Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Some PA Dutch dialect that needs preserved

Recently in my linguistics class we've been discussing dialects, different ones used across the US and our own.

And so ever since I got out of my linguistics class this morning I've been thinking about (And consulting the great oracle Google about) the way I speak, the way my grandparents spoke, and the different words and phrases I associate with the older PA Dutch folks in my church.

Cause that's what my family is, Pennsylvania Dutch through and through, (see the different clothing my relatives are wearing up there? Picture stolen from my Aunt's facebook page. Thanks Rachel!) but a lot of the dialect has been watered down and lost as the Mennonite community loosens up, moves away, and just generally integrates.

I've been bothering my apartment mates all morning with "Do you say it like this? Do you use this word?"

Here's some of the things I've come up with, most of which I never really thought about as coming from the Pennsylvania Dutch heritage before:

Dippy eggs: eggs you make in which the yolk isn't firm and you can dip bread in them. Really, it shocks me that you've never heard this before!

Dersn't: Dare not or better not. You dersn't eat all the scrapple now.... your Dad needs some yet!

Outen: To turn off. Can you outen the lights when you leave?

"Set" : To be idle, or to be for show. "On Tuesdays, Rachel comes just to set." "We use those candles sometimes, but these are just to set."

"All" to say "gone." "The milk's all" instead of "The milk's gone."

"Yet" like still. "The milk's gone but there's yogurt yet." Or, "I have to finish this paper yet, and then we can play."

"Sooner" and "as" in place of "rather" and "than." And not in the dramatic movie start "I'd sooner die!" way, but the ordinary "I'd sooner stay here as go to the store" way.

"What fer" often to say "what type," "What fer car was he driving?" But also as "whatever" and sometimes just thrown in there for good measure... "What fer book are you reading?"

"Once" not as in "one time," and not as in "once upon a time" either. This usage is hard to describe. I think it usually creates a condition before you do something else. If a child's crying: "Oh, now, I'm sure it's not that bad. C'mere once and let's see." Or if you're indecisive about purchasing a car. "Well, let's get to the dealership once before you make any decisions."

And, as in the title, the leaving out of "to be" before verbs, especially after "need." "The bed needs made. The table needs set. The floor needs swept."

Some of these I say, and some I don't. But now that I've thought about it, I may start reviving some of them again.

Think about it once, and I'm sure that what fer dialect you speak needs examined too. And I'd sooner sound a little strange as lose it completely!


  1. I always remember Nana saying, "better would" to say that I should do something. Also, I always thought it was "daresent" rather than "dersent".

    I find myself using "yet" to mean "still" a lot now that you mention it.

  2. You're so right! Nana did say "you better would" a lot. And I've heard quite a few other older Mennonites say it too.

    Hmm...I think she did pronounce it "daresent" but my Mema definitely says "dersent"...regional differences in the regional accent?

    Keep saying "yet" as still! And ask your friends if they do it...I never really noticed that mine didn't.