutch-isms
Want to grow your vocabulary? Want to add silly regional lingo into your daily speech? Sure you do. Why not.
Since adding British-isms has simply become too mainstream, here’s a few more close-to-English phrases you can drop in conversation to make you sound very intelligent and not at all backwoodsy*.
Add Some PA Dutch-isms!
What’s that you say? German? No, not German. It’s Dutch. Well, it’s not Dutch either. It’s PA Dutch or Deitsch, the weird hybrid of watered-down hochdeutsch and English. It’s oddly regional — even varying from town to town in the same county. And because it’s not a written language, there’s not even a standard spelling for half of this stuff.
Want to pick up some fairly obscure lingo? This is your guide.
*You may sound a little backwoodsy. Sorry.
Let’s start with a few simple words.
Rootch — “oo” pronounced like “book”
Verb: To fidget or squirm.
Example: “Quit rootching!” — Your grandmother to you during church. “Rootch over please.” — You, when someone else takes your church bench. It doesn’t have your name on it, but they should just know.
Redd/Rett — Rhymes with “red” or “bet.”
Verb: To clean or tidy.
Example: “Redd up your room before it gets dark.” Because we can’t do chores without light.
Dopplich — Pronounced “dop-lick”.
Example: “I can’t believe I’m so dopplich today!” — You after you spill the cow’s feed all over the ground.
Whonst — Prounounced “vonst”.
??? This doesn’t really mean anything. The closest it would be is “once.” Put it at the end of any sentence just to sound a bit more dutch.
Example: “I’m going to get the buggy whonst.” Whonst is used even though you have definitely been to get the buggy more than once.
Example 2: “I need you to go to Elam’s house whonst.” Once again, chances are you have been to Elam’s house more than once. You’re always at Elam’s house.Elam is everywhere. You know at least 5 Elams.
Yous — Pronounced…ewes.
It’s the PA Dutch version of “ya’ll.” Pair it with “guys” for a very graceful sounding “yous guys”.
A while — Meaning: in the meantime. Contrary to popular belief, this is not a duration of time. Add this to the end of any sentence to let the other party know that you’ll be doing this while you wait for something else to occur.
Example: “I’m going to the barn a while.” Translation: “In the meantime, I’m going to the barn.”
Example 2:“Here’s your drinks a while.” Translation: “Your food will be out in a minute, hold your horses.”
Rumspringa — Pronounced “Room-shpringa”
Noun: A time of exploration before joining the church (or not)
Example: Nobody uses this in actual conversation, except on television.
Contrary to popular depiction, this involves less ‘going to the big city and partying and stuff’ and more ‘driving a tricked out BMW to the softball game and having a beer’ or ‘buying a new stereo for your buggy and using it past midnight.’
Mastered the words? Try these basic phrases.
“Outten the lights.” Translation: Turn off the lights. Anything can be a verb if you try hard enough.
“Make the door closed.” Translation: Close the door. The only things that can’t be verbs are things that are already verbs. Deconstruct it or GTFO.
“The milk is all.” Translation: We’re out of milk. All… all what? All sour? All blue? All spilled? No. If something is “all” it means it’s gone. All gone. It’s not up for interpretation.
“What fer kinda car is that?” Translation: What kind of car is that? You’re not sure, but Mose had a BMW when he was 17 and it doesn’t look like that.
If you think you’ve got all that down, try the most cliche sentence used when attempting to demonstrate the PA Dutch grammatical structure.
“Throw the cows over the fence some hay.” Translation: Throw hay to the cows which are on the other side of this fence.
While my family is not Amish, Mennonite or Plain, we are quite Pennsylvania German. Even though I didn’t grow up speaking PA Dutch, there are certain phrases that are ingrained in every Dutch-country native. In fact, it took me until college to learn that ‘dopplich’ is not, in fact, an English word.
One of the things I love about the English language is the multitude of regional differences and slang terms. If your area has any regional slang, feel free to share it below!
Also, if you have any interest in the actual study of PA Dutch, there are now places online which will actually teach you! Here is one that will walk you through the language like a proper language course.