Monday, February 14, 2011

PA Dutch 101

I know today is Valentine's Day, but I won't post about that yet as my honey is still finding clues for his Valentine from me to him. I'll likely post about that later . . .

No, today's post is about local speak, or what locals call "Dutchy." This area was not settled by the Dutch. It was settled by Germans. The "Pennsylvania Dutch" are descendants of German immigrants from Germany and Switzerland. So, why then is it called "Dutch?" Well, that comes from the German's own "Deutsch." It is believed that that word, over time, evolved into a more colloquial and folksy "Dutch," hence, Pennsylvania Dutch.

We live in a beautiful area -- think a beautiful mixture of trees and wide open spaces, farmland, covered bridges, big red barns, and old stone farmhouses. I fell in love with this area as soon as we moved here. We've been here 8 years so far and I never tire of the scenery and landscape.

Milton Hershey set up his famous chocolate factory here because of the proximity to so many dairy farms (milk for chocolate products). Living down the street from a place called "Chocolate World" is pretty great, too. We're also minutes from the Appalachian Trail.

There are many Amish and Mennonites in our area. We interact with them often and our local Walmart even has a designated "horse and buggy" parking area for them. Because many of them don't use electricity, it is common to see laundry hanging on lines and men working the land being pulled by oxen rather than tractors.

Life has a much slower pace here and it's one of the many charms of this small-town, provincial life. Other charms include local "Dutchy" foods as well as "Dutchy" speak. I was thinking the other day of all the odd-to-outsiders sayings and foods from here to which we've grown somewhat accustomed and I thought it would be fun to make a post about them. So, here we go.

Awhile - When you go out to eat here and the server comes over to see if you'd like a drink to start, a local waiter or waitress will ask, "Would you like a drink awhile?" The first time I was asked this, I was confused and replied, "While I what?" There is some controversy and speculation as to what that actually means. Most take it to mean, "Would you like to drink something while you wait for a little while?" People use it all the time. I once heard a mother ask her child, "Would you like to wait in the car awhile?"

Back in 2005, I asked one of my Google Researcher colleagues, who lives in Germany and is über-intelligent, about the phrase. He says that it could come from a German word. Here is his explanation:

I think I can explain that phenomenon. In the examples you provided, the English awhile is used much like the modern German word inzwischen. Would you like a drink awhile? - Möchten Sie inzwischen etwas trinken? Inzwischen means as much as "in the meantime", "while something else is happening", and the like. But inzwischen is a rather modern word. Since the German heritage of Pennsylvania dates back to the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, I'd say that the original German word was derweil - this is hardly used in modern German, but it was used the same way. Derweil is pronounced dare-while - there is a certain similarity to awhile, maybe even a common root.

My theory is that "awhile" took the place of "derweil" when Pennsylvania Germans used English, because it sounded familiar and was even understandable to their English-speaking neighbors.
Seriously, isn't he awesome? Word.

Needs Changed/Needs Washed/Needs Cleaned -- Since my friend Oliver was so great about answering my first question, I soon followed up with another one:

People around here leave out the "to be" verb a lot. At first, I thought I just didn't hear them or maybe they mumbled that part, but no. It seems they really just DROP it right out of the sentence! For example:

(Stressed out woman) "I need refreshed." (Instead of "I need some refreshing" or "I need to be refreshed.")
(Speaking of a messy house or something) "It needs cleaned." (Instead of "It needs to be cleaned.")
(This one's even more painful) "She needs talked to."


To be or not to be? Seems it's not. unsure.gif
Try as he might, he couldn't come up with a German explanation for that one. It is a local way of speaking (and one that drives my grammar-loving ear a bit crazy). We often see advertisements on signs and in ads that say, "Car need cleaned?" or "Lawn need mowed?" And suddenly, Hamlet's soliloquy recites itself in my head.

Supper - Most people, from what I can tell call the 3rd meal of the day "dinner," but not around here (at least not the older generation). It's supper. The only other time I hear that is when we watch Little House on the Prairie. I remember calling a local business soon after we moved here and when I asked what time they closed, the man answered, "Oh, about supper time." I thanked him, hung up, and squealed in delight, "I love where we live! He said they close at supper time!!" I was so done with the big-city sprawl of Phoenix where places closed at 5pm or 9pm. Closing "about supper time" seemed so very charming.

"Devil"/Deviling - This is a local word people use to mean ribbing someone or teasing someone or generally giving someone a hard time in good fun. I have clients who use this term and it's almost always said with a twinkle of the eye, as in, "My son was going out on his first date, so I was deviling him" or "Awww, I like to devil her about her quirky ways" or "He's always deviling him about his steady stream of girlfriends."

Religious signs on road sides, restaurants, and local businesses - Yep, we're on the upper edge of the buckle on the "Bible Belt" and we're sometimes reminded of it when we drive around town. For instance, the country buffet down the road has a flashing sign that will tell us alternatively, "Meatloaf Tonight," "Jesus Saves," and "Abortion Kills." Or you might see scriptures painted on the side of barns. Or you might even see chipper signs like this one as you're driving down the road:

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Good times.

Rammy - Now this is one of my favorite words that I'm glad exists. I think it's a handy word and would love to see it catch on and spread among all who speak English and raise children or puppies. Someone must have figured that there ought to be a word to describe when children and/or puppies are bouncing off the walls, extra excited or hyper, can't quite sit still, don't really seem to want to listen, aren't particularly interested in calming down, getting a little lippy, running around in circles, jumping up and down, not paying attention to any task in particular, generally making their family wish to tear out their hair, seeming a little hyped up on who knows what, extra mischievous, extra energetic, and all around seemingly incapable of napping, laying down, or quieting themselves and that person must have somehow come up with the word "rammy." I like it. It's a great catch-all word that at once describes oh so many things.

Let and Leave - Grammar nerd that I am, this one drives me even crazier than the elimination of the infinitive ("to be") in conjunction with the past particle. Many people mix up the use of these two words. For example, a person might say, "Let your jacket on the bench" or "Leave him be!" Or if they're talking about deciding to move on and not hold a grudge they will say, "I just left it go." You might hear, "Let him alone" or "Leave me do it again." I saw an example of this the other day at a local studio. This is the sign on the playroom there:

You get the idea.

"And that" - Now this one is one I mostly hear from the real old-timers and not so much the younger generation. It reminds me of the filler "like" or "um" that younger people often like to use and it is often said as the voice sort of trails off while saying it. The older my client, the more likely I am to hear this phrase as they tell me a story. So, it might sound something like this, "I was going to the store and that and when we got there, there was a sale on chicken parts and that. So, I stocked up and put it in my carriage and that. We put it in the freezer and save it for a party and that." It's a quirky one and kind of cute really. Something about it can be, at times, endearing.

Now, let's take a break from words and talk food. Here are some examples of local fare:

Red Beet Eggs

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This is one of Thing 1's favorite local foods. It is a typical food brought by locals to pot lucks and picnics. They're actually quite good. The boiled eggs are pickled along with beets and served cold.

Potato Filling

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This is one of my personal favorites. It is basically a mix of mashed potatoes and bread and onions like you have in stuffing. I love this stuff.

Brown Butter Noodles

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This is another of my favorites. It's so easy to make and has such a flavorful and distinct taste, that I often make this as a side dish. You simply melt butter in a saucepan and heat it until it just turns brown (be careful not to let it burn -- when it turns brown, it's one tiny step from burning). Then you simply mix in your cooked noodles. That's it! YUM. As a side note, it is very easy around here to buy locally made Amish homemade noodles as well.

Birch Beer or Root Beer

Mark and his childhood best friend Peter in May 2009

I know that's not a picture of birch beer or root beer, but it is a picture of us visiting an Amish farm to buy homemade root beer. It's VERY strong and really good! Thing 2 loves that it's such a big deal around here (birch beer is his favorite and root beer is his 2nd favorite). The homemade stuff you can buy on Amish farms is especially good. It is one of the first things we do whenever we take guests to visit the Amish country (hear that, Lindsay, Scott, and Ada?).

Pretzels (and chips) - I know, the whole world has pretzels. But not like we have here. Did you know that Pennsylvania is considered the snack capital of the world? I'm not sure that's something to be proud of, but there it is. We have about 769 varieties of pretzels and pretzel-related products. Okay, so I made that number up, but we do have A LOT of pretzel stuff here. They're dipped in stuff and stuffed with stuff (and sometimes both)! Think chocolate, peanut butter, caramel, nuts, candy. There are lots of pretzel factories here. Some let kids actually work the line and make pretzels. There are hard pretzels, beer pretzels, sourdough pretzels, snack pretzels, pretzel nubs, soft pretzels. Oh, and the mustards and dipping honeys! So. Many. Pretzels. Chips, too, but I like pretzels more than chips. And they're a bigger deal here. We have a very local pretzel shop near us and when you go there on Saturdays, you wait in a long line to get fresh hard or soft pretzels and oh are they good!! We also like to visit pretzel shops in the Amish country:

Me and my Sweetie in May 2009

And yes, that's the real name of the town. Just imagine the T-shirts. One of my favorites is "Virginia is for lovers, but Pennsylvania has Intercourse."

Lebanon Bologna - This is a local delicacy and it's such a big deal that the town of Lebanon (pronounced Léb-uh-nin) drops a big bologna every New Year's Eve. It is called bologna (and pronounced phonetically), but it tastes like salami.

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Pretty good with mustard.

Pork and Sauerkraut - Given the Germanic origins of this place, this one should be no surprise. A neat little bit of trivia? This is the traditional meal of the New Year, thought to bring you good luck for the rest of the year (and bad luck if you don't eat some). It's tender and delicious and generally served with mashed potatoes. Sauerkraut is also often served on hot dogs here, which I also like.

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It smells great while cooking, but then again, I like the smell of vinegar. :)

Scrapple - You know what? I'm just going to let Wikipedia describe it for you: Scrapple is . . .

. . . traditionally a mush of pork scraps and trimmings combined with cornmeal and flour, often buckwheat flour, and spices. The mush is formed into a semi-solid congealed loaf, and slices of the scrapple are then panfried before serving. Scraps of meat left over from butchering, not used or sold elsewhere, were made into scrapple to avoid waste.

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where they call scrapple
"Meatloaf's Grotesque Philly-Born Cousin"

What? Does that not sound appetizing to you? Don't worry. Even many of the locals won't touch it. You can find it easily in stores and farmers' markets, though, if you do have a hankering.

Chicken Pot Pie -

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Oh, I'm sorry, were you expecting pie? Yeah, me, too. The first time we ever had this, we were participating in a fabulous dinner co-op (where you cook one night and other families cook the other nights and you all deliver dinner on your nights? GENIUS!). Anyway, we all filled out menus so we'd know what to make/expect. The menu said "chicken pot pie" so we expected, you know, pie. We figured crust, filling, fork. We got something that looked like this. I thought they had messed up and confused nights, so I told my friend, "Hey, the menu said chicken pot pie. What you brought was delicious, but what was it?" She laughed and said, "Chicken pot pie!" I was so confused. Around here, chicken pot pie is more like chicken and dumplings. It's delicious, but it is emphatically not pie.

Apple Butter - This is a traditional and delicious topping for toast and muffins. Breakfast is big around here with farm fresh eggs and amazing sausage (and scrapple). Apple butter is often found on your table along with butter and jams.

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I like it if it's not too sweet. A lot of stuff is sweetened around here and I'm not a fan. I prefer salty to sweet.

Pig Stomach - I had the pleasure of sampling this not too long ago during one of my mother's visits. She comes so often and stays so long that she has loads of friends in the area. One of her friends really wanted to treat her to a traditional "Dutchy" meal so she made reservations at a local restaurant and made sure they saved two pig stomachs -- one for her and one for my mom. She loved it! And I have to say, Thing 1 and I liked it, too.

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It is also called "Hog Maw" and is made with the lining of the stomach which is quite muscular and has no fat if it's cleaned properly. It is then stuffed with cubed potatoes and pork sausage (I'm telling you, the sausage here is go-ood!). It also often has cabbage, onions, and spices. I'm telling you, don't balk. It's pretty good. It is also found at local farmers' markets.

And of course . . .

The Philly Cheese Steak - Never mind that TastyKakes and soft pretzels hail from Philly, this is the food the city is known for. From

But people in other parts of the U.S. often don't even know what a cheesesteak is. No, they're not Steak-Ums. Steak-Ums are a substitute - like Egg Beaters are to chicken eggs.

Real cheesesteaks are cooked fresh, covered with American cheese, provolone or Cheese-Whiz and rest in a roll dripping with grease. Sound disgusting? You're obviously not from this town.

Cheesesteaks were invented in South Philadelphia in the 1930's at Pat's Steaks, located in the heart of South Philadelphia, hence the addition of "Philly" to the name. They were originally topped with a pizza sauce, (now called a pizza steak).

Where to find the best cheesesteak is a question that will forever be debated throughout the area. Only in Philadelphia could two places stay open all night selling cheesesteaks -- right across the street from each other -- and both do a thriving business.

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I wish I could remember the name of the place we had THE BEST Philly Cheese Steaks. It was in a hole in the wall place in Philly and it was recommended to us by the then husband of yet another of my Google Answers Researcher colleagues. The place was a total dive. But OH was that ever an amazing sandwich. So delicious. I'm going to have to ask my friend to remind me of the name. It was so good and we haven't had a better one since (though you can get many varieties at local sandwich shops here).

Okay, enough about food. Back to words. (But you're hungry now, right? So am I.)

As a quick note, I do want to mention that quilts and furniture are also big around here. The Amish make beautiful quilts and their woodworking is superb. Many local shops have beautiful displays of both and you could spend a long time admiring the handiwork and attention to detail of both the men and the women.

Seen vs. Saw -Another localism I hear around here now and then is "I seen it" (rather than "I saw it"). It's kind of like let and leave. They get mixed up. Well, I guess that's not really accurate, because those I hear use the phrase "I seen it" don't use the word "saw" at all from what I can remember. So, even in the third person, it would still be "He seen it" or "They seen it." Hmmm, curious. I wonder why that is. I don't really know. I don't think it's a German thing.

"Leaving town" -This is a funny one. A friend of mine who lives down the street was going up to Rhode Island and Massachusetts with her husband for their anniversary. I knew they were leaving the following week when she, one day, called me on the phone. She told me she was "out of town" and I got confused thinking they'd already traveled up to New England earlier than I would've expected. I asked where they were (I could hear that they were driving) and she named a town about 20 minutes away and literally two towns down the road. Well, I busted up laughing and said, "You're out of town?!?" And she said, in all seriousness, "Yes," and told me the town they were in again. I couldn't help it. I kept laughing. I really thought she was kidding. But nope, she was serious. Apparently, if she's not in her EXACT town, she considers herself as being "out of town." I "devil" my friend about this often asking if she's out of town, if she's packed, does she have an itinerary, etc. It's a running joke now.

Inflection of questions -This is more about how people speak around here rather than exact words. People here often ask questions with a different inflection than one generally hears. I'll give examples to illustrate -- words in ALL CAPS signify words that have the emphasis and rising inflection to indicate a question being asked:

In other places I've lived, people ask, "Are you going to the PARK?"
Here, people ask, "Are you GOing to the Park?"

"Did you get the MAIL?"
"Did you GET the mail?"

"Have you talked to your MOM?"
"Have you TALKED to your Mom?"

And the question here is almost asked as a statement. If that makes sense. It's very catchy, too. We often find ourselves speaking the same way (well, I do anyway -- I pick stuff up like that everywhere I go). I'm very impressionable and highly suggestible like that. Thing 2 does it, too. Of course, we moved here when he was 6 months old. Mark and Thing 1 don't do it as much.

Anyway, it's a lovely area -- beautiful landscape and a wonderfully slower pace of life. People here are a bit reticent and more closed off than other parts of the country, but they're hard-working, salt of the earth people. It's a little "too" conservative for our liking sometimes, but it's also a great place to raise a family and make great friends. It's beautiful here. I can't say that enough. The food is plentiful and delicious. And there's so much to see and do. And if you want to get away from the small town for a bit, NYC and DC are not that far at all and make excellent day trips.

I LOVE to visit big cities -- I am very comfortable traipsing around Boston, New York, Washington DC, etc. But, and maybe it's my New England upbringing, I am a small-town girl at heart and that is most definitely the place for me. I am a million times more comfortable in our day to day here than I ever felt living in bigger cities. We all love the East. And living close the coast is a must. If you ever want to visit PA Dutch Country, you know where to stay. :) We won't make you eat scrapple.


Lindsay said...

Yeah! Reading this post has made me even more excited! But please do not expect me to eat scrapper and hog gaw (whatever the names were). Yes please on Amish country and Philly!

Robynne said...

Awwww, you're making me miss PA so much! The people, the foods, the surroundings...we sure loved it there! Thanks for the reminder of what a great place you live in! :D

Dave said...

People in Clearfield say "And that" all the time; I thought it was unique to us. Also, a friend of mine from Pennsylvania brought back deer bologna and it was awesome. This post made my mouth water.

Rebecca said...

This is so funny. Shawn and I were just talking about "awhile" yesterday trying to figure out where it came from.
The inflection thing - some of my kids are starting to do this and it drives me crazy.
You left on out though - people sometimes don't end their sentences. Have you ever heard someone say "Wanna go with". :)

Dr. Mark said...

I found the Cheesesteak place. This is good news for any Philly-goers.

Don't worry, Lindsay. Scrapple is never on the menu for us. But, David, bologna is. I tasted the deer bologna one time--excellent!

And Rebecca, "Wanna go with?" is classic.

Awesome post, Stacy.

Boquinha said...

Robynne, we miss you, too! You know, you're not so terribly far away . . . ;)

I wonder if "and that" is farm talk maybe? I mean, we're not really in hicksville or anything (I think the college helps with that), but the farming community is at the root of the history of this area.

"Wanna go with!" I was so hoping other locals would chime in on anything I'd missed. Thanks for that one!!

Mark, we have to try that place again. YUM. And we can get more pretzels and stuff with Lindsay and co. when they come!

Jimmy said...

Until I ready David's comment, I thought you'd solved the mystery of "and that" for me. A friend of mine says it all the time here. I was getting ready to ask him if he was raised in Pennsylvania.

You're going to disagree, but every time I've gone to PA I've been disappointed in the food. Ate at an Amish farm once. Looked so good and all homemade, but I bit into it and it lacked flavor. The Philly cheesestakes--lack flavor.

They need to be introduced to green and red chili.

J Fo said...

Emmy has been so rammy today! (Is that right?)

I love things like this! It's funny because the grammar girl that I am hates the things like "Let/Leave" but then again, it really is the local dialect and has a charm of it's own. I think I need to start a list of the So. Utahisms. I think it might be a long list...we are very much in the country even WITH a large University in the middle of town. I am DYING to visit you guys, too. Can't PA be a little closer to UT?!

Boquinha said...

Jimmy, actually, I won't disagree with you. Having lived in Arizona where the Mexican food was AMAZINGLY delicious, you're right.

I actually don't always get why people here bother eating out just to order meatloaf or a chicken breast with mashed potatoes. You can make that at home! If I'm going to eat out, I want MEXICAN food or INDIAN food or 5-star seafood, you know? Green and red chili? Mmmmmm.

Someday we'll visit NM and try its goodness. But if you do come here, WE'LL cook good Portuguese food for you. That won't lack flavor. ;)

And most of the cheese steaks I've tried have just been okay except that one place -- YUM!

Jessica, yes! That's right! Isn't that a great word?? And I would love to read your list! And I would also love, love, love to have you guys visit.

Cristin said...

Love this post . . . oh my gosh all the local sayings and foods! Have you heard this one--'hain't it?' Instead of 'ain't' which drives me NUTS, people say 'hain't' which drives me even MORE nuts and I don't even know what kind of word it is. I'm married to a local (as you may know *grin*) and have heard this word on numerous occasions. Not from him so much, but other people for sure. Here it is in a sentence: "It's hot out today, hain't it?" I don't know how to even spell it.

And the food! I grew up a few hours from here and am part PA Dutch, so I'm definitely familiar with some of the food. I loved scrapple growing up (there--I admitted it) but can't touch the stuff anymore. And snacks! Just about everyone in our town ended up working at the Weis potato chip factory at some point. It was a rite of passage.

There was ALWAYS a jar of pickled beets and eggs (and pickled pigs' feet, if you must know) in my grandfather's refrigerator. I'm not a fan of the eggs, probably because I associate them with pigs' feet.

I was equally puzzled the first time I encountered chicken pot pie. I was like--what???--it was so confusing.

I was also always confused by the supper/dinner thing. My grandfather used the word 'supper' all the time and I still don't know when that is.

I don't know if I will ever understand a statement like, 'your car needs washed.' What happened to 'to?' Where's 'be?'

Oh yeah, another thing . . . why would anyone pay money to eat hearts? Organ meats may have fallen out of favor in some parts but NOT HERE! Maybe they taste good. They must. I love potato filling though. And the Lebanon bologna! Yum.

And then there's the PA Dutch accent! I hear it a lot out our way. Instead of 'town' someone will say 'tawn.' Takes a bit to get used to, but I miss it when I'm away.

Love this post. You're so right--this area is beautiful. It's one of those places that asks for little but delivers big time in a lot of ways. I could keep going, but I'm going to make myself stop now. : D

Peg said...

Love this! Makes me want to visit this area again. So many places to see only so much vacation time to do it

Kristie said...

Reading this was like reading a biography of my Mother in Law.

I remember when I first moved here from New York (which, by the way, has its own interesting dialect), I was not only horrified by the ever present smell of cow manure, I was apalled by the way sentences were left unfinished. You can imagine how a 13 year old girl from an urban setting would feel to be suddenly plopped in the middle of PA Dutch Country. My first year here was not a pretty one.

Now, many years and children later, I no longer notice the smell. I enjoy filling on Thanksgiving, and love pork and kraut. And my sentences? Often unfinished.

You did leave out some of my favorites. Nothing around here is ever broken- it's busted. A cut doesn't get infected- it gets sore. My carpet? We don't vacum it- we sweep it. And don't forget the Clear Toy Candy! These are all courtesy of Mother in law, of course.

Chelle said...

Super fun post Stacy! So fun to get a taste of your little town and that.

Mrs.Rat said...

Sierra says...."Middle Creek is out of town" ...thanks for the post... enjoyed!

Boquinha said...

Cristin and Kristie and Terrie, THANK YOU for chiming in! I love to hear more things that "local" people come up with for this! I loved reading yours!

Peg, how long has it been since you've been out here?

And Rachelle, heheheheh. Clever. :) Come visit anytime!

terahreu said...

Great blog! My ancestors came from the Pennsylvanian Dutch. It is funny to see what stuck and what didn't. I grew up always saying 'supper' and several of those dishes were a common favorite in my home--except for scrapple, that stuff is nasty.

I also loved this blog because it reminded me of the fun times we had in DE. We used to always drive through intercourse and visit the quaint little Amish shops. So beautiful!

I may be in the Middle East, but you are definitely living amongst a different culture! Love the buggy parking shot. so great!

Boquinha said...

Forgot one and recently learned another . . .

Around here, people say "pretty many" as in, "There are pretty many berries on the bushes." I haven't ever heard that anywhere else.

Also, Mark and I keep hearing people say, "That's salty" to mean "That's expensive." First time I heard it, I wasn't sure I heard correctly. When it was repeated to me, I had no idea what it meant. Apparently, if it's "salty," it costs a lot. Go figure. Wonder where that comes from.

Mrs.Rat said...

I say to Ronnie, "This all makes sense to me"...then he says to me "You havn't left the area much"

Boquinha said...

Yes you have! You've been "out of town!!" ;) :P Love you! :)

Mrs.Rat said...

Your right! I have gone 20 mins. away, and called it going out-of-town.....~because~ I was in the next town. ~~Sounds right to me~~ :)