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Ask an Amishman

Okay, we’re going to roll this one out on a trial basis.  But who knows, could be interesting.

I frequently get Amish-related questions in my email inbox.  I do my best to answer but sometimes come up short.

So:  if you have an Amish-related question you’d like answered, and would prefer a response from an actual Amish person rather than hearing me yap on about it, send it on in.  You’ll find the email link in the upper left-hand corner of the blog or under the ‘about’ link.

Ask an Amishman

No guarantees on getting an answer, but the best ones I’ll pass along to ‘Mr. X’, our Lancaster County Amish correspondent, and if he can work it into his very busy schedule (these days he’s working harder than a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest), we’ll try to get responses straight from the Amishman’s mouth right here on the blog.

To kick it off, here’s one that came in the other day:

Do you know whether the Amish read or have any views on the Amish novels by Beverly Lewis or Wanda Brunstetter? I asked a teen girl last trip and I don’t think she was familiar with them, yet they are sold throughout the area at shops where Amish work. Those authors have probably done more to expose the general population to the Amish lifestyle than anything I can think of.

And the response:

“There is a small percentage of Amish readers that read the Beverly and Wanda books, mostly young females.  For the most part they are taken for exactly what they are–storybook novels.  Therefore most Amish people really don’t have anytime to read them, let alone ponder their meaning.  More popular with the Old Order Amish and Mennonites are the Carrie Bender books, which is a pseudonym for a daughter of an O.O. Mennonite bishop.  Also the Buggy Spoke series, written by an Amish woman named Byler from Central Pa. I personally have not read any of these books but have sisters and nieces that do.”

I have to admit that I have little experience with Amish-themed fiction.  Marta Perry was kind enough to send me a couple of her Amish romance-suspense novels last fall, even despite the fact that as a 30-year old single male, I’m probably not the ideal demographic for the genre.

With all the research and writing work that has been going into my own two books, I have not had a chance to finish them, but I did find the few chapters I read entertaining.

Interest in Amish-themed fiction seems to be booming (like interest in most things Amish these days).  Besides the perennially popular Wanda and Beverly, other authors have made the scene as the subcategory has grown.  Beth Wiseman, for example, has sold 40,000 copies of her debut novel Plain Perfect since last September.

Whoops, this was supposed to be ‘Ask an Amishman’, and looks like I’m yapping again.  Anyway, thanks to our inquisitive reader and to our AAP (Anonymous Amish Person), and hope we’ll be getting some interesting questions.  If you can get them past me I’m pretty confident this is no holds barred, so feel free to get into cultural, spiritual, pop, or whatever topics you’re curious about.

Ah yes, it’s not required, but have a glance here if you want to avoid asking something that’s already been covered, or maybe to inspire an idea.

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    135 Comments

    1. Kaity P.

      amish in california

      growing up in california i really havent seen many amish the first time saw an amish family in person. My question would be if i had asked them if i could take their picture to remember the most interesting part of my day, would that have been rude?

    2. Denise

      house building

      We are going to build a log home about halfway between Salem and I-65. Are there any Amish Builders in the area that we could get in touch with to talk to about this? Thank you.

      1. Yoder

        Denise, which state are you talking about, Indiana or Missouri?

        1. Denise

          house building

          Indiana

    3. Sarah Jackson

      voices

      What would an Amish communities response be to a 24 year old woman who says she hears voices and that they are devils that talk to her, and that she doesn’t believe in Christ because of these voices.

      Would you consider her demon possessed or mentally ill?

      1. Shelter Somerset

        Amish are practical people

        Generally speaking, the Amish are practical people and would most likely find the woman mentally ill. There is actually a treatment center for the mentally and emotionally disturbed in Michigan that caters exclusively to the Amish and Mennonite. Contributions from communities also pay most of it. You might be interested in reading about a similar case here: http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/notorious_murders/family/gingerich/1.html Warning, this is a gripping and graphic story.

    4. garrett

      teaching of Martin Luther

      I have heard on a documentary,that the Amish belive that if they do good enough in this life that they will earn eternal salvation, now that goes against the teaching of Luther, no matter what we do we can’t earn Gods love, because we are saved by grace alone. Please clarify this for me, Im stuck.
      thanks,
      Garrett

    5. Scott

      Kannscht Du mir vielleicht mit re Iwwersetzing helfe?

      Kannscht Du mir vielleicht mit re Iwwersetzing helfe? Es iss katz! Kannscht Du mir eppes besser aarode? Danki schee!!
      ————-
      Du hoscht es Recht uff koschtelosi Helfe un Information uff deinre Schprooch. Um mit me Dolmetscher uff Pennsilfaanisch Deitsch iwwer der Gsundheitsversicherungsmarrickblatz ((Health Insurance Marketplace)) zu schwetze, ruf 1-xxx-xxx-xxxx aa.

      (original English:
      You have the right to get help and information in your language at no cost. To talk to an interpreter in [language] about the Health Insurance Marketplace, call 1-xxx-xxx-xxxx.
      )

    6. Treva

      Baby Gift

      Hi. We have been buying our milk from an Amish family nearby. We live in Kansas, and they said that they moved to the area about 3 years ago from Missouri, close to Branson. They have a baby due soon and I would like to get or make them a gift. I don’t know what would be an appropriate gift or even if they would accepting of a gift from our non-Amish family. Your advice and input is appreciated.

      1. Lattice

        They will use (and really like) disposable diapers for the first few weeks and for trips out in public, otherwise they will use cloth ones. They just consider Pampers too pricey and unnecessary when cloth will do, but they do like them as gifts and consider them a luxury.

        They also will use plain white or blue onesies, or long a nightgown. Most of all, they appreciate a nice card with a handwritten poem or verse.

        1. Treva

          Thanks so much!

          Thanks for the wonderful ideas. I am going fabric shopping tomorrow anyway, I will look for some plain white maybe even organic cotton and make a gown. I have patterns handy. I’ve never been so good at writing cards but I will give it a try. Thanks again, Treva

      2. garrett

        baby gift

        Treva, a gift is always appreciated by everyone, I bought a gift for my Amish friends for their new baby, it was a cube with bible verses on all sides it was blue lettering, they really liked the gift, I know shopping for a gift is sometimes hard, but anything to do with God, is always a sure thing.

        1. Treva

          Thank you!

          Thanks Garrett, I’m so glad I came here to ask. You all have me covered. I am looking up verses now, I’m going to put them on fabric and make a block. Do you think it’s okay to put a jingle bell inside? Between your suggestion and Lattice, I’m going to do a gift basket kind of thing. I’ll make a gown, a block with Bible verses, I have some handmade baby soap I made for my first grandbaby but there’s plenty. I will wrap the soap in some plain baby washcloths and get a package of disposable diapers too. Now that I have a plan, I need to get busy. Thanks again, Treva

      3. garrett

        idon't see why not

        That sounds great, I wish I knew how to sow, it’s a great gift for them to put in the room, a hand made gift shows alot of how much you think of a person, great job.

    7. Carolyne

      Circumcision

      Do Amish males get circumcised?

      1. Yes, infant males are circumcised among many Amish

        I am a mohel who offers ritual and non-ritual circumcision. Many midwives of central and Southeastern Pennsylvania arrange for my services on approximately a monthly basis. These communities are mainly Amish and Mennonite in affiliation. I am told that approximately 2/3 of the Amish groups (identifiable by the color of their buggy roofs) promote circumcision for newborn males.

    8. Timur

      Language

      I am German and have found interesst in the Amish People by stumbling onto the fact that they speak Pennsilvania Deitsch, which sounds like a very strage thing to me that a ancient version of the German language is still today very much alive in some parts of the US.
      You write about the Amish reading a lot, does that mean those novels and other literature is in Pennsilvania Deitsch or to the Amish read english language literature? Is in Amish communities literature in Pennsilvania Deitsch generally avaliable? I also heard that some Amish Men do read farming magazines or other practival literature rather in Hochdeutsch than in English – is this common?

      1. Jerry Hoover

        I think the language is related more to Dutch then German and German speakers can translate a lot of the words. I read some where it is called Plattendeutsch I don’t know We in Pa called it Pennsylvania Dutch.

        1. Timur

          “Plattdeutsch” is actually the language spoken in northern Germany, it sounds like a mixture between German and Dutch – actually my grandparents still learned it as their first language. It is quite different from Pennsylvania Deitsch, which is more related to the local dialect of south western Germany. I am fluent in german and dutch and have no problems understanding Plattdeutsch, but with Pennsilvania Deitsch it is different, it depends on the individual speaking. Yet, no problem reading.
          I was just wondering about Pennsylvania Deitsch literature – in my hometown, Plattdeutsche literature is widely avaliable, would it be the same with Pennsilvania Deitsch literature in the Amish communities?
          Thanks for your answer!

          1. Scott

            PA Dutch comes from High German

            PA Dutch, despite its name, has nothing to do with Dutch (at the time it was named, “Dutch” was a generic word for German…Jonathon Swift wrote about the “High Dutch” (Germans) and “Low Dutch” (what we call the Dutch today), and so this was just Pennsylvania Dutch, or really, Pennsylvania German). It is most closely related to the dialects of Rheinland-Pfalz in Germany with some influence from Swiss German. It is in some ways antiquated, as most of the original speakers emigrated in the 18th and 19th centuries, and really none in the 20th century (to provide newer vocabulary). It was widely spoken where I grew up in PA (Lebanon County) when my grandparents were still young, even among non-Amish. Today, other than the local Amish, only a handful of elderly people can speak it, though there are still active groups (even on Facebook) where people try to keep it going. It is alive and well among the Amish, though it has changed significantly due to the heavy influence of English. If you hear young Amish people speaking today, their language is really a mixture of PA Dutch with a large amount of English vocabulary.

            1. Timur

              Thanks for the answer.
              So even PA Deitsch is a language that develops and changes over generations? Very interessting, for me as a native German speaker it just sounds very old fashioned and like it is a language stuck back in time 250 years.
              Do you happen to know is there is PA German literature among the amish? I actually even heared that some (religious) literature of the Amish is in high german, but it is not common for the Amish to speak standart high german.
              Interestingly, there was also “Texasdeutsch”, a german dialect spoken in large areas of Texas, but there are hardly any speakers now any more. Somehow it became unfashionalbe after the war…
              I guess PA German would only survive because of the Amish comunity, otherwise it would prehaps also be gone, just like TX German.

              1. Scott

                Ja. sie iss noch en lewendichi Sprooch! / Ja, sie ist noch eine lebende Sprache! Its German vocabulary is indeed stuck in the 18th and 19th centuries, and most new vocabulary comes from English. But it still thrives in the Amish communities throughout the US.

                I don’t believe there is much in the way of Amish literature. My guess is the only sanctioned reading would be the Bible, which would be in High German (and mostly understandable to anyone who speaks PA Dutch). In the early 20th century, there was a small amount of secular literature created in the language, but it’s mostly a spoken language. It was taught at Penn State Unvesity when I went there in the 1980s, but I am not sure if it still is. I went on to get an MA in Germanic linguistics at Berkeley, and have kept an interest in the language (I learned a bit of it as a small child, listening to my grandparents and great-grandparents, then learned High German as a teenager). If it weren’t for the very prolific Amish community (who generally have fairly large families), it most certainly would have died out by now, like so many other similar language communities in the US. Be sure to search for “Deitsch blogs” and you can find some modern writing in the language such as http://deitscheblog.wordpress.com/

                1. Jerry Hoover

                  I am not sure whether they still teach it PSU but I know there is a big following and interest at Elizabethtown College and I am sure there is a course in Pa Dutch there.

    9. Ask an Amishman

      This post will help the internet people for creating new web site or even a blog from start to end.

    10. Curious

      I know this may sound odd or even too personal or perhaps “ungodly” to ask such a question.This is probably a subject that causes a great deal of embarrassment but here goes.Since the Amish community are extremely tight-lipped regarding anything sexual then I assume Amish females are probably urged to quiet or ignore their own sexual wants or needs. I wonder would be considered sinful behavior for a woman/wife to expect EQUAL pleasure during intercourse? Meaning, the woman achieve an orgasm/orgasms as well as the man? That type of thing doesn’t come as natural for us females unless the male is aware and actively trying to help achieve one. I’m sorry if this is inappropriate but I would really like to know. I don’t live in an Amish community and still women fake pleasure everyday out here to ensure the man’s happy so I’m sure this is something the Amish wives are extremely familiar with. I mean we are all supposed to be equal so does it not apply in the bedroom as well?