Amish With Southern Accents?

I really enjoy all the various accents we have in American English – the regional dialects, quirky localisms, unique manners of speaking (this may be because I also apparently have an odd way of speaking 🙂 ).

Amish in different communities have different accents and pronunciations when they speak English as well. When you compare English pronunciation in the Lancaster County Amish community with that of Amish in Holmes County, Ohio (and especially some groups like the Swartzentruber Amish), you can notice a clear difference.

An Amish home with laundry hanging on porch and in yard
Ethridge, Tennessee Amish home

Amish accents in English can be distinct to their own communities but can also be affected by the dominant English accent in the regions they live in. In this video I share a piece of a visit to an Amish patio furniture maker named Enos in North Carolina (Enos has been mentioned here before), who has a great Southern accent.

I grew up in the South so I can appreciate a Southern manner of speaking (and even slip more into it myself when I’m back home or “Down East” as they call Eastern North Carolina, the region where my father grew up). It’s like music to my ears and as I say in the video, feels like home.

Jars of canned goods and maple syrup with hanging Americana style rag rugs
Canned goods in an Amish store in Pontotoc County, Mississippi

I share this video to give another example of how Amish, despite the things that unite them, can vary quite a bit when it comes to their local culture and ways of living (just like the rest of us!). And just like the rest of us, the way they speak English is part of that. Enos lives in the Ellenboro, NC community, which has roots in the Ethridge, Tennessee Amish settlement. The Ethridge community is where I’ve noticed the most heavy Southern accents among Amish.

And it makes sense when you consider that Amish have lived in that area since the mid-1940s (originally coming, in part, from the Holmes County, Ohio area and in part from a now-defunct settlement in Mississippi), meaning they’ve had 4+ generations to absorb local ways of speaking.

Chair weaving sign on a a barbed wire fence with horses in background
Ellenboro, NC Amish business sign

The thick southern accents you hear there and in their daughter settlements like Ellenboro and Pontotoc County, MS are delightful to these ears. When you hear Enos’ accent in this video, you can also pick up some Pennsylvania Dutch flowing through (beneath?) the Southern lathered on top. I could listen to Enos all day. Runtime: 3:10.

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    1. Southern accents

      I’m curious if the southern accent that the Amish pick up where they live would also effect their speaking in PA. Dutch, not just their English.

      1. Liz Bourgeois

        Southern drawl

        Jim Potter…you took my comment, that was my question as well! I’m from not far from Ellenboro, NC and have yet to visit this settlement, now I HAVE to visit Mr. Gingrich to hear him speak! We have friends that were missionaries in Honduras that are from Arkansas and he spoke Spanish with such a strong southern accent that the Hondurans couldn’t understand him! It was funny to hear them snicker when he tried to speak to them, even though he was fluent! His wife, on the other hand, spoke flawless Spanish without the added “jam on the bread.” His accent is also music to my ears, the slow drawl being very comforting.

        1. Don't miss the soap shop :)

          Liz I hope you have a chance to visit! If you do go, don’t miss their soap shop, I know not everyone is in the market for furniture but the soaps is a simple but fun business run by his wife. It is or was in a building right across from the furniture shop (though it’s possible it’s moved to a different spot since then). There’s a vid and a bit on it halfway down this post:

          1. Liz Bourgeois

            Everyone needs soap!

            Thanks for the tip, Erik, I will most definitely check out her soap shop!

    2. Susan Abbott

      Regional names

      “Down East “ as you cal Eastern North Carolina is what those of us in New England call the State of Maine! Regional names are not necessarily so regional.

      1. Down East

        Neat to hear that. You just reminded me there is even Maine magazine by that name. I think I read an article on the Amish in it once.

    3. Guest

      He does have quite a drawl! Very charming. I like his sense of humor. Narrator, you have a lovely voice, what I’d call Eastern Seaboard Southern, kinda aristocratic sounding compared to our other US Southern accents. My South Texas accent is so up in my nose, I battle it constantly. It can render one unintelligible!

      1. Thank you, first time I’ve anything about me has ever been described as “aristocratic” but I’ll take it! 🙂 It sounds like you know accents and the differences between those in the South. I ought to look into this a bit more, I know there is a good bit of variety within the general “southern accent” label.

    4. Al in Ky

      This was an interesting video hearing Enos speak with a Southern accent.
      The Amish in Daviess County, Indiana are also sometimes described as having a Southern accent. I’ve been to that area many times and somewhat agree, but their “Southern accent” is different from Enos’.

      Like Jim Potter’s comment, I wonder if the Southern accent is also reflected in that community’s Pa. Dutch. I’ve never read the book “Pennsylvania Dutch: The Story of an American Language” by Mark Louden, but I wonder if Louden has any insight on this.

    5. OldKat

      Davies County, IN accents

      (Some of) the Amish in Davies County, IN can have a very thick Southern accent. Others not so much. Found myself at Dinky’s Auction Center twice within about 90 days last year.

      Once for Horse Progress Days July) and another for the Southern Indiana Draft Horse Assoc auction (September). Both times I found myself “out drawled” by a Plain person, once by a little 5 y.o. or so boy. For a multi generational Texan that was pretty surprising.

      And, yes a person carry an accent into a foreign language. Once knew a man whose family heritage was “Germanic”; Swiss, Alsatian, German etc. He had no family that spoke German, so he finally found a tutor to help him. He lived in the Rio Grand Valley and his tutor was a Mexican national woman who lived across the border.

      After he became at least conversant in German, he decided to try it out with a group of German tourists that were staying at same hotel as him in France. He was talking to this man out on the veranda and the man got the strangest expression on his face while my friend was speaking to him. He finally said, “You have me totally confused. You look to be French, yet you are speaking to me in in German with a Mexican accent!”

    6. Accents

      I love listening to the charm of southern accents. I would just love to ask all kinds of questions just to hear them talk. I wonder how west sound to them. Probably just bland. Southern to me is like a song with charm. Sweet lol

    7. Romain S.

      American accent

      Living in France, I don’t have a good enough ear to differentiate accents in American, but I have heard from descendants of Alsatians living in Castroville Texas who still speak the Alsatian dialect. If I had the opportunity to hear Amish people of Alsatian or Swiss origin speak in their Germanic dialect, I think I would enjoy hearing them speak, … with an American accent.
      Erik, I sent you an e-mail that must have landed in the spam folder. If you’d like to check. Thanks