Lately I’ve noticed a recurring theme across Amish America correspondence. Amish are known as “Plain People”, but given the many different Amish groups, what does “being Plain” actually mean?  Is there a litmus test for Plainness?

For example:

Is it based on width of hat brim, or style of prayer covering?

Should your lawn be full of weeds, or is having a flower garden okay?

Is it working in a certain trade?  Are farming Amish more “Plain” than carpenters traveling daily to upper-middle-class Cleveland suburbs?

Does having some nice furniture or things on your wall disqualify you?

Being Plain AmishIs it determined by how much you interact with English?  A reader mentioned Amish who “would never consider allowing a non Amish person to eat a meal in their house.”

Is it a special way of speaking?  I hear some Amish people use words like “cool” or “awesome”.  Or, sometimes swear words.  Does awkward English grammar prove you’ve had little worldly contact and thus make you Plainer?

Is it based on whether you use or produce alcohol or tobacco?

Are you disqualified if you pose for a photo?

What about if you’ve been to Pinecraft?

Is it okay to own a cell phone if you also use an outhouse?

You could probably add a lot to this list.  What does “being Plain” really mean?

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