Do you know these 12 similar Pennsylvania Dutch words?
While in Belle Center, Ohio a few months back, I had dinner with Mark Curtis and a young couple in his community. One of my favorite moments came after Mark said something in Pennsylvania German which seemed to baffle the three other “native Amish” at the table.
The man of the house, grappling with the fact that no one could put a finger on the meaning of Mark’s words, said something to the effect of “Mark’s more German than we are!” It was amusing, and I think tells you something for his appreciation for the language and culture he has joined.
For our enjoyment Mark has sent along a list of Pennsylvania German words, arranged in similarly-sounding pairs. For some of you this is probably a cinch, for others like myself, baffling, and for still others, something in between.
Mark’s father Don explains that “Most are Pennsylvania Dutch words that sound just about the same but mean something entirely different.”
I’ve seen the answer key, and I can say that about 3/4 of these are nouns, in fact most are everyday items. Since there are different ways to spell Pennsylvania Dutch words, spelling here is approximate.
And by the way, if these were English expressions I’d tell you #2 is what I say when I bite into something nasty, and #3 is how we used to say hello back when we were the “cool” kids in school.
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Photo: from Ich Kann Pennsylvania Deitsch Laysa
PA Dutch words
3. tsupp..tug, or
9. strimph…hose or socks
Hi Mary! My name is Melissa Lynn Conquest. I am new to this site and o want to learn Amish Language. Because I live in Pennsylvania which is known for a lot of Amish speak people plus I am fascinated with the Amish culture and I like how they believe in putting god first before anything else.
I believe that God should be the main priority for everyone. But unfortunately there aren’t bunch of people who believe in God.
But I chose to become a true believer in god
Thanks for letting me share this with you. God bless you
I'm not PD awwer ich lieb the language !
Guder Mariye ! Wie seid dihr ? Ich bin en beginner aa.
Mary, were you peeking? Ich glawbe Du kannscht guut Deitsch schwetzah und eppa kennd dich net verkaafe….LOL.
Agree entirely with Mary except for number 2. In our neck of the woods, blech (noun) was tin. It was also the name for a tin cup, usually used for drinking water. If something was tinny, it would be blechich.
I agree ,where I am from blech is tin and was supprised it meaning something else.
I think Mary cheated! lol
I think Mary can’t help but knowing, she has the inside track on this one 🙂
Thanks for the answer key, Mary!
Eek, di Meis, fetch di kat!
I like the picture you added, Eric. Especially “di Meis”
That is a smart way to teach words to kids and newcomers to the language.
There is a language learning program out there that apparently, according to the TV commercials, uses speech, written words and images to teach language, so if the image above is a similar Amish tool, that would be useful.
I want to apologize on spilling the beans, once I had done it I was thinking…now that isn’t fair, is it? Sorry Erik, and yes blech is tin, wasn’t awake yet this morning maybe…
Terry, can you also deutch schwettza?
Mary that’s okay, I think this one is kind of difficult without some German/PA German background 🙂 I will post the answers Mark provided anyway:
1. bleck – This is the plural form, it means logs as in wooden logs
2. blech – The ch sound is sort of like you would exclaim in ycch! It means tin. As in a tin roof. A blech dach.
3. tsupp – This is like a small tab on something. The container had a small tsupp to pull it off with.
4. tsepp – This is a braid. Tsepp brot is braided bread. Hoah g’tsepped is braided hair.
5. brill – Eyeglasses or spectacles
6. brillah – sniffling and crying as in small children.
7. grattlah – Crawling or climbing.
8. griddlich – Fussy. As in a fussy baby.
9. strimph – Socks
10. schimpha – To complain or gripe about something.
11. schlissel – A key. As in a door key.
12. schissel – A bowl. As in a soup schisseli
I want to know
what Terri said: “I… you can speak good Dutch,… your not….” That was all I could figure out. Oh, and I knew #8 was cranky. I’ve been trying to learn a little. Ich schwetze Deitsch en glee bissel. : )
Ja ja, Ich kann guut Deitsch schwetza, Ich wehss genug sell eppa kann mich net verkaafe. Wu warscht Du gebot? Ins Pennsylvawni, Ohio, oder Inshianna?
Dei namah iss net deutch?
Ich war gebot in die beschta blatz, Indiana.
Nah, sag mich vas du mahnscht mit verkaffe? Ich hab ideas…
I’m going to continue being a total nuisance until someone tells me what verkaffe means.
Mary said: “Terry, your name is not Deitsch?” “I was born in the best place, Indiana.” Then I’m lost. Except for “I have ideas…”
I’ve been watching Doug Madenford’s PADutch101 videos on Youtube, and I recently bought the kids-oriented book, Speaking Amish, which is a lot of fun (en lot schpass.)
Sorry I spelled your name wrong last time. I used my sister-in-law’s spelling. What is verkaafe?
I. Am. Clueless.
But I’ll take a guess (probably also wrong) at Terry’s posting with “verkaffe”—sounds like coffee.
Like I said…probably wrong.
I can hear the snickering from here…
I hope Terry doesn’t find me annoying, but I have almost no opportunity to test out what I have learned, and I have no PA Deitsch-English dictionary.
“Kaafe” is to buy, but I don’t know about verkaafe. Terry said, “Yes, I speak good dutch. I know enough that some can myself (net verkaffe).” I know that is totally rough with confusing word order, and I probably got something flat out wrong.
“Wu wuhnscht Du?” is “Where do you live?” But I don’t know about “Wu warscht Du gebot?”
Thanks to all who might humor me.
Nah, sag mich vas du mahnscht mit verkaffe
(no, tell me what you mean by verkaffe?
Wo warscht Du gebot?”
(where were you born?
no problem Naomi… can you figure this out?
Sis zeit fa bett gay?
Thank you, Mary! You said, “It’s time to go to bed.” “Go” took me a little while, because I’ve been spelling it, geh. But no kidding about the time! I had a project that had to wait until my daughter was asleep, and she is a night owl. Guti nacht!
What it means
Wann a man sage, Ich wehss genug sell eppa kann mich net verkaafe…When someone says, I know enough that soneone can’t buy me it means that person speaks PA German well enough that someone can’t get something over on them. It’s an idiom that I grew up with here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Maybe it doesn’t carry to other Deitsch speaking areas, although I’ve heard it in Lancaster County. To clarify also: eppis = something; eppa = someone. Nah mussich mei schoffa duh!! Mach’s guut alle!!
Mei nomah s’iss net en Amische nomah, awwer Ich bin Deitsch gebot und gewoxt. Ich bin drei jarhungen ins Brudernkarrich, so Ich betrage en schwartz hut oder en stroh hut, gallussa, brehdfalle hussah, und schmuchlossig hemmd.
My name is not an Amish name, however, I’m PA German born and raised. I’m third generation in the Brethren’s church, so I wear a black hat or straw hat, suspenders, broadfall pants, and plain shirts.
I also raise fruits, vegetables, and eggs part time and work for a hospital full time.
Hascht en guude!!
I asked my son, Mark, what verkafe means. He said that it means to sell. Kafe is to buy. When something is verkafft, it is sold. When something is bought, it is g’kafft. At least that is one Mark says.
Kauffa, g'kauft etc.
Don Curtis: Your son Mark is exactly right on all points.
Terry, Mary, and Don. That was a fun lesson in PA Dutch. Ich gleich Pennsilfaanisch Deitsch schwetze!
Is your son familiar with the phrase, “Ich wehss genug sell eppa kann mich net verkaafe?” I just wondered if they used it in his area?
I asked Mark about this phase. He said that he hasn’t heard it used. The way he understands it the phrase would translate: “I know enough that nobody can sell me.”
The problem is with the word “sell”. I would have used the word “ess”.
Naomi, siss means It and geh means Go, so I was saying It is time to go to bed.
Terry, I kept thinkin it is to buy, and not soaking the whole meaning of it, now I know…
Mus gey schaffa nah! Hab en gute dag…………
Erik, I will quit confusing you now…
Ei ei ei, Du machscht mich lache!! Wass iss dei G’mee oder Karrich?
Dutch / German
It is fun to read Pennsylvania Dutch! I’m surprised how well I understand all of what is written above.
Once I was in Lancaster and an Amish man started speaking PA German to my mother and me as soon as we told him we were from Belgium and we speak Dutch there. We had no clue what he was saying. It’s clearly a lot easier to read than to understand. Looks a lot like German, and Dutch looks like German.
I must say Pennsylvania German or Pennsylvania Dutch is closer to German than to Dutch though. I think it would be more difficult to understand for someone who speaks only Dutch and has no German knowledge whatsoever.
And I could guess “verkafe” would be “to sell”. Same in German (and Dutch for that matter).
German would be “verkaufen” and “kaufen”.
In Dutch “kopen” and “verkopen” (and “verkocht” sounds like what Don Curtis mentions for sold, “verkafft”).
When we moved into our new apartment the Pa. Dutch lady downstairs gave us a casserole dish. She said it was our “hashh dire” or something similar sounding. Could you tell me what that means?
Quick Question/ Story
The add for the language class- is it sponsored by you or WordPress? I know you don’t guarantee anything…. I would like to learn the language, but I don’t want to get ‘spammed’ (haha).
A Day with Herr and Frau Yoder
“*Blech! The soup schissel ist not clean! Why are these dippy eggs in a soup schissel, anyhow?
-Aw, honey, don’t be so griddlich! Now stop your brillah! Ach! I need my brill!
*Just let me get my strimph on…you left them on the porch with the schissel. Cold feet nein ist gut.
-Wait, get that spider that’s grattlach up the bleck! Nee, not there…THERE! I think you need brill, too.
*Let me get this tsupp off the can of bug spray. Darn! Now where did that confounded spider go?
-It’s on the tsepp rug!
*Well, it’s gone now.
-Ach, danki and praise the Herr our Gott! I cannot abide spiders.
*What were we just doing?”
Hi all (Griass Eich alleh mihdahnahnd),
Where am I from ? (Woh kummi heah?). What am I doing here in your chat corner ? (Woahs Ih doah mach in Eihrah Gschbraechseggn?) Oh well …
First of all let me offer an ‘add on’ to your pending kaffah/vahkaffah – discussion. You are absolutly right when converting these two verbs to buy/sell. However and especially ‘verkaufen’ is used in a second way too. In High German, also in my Bavarian dialect … “Are you serious? / You want to fool me?” (Du wuisd me woi fiah dumm vahkaffah?) … remember Terry was adding a LOL behind it anyway.
When it comes to dialects you can’t never really insist on a one-to-one word translation. There is always a lot of feelings and meanings involved. I even think that people learning a dialect as a first language are more tolerant in understanding others. And for sure they like to play with their wordings.
So far so good. Now the reason I am writing to you today is based on my search for people with a dialect background. Looking for Amish speaking people in particular. Why? I was translating Amish words into Bavarian. And to my great enjoyment I could find so many similarities … incredible.
Here a little bit more backgroud regarding my “language/dialect project”.
Originally I come from Bavaria. Have travelled the world for many decades. Working in the computer software arena over fourty years and got married in China eight years ago. Yes, I live in China and my latest software component is kind of a huge dictionary (I would even call it a data warehouse) interrelating 10 European languages with simplified and traditional Chinese. Gaelic (both Irish and Scottish), Austrian, Switzerduetsch, uncountable German words and phrase are included as well. Almost needless to say that I am also covering the English dialect part also i.e. Australian, Canadian, South African, Caribbean, Arizona, New York, London, Cumbrian and of course Amish (hundreds more … you name them)
Why? You look up an Amish word and get Vienna German, Bavarian and Sorbian entries as well as French, Italian, Polish and so on. Our Languages are so close to each other but almost out of reach for the Chinese. They only can study pure German, pure English. You see what I mean? My intention is to introduce our dialects to the the world.
In case you are interested in my activities or in case you would like to have a deeper look into my product or even want a copy of it (free of cost because it is invalueable!!!) … just let me know.
I would be pleased to hear from you,
(Pfiad Eich Goohd mihdahnandah)
PS: (Bavarian is also a non-written language. My attempt to write Bavarian words will certainly amuse some Amish speaking people. Because they can figure out most of them. “I am pretty sure about that”)
Richard, I would love a link on your Bavarian and PA DUTCH especially… I love learning, and never learned to write the Bavarian German, but was fluent enough while living in Ansbach and exploring Bavaria to make friends and also help other English ppl make trades with the German vendors.. Thank you…
I’m interested in your project, both because dialects are fascinating, and because I’m trying to learn Chinese (finding it very challenging!!). Thanks
Deutsch not Dutch
I am of Dutch descent, that is, my grandparents were from Holland, a part of the Netherlands. For such a tiny country it seems to have a lots of identites. Dutch is the language spoken in the Netherlands. Deutsch is the language spoken in Germany. Germans call what we call Germany, Deutschland. Germans called what is now the Netherlands, Das Niederlands, which means outer lands. What we call Pennsylvania Dutch is a misnomer for Pennsylvanis Deutsch. That’s why they speak German, not Dutch.
Loss uns Deitsche was mir sin.
The word “Dutch” in “Pennsylvania Dutch” is actually a holdover from the period when the word “Dutch” was used in English to describe things (including people and languages) that we now call
German as well as things that we now call Dutch. When distinctions needed to be made during that period, “High Dutch” meant German, and “Low Dutch” meant what we now call Dutch. This was the usage at the time that immigration from the upper Rhine Valley and adjacent areas of what is now (mostly) Germany into Pennsylvania took place.
You can look up the history of the English word “Dutch” in the Oxford English Dictionary or another historical dictionary of English.
The “Low” in “Low Dutch” has the same meaning as the “Neder-” in “Nederland” — adopted into English as the “Nether-” in Netherlands: It is “Low” meaning “low in altitude”, i.e., near sea level. High German dialects, on the other hand, are the ones that are spoken at higher altitudes further upstream and up into the highlands and mountains of central Europe — i.e., to the south of the Netherlands. Pennsylvania Dutch is a High German dialect, as is modern Standard German. There are lots more.
At least among the people I know in Pennsylvania, most speakers of the language, when speaking English, prefer to call it “Dutch” or (when more detail is needed or desired) “Pennsylvania Dutch”. They also speak of (Pennsylvania) Dutch cooking, heritage, history, etc. In the language itself, it is usually just “Deitsch” or very occasionally “Pennslvaanish Deitsch”. Standard German (modern or Biblical) is called “Hochdeitsch” — literally “High German” (which is sometimes encountered in English with the same meaning: a bit of a misnomer, since, as already mentioned, PD is also a High German dialect.) A synonym for “Deitsch” in the dialect is “die Muddersprooch” (literally “the mother language,” or in more idiomatic English, “the mothertongue”.)
The term “Pennsylvania German” is also used, perhaps especially in textbooks and academic papers (etc.), and it means exactly the same thing as “Pennsylvania Dutch”. It does have the advantage that it keeps people who don’t know the language or the history of the Pennsylvania Germans from be confused and thinking it has something to do with the Netherlands. Nonetheless, some recent textbooks and academic works have returned to a preference for the historically more common term “Pennsylvania Dutch”.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I am not myself any kind of Dutch (neither Pennsylvania nor Netherlandish) by ancestry or nationality, though I have studied both Pennsylvania Dutch and (Netherlands) Dutch, in addition to standard German.
I have found the Heilich Shrift in Pennsylvania Deitsh contains the most consistant guide for spelling and pronounciation available. It is basically phonetic. In the front of the Bible it shows comparitive sounds from English and Deitsh. Also, the Bible is written by Amish men (translated from the Wycliff version) and would be what most native speakers would easily be able to read, although reading Pennsylvania Deitsh is not taught in their schools. It has been a spoken language for use in the Amish Community only for centuries. There is a good Dictionary (that uses the same spelling) from deitshbooks.com. The Heilich Shrift can be found in some Amish stores or ordered online. These are two great tools for learning the language.
Meaning of ei-ei
Just heard that this phrase is from PA Dutch; what does it mean? There is some controversy. Thank you for clarifying.
Blessings & best regards,