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Pennsilfaanisch-Deitsch / Pennsylvania Dutch (1879)

Henry-Lee-FisherThis poem on the Pennsylvania Dutch language was written by the lawyer-poet from York County, PA, Henry Lee Fisher (1822–1909). It appeared on p. 198 of a collection of Fisher’s verse, ’S Alt Marik-Haus Mittes In D’r Schtadt, un Die Alte’ Zeite’, which is important for its documentation of early Pennsylvania Dutch life.

The poem is given below left in its original form (with a number of orthographic idiosyncrasies), along with a transliteration and translation. Note that Fisher italicized all English-derived words. Also, in his York County variety of Pennsylvania Dutch the third-person singular form of the verb ‘to be’ (sei) was isch. In contemporary varieties of the language, only is is used.

 

 

 

Edhel Leut mache juscht’n G’schpass       Fon Pennsylfanisch-Deutsch;Ich dhet’s net meinde; “Ei warum?”Ei juscht for das, sie sin zu dumm—       ’S isch juscht ihr Lappigkeit;Sie sage, ’s isch f’rmixt, un lache;Ei so sin all die gute Sache.

Es muss doch, g’wiss, ’n dummer Ochs sei,       En grosser odder’n Kleener—Net so fiel wees—d’r Rahm fon zwee,So fon de allerbeschte Küh,       Isch besser as fon eener;Gel, g’lernter Buch-wurm, du, do hinne,Kanscht nix’eso in Bücher fünne.

Es isch ken Schprooch in dere Welt,       Wie Pennsylfanisch-Deutsch;For alle Wort kummt fon’m Herz,Un’s hot me’h Peffer, Salz un Querz’—       F’r loss dich druf, es schneid;Wan’s Mädel em net will, f’rschtee,Dan sagt’s es awful Wörtli, NE.

Un’s geht em besser fon d’r Zung       As English, don’t you see?In English sage sie, O! yes,Un ebmohl’s sage sie, I guess,       Un ebmohls Yes sir-ree;Doch isch ken Wort das schteht in Law,Wie’s Pennsylfanisch-Deutsch Wort, Jah.

E Deel Leit mache yuscht en Gschpass       Fun Pennsilfaanisch-Deitsch;Ich deet’s net meinde; “Ei warum?”Ei yuscht fer das, sie sin zu dumm—       ’S isch yuscht ihre Lappichkeit;Sie saage, s’isch vermixt, un lache;Ei so sin all die gute Sache.

Es muss doch, gwiss, en dummer Ochs sei,       En grosser odder en Gleener—Net so viel wees—der Raahm vun zwee,So vun de allerbeschde Kieh,       Isch besser as vun eener;Gel, glannter Buchwarm, du, do hinne,Kannscht nix eso in Bicher finne.

Es isch ken Schprooch in daere Welt,       Wie Pennsilfaanisch-Deitsch;Fer alli Watt kummt vunnem Haerz,Un’s hot meh Peffer, Sals un Gwaerz—       Verloss dich druf, es schneidt;Wann s’Meedel em net will, verschteh,Dann saagt’s es awful Wattli, NEE.

Un s’geht em besser vun der Zung       As English, don’t you see?In English saage sie, O! yes,Un ebmols saage sie, I guess,       Un ebmols Yes sir-ree;Doch isch ken Watt das schteht in Law,Wie s’Pennsilfaanisch-Deitsch Watt, Ja.

Some people just make fun        Of Pennsylvania Dutch. It doesn’t bother me; “Why not?” Why, just because they’re so dumb,        It’s just their carelessness. They say it’s all mixed up, and laugh; Why, that’s how all good things are.

It would definitely have to be a blockhead,        Big or small, Who doesn’t know that the cream from two Of the very best cows        Is better than from one. Hey, you educated bookworm back there, You can’t find anything like that in books.

There’s no language in this world        Like Pennsylvania Dutch. For every word comes from the heart, And it has more pepper, salt, and spices.        You can count on it, it’ll cut. If a girl doesn’t want you, you see, Then she’ll say that awful little word, “Nee.”

And it rolls off the tongue better        Than English, don’t you see? In English they say, “Oh, yes!” And sometimes they say, “I guess,”        And sometimes “Yessiree.” But there’s no word in the law Like the Pennsylvania Dutch word, “Ja.”