More “talkin’ Dutch” stories from readers
We last talked about all things Pennsylvania Dutch back in July, when I shared some reader memories of a Pa. Dutch nursery rhyme.
Today, I have a few more memories and stories of “Dutchy” things to share, which I hope you’ll enjoy!
From longtime reader Jim Fahringer, I received this note: “Growing up, my grandparents often spoke Pennsylvania Dutch. They would often speak it to each other when they didn’t want me to know what they were talking about. It would often make me furious that I could not understand what they saying. My grandfather grew up in the Pigeon Hills where it appears that many spoke the dialect. Actually, according to my grandmother who attended the Cherry Street school – at least that is what she called it – in York, the teachers taught in the Pennsylvania dialect until she was in the third reader before they started teaching in English. Many of the older people around the town of Jefferson (Cheferson) still speak with that “Dutchy” accent.”
Jim also added, “The discussion of the Pennsylvania dialect brings back a memory from the 1960s. During the 1960s, the Red Lion Radio Station WGCB, 1440 on the AM dial, would broadcast a weekly ‘Pennsylvania Dutch’ radio program at 12 or 12:30 on Saturday afternoons. It was a down-home and religious program. I often sat with my grandmother and listened to the conversation and singing and have her interpret what they were saying. It was lots of fun. The man who conducted the program was either from Jefferson or somewhere around the Spring Grove area. He was well-known in the area. He may have also sung and played an instrument. I cannot think of his name. Perhaps someone will remember this well-known advocate of the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect and share it.”
Jim, I certainly hope someone can come up with that and let us know!
Reader Wendy Converse shared the images you see with today’s column. She wrote, “My mother’s side of the family is from the Lancaster/Lebanon area and we have a lot of love for our PA Dutch heritage and culture. I found your blog … while looking for how to spell ‘rutschy’ (looks like nobody’s still 100% positive, heh!) and enjoyed browsing many of your posts. I thought you might enjoy these scans of the front/back cover of a little book I found while visiting my parents recently.”
Later, Wendy wrote again and shared a link to an online copy of Rauch’s Pennsylvania Dutch hand-book: A book for instruction.” She noted, “Found this while preparing for my weekend up in Lancaster getting ‘back to my roots…’ Not very aesthetically presented, but pretty cool that we have free and instant access to a book like this from the 1870s!”
That 1879 book is a gem! My personal favorite part is the author’s introduction, which includes “As quite a number of newspapers devote portions of their space to Pennsylvania Dutch articles — generally humorous — a book of this kind will assure uniformity of spelling Pennsylvania Dutch words. Whilst many of the writers, doubtless, will contend that the spelling of this or that word is defective, and whilst there will probably be errors and some inconsistencies, I am confident that, as a whole, this work will be pronounced a very good beginning — a healthy plant of a practical Pennsylvania Dutch literature.”
I find that hilarious because that’s what I’ve tried to do since starting my Only in York County blog in 2007… and still, we have not been successful in pinning down our spellings! But, hey, at least I know it’s not just me!
On another Dutch note, reader Paul Edic writes, “I’ve wondered about this use of ‘once’ for a long time… After thinking about it for a bit, could this ‘once’ be simply a shortening of the phrase ‘at once,’ meaning now, quick, right away, hurry? It does seem to fit. Quite a while back I seem to recall in boxing or fisticuffs hearing someone say ‘Hit ‘im one, [Joe], get in a good punch and knock his block off.’ Or ‘Look once, Mama, the cat had kittens when we weren’t even looking!’ or ‘Run once to the outhouse where George is awaitin’ fresh paper for his behind.'”
Doing things “once” was one of the first topics I tackled when I started writing regularly about life in York County and the topic of Yorkisms, including the sometimes-used pronunciation of “wunst,” and Paul’s rationale is as good as any I’ve ever heard for why it’s used as it is!
Thanks to everyone who has been sharing great Pennsylvania Dutch stories and memories with me. I love them!