Addressing common myths about the Amish

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  1. Do Amish pay taxes?
  2. Does a blue gate outside an Amish home have meaning?
  3. Do Amish marry close relatives?
  4. Do Amish use English men to impregnate their women?
  5. Do Amish speak Old English or mix German into their speech?
  6. Is Amish food “all-natural” and organic?
  7. Do Amish think technology is evil?

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Do Amish pay taxes? Yes. They pay all taxes English (non-Amish) people do, except for Social Security, which they consider a form of insurance (most, but not all Amish, such as those working for non-Amish employers, are exempt from Social Security). These include income, sales, property, and other taxes.

Does a blue gate outside an Amish home have special meaning? The myth referenced here, which developed in Lancaster County, suggests that an Amishman paints his gate blue if he has a daughter of marriageable age.

While it might be a charming yarn to spin for tourist visitors, this is fiction. Amish females of courting age will join youth groups and their status will be well known to potential suitors via their social circles and other connections.

Do Amish marry siblings, cousins or other close relatives? Generally, no. However as a closed community with few outsiders joining, some Amish couples are inevitably related, some closer than others. Second cousin marriages may sometimes occur.

Do Amish employ non-Amish men to impregnate their women? It’s easy to see where this myth originates: Amish communities are generally closed and they have had issues with genetic disorders. Thus, they need “fresh blood” from outside to rehabilitate the gene pool.

However, there is no evidence to suggest this has ever been a practice sanctioned by Amish. In fact, Amish consider premarital or out-of-wedlock sex a serious sin to be confessed to the church.

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A number of myths and misconceptions have arisen about the Amish.

Amish are aware of genetic issues connected with endogamy, and may encourage youth, especially those in smaller communities, to visit other settlements in search of a mate.

In her study of Amish fiction, Thrill of the Chaste, Valerie Weaver-Zercher debunks a related myth, the “man swap.” This appears in at least one author’s Amish fiction writing, and involves Amish men being sent against their will to procreate with women in other communities (see Weaver-Zercher, Valerie, Thrill of the Chaste: The Allure of Amish Romance Novels, p. 209-211).

Do Amish speak archaic English or mix German dialect into English speech? Amish do not mix “thee”s and “thou”s into their speech, nor are they apt to squeeze in dialect terms into their English. The former assumption may have its origins in the popular “Amish Paradise” song by Weird Al Yankovic, or in other media sources, while the latter seems to be a commonly-employed literary device seen in Amish fiction novels.

Amish do usually speak with an accent that varies across settlements, and may mispronounce some English words, as well as use unusual grammar constructions (“it wondered me” rather than “I wondered”).

Is Amish food always “all-natural” or organic? No. In fact organic farming is a minority practice among the Amish. Most Amish dairy farms are conventional. Most Amish farms use conventional fertilizers and pesticides. Though organic farming is growing in popularity, you should double-check before assuming any produce you purchase from an Amish stand is organic.

While most Amish themselves eat and appreciate home-grown vegetables and fruits, and a minority movement promotes organic foods, not everything the Amish eat and sell will be organic or fall under the “all-natural” label.

Do Amish think technology is evil or “of the devil”? No. They choose to limit their own use of technology because they feel it helps preserve church, family and community.

Amish realize that some use of technology is necessary, and they adopt or adapt new technologies over time, or otherwise make arrangements to take advantage of its benefits in a limited manner (for example, not owning cars but occasionally hiring a non-Amish driver for longer trips).

Amish might say that there is nothing inherently evil about a technology like a car or a computer, but that unfettered use of certain technologies can lead to evil.

More questions on the Amish? Get answers to 300+ questions in 41 categories at the FAQ main page.

References:

  • Luthy, David. “The Origin and Growth of Amish Tourism.” The Amish Struggle with Modernity. Kraybill, Donald B., and Marc Alan Olshan, eds. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1994.
  • Weaver-Zercher, Valerie. Thrill of the Chaste: The Allure of Amish Romance Novels. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013.
  • Kraybill, Donald B. The Riddle of Amish Culture. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001.
  • Kraybill, Donald B, and Steven M. Nolt. Amish Enterprise: From Plows to Profits (2nd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004.

To Cite this Page: Wesner, Erik J. “Myths.” Amish America. Erik Wesner, 9 Apr. 2015. Web. [Date Accessed]. <http://amishamerica.com/myths/>.

Image credits: Blue gate- hopkinsii/flickr