Monday, January 16, 2012

Low German Mennonite Sayings

I bet I get about two comments on this post. But it's interesting to me as I might include some of these in the next book. I try to imagine each being quite clever, moving, funny, instructive, even scolding in their day. But were they? And what sayings do we have today that will be thought strange or hard to understand in one or two hundred years? "Like shooting fish in a barrel."

1) Wan du friee jeist,
dan besee die eascht de Mutta.

When you go courting to get married,
first observe the mother.

2) Waa lang lawe well mot Tsemorjest ate
aus en Kjeisa, opp Meddach aus en Kjeenijch,
on Tseowent aus en Pracha.

He who would live long must eat like an
emperor in the morning, at noon like a king,
and in the evening like a beggar.

3) De Kjaakjsche onn de Kaut senn emma saut.

The cook and the cat are never hungry.

4) Aules haft en Enj,
Bloss ne Worscht nijch.
Dee haft twee Enja.

Everything has an end
except a sausage.
It has two ends.

5) Wan’t emm Winta kracht
Can buschelt’t emm Somma em Sack.

When you hear the cold in winter crack
The summer harvest will fill the sack.

6) Dee weet nijch fal;
Dee es blooss hinj’rem
Owe oppjewosse.

He doesn’t know much;
He grew up behind the oven.

7) Onnmaajlich aus Kjielkje ute Kruck ate.

As impossible as eating noodles out of a jug.

I'm not sure what dialect of Low German these are specifically, and Low German has no set standard (likely because it became an oral language giving way to High German). Still, good advice on #1, wouldn't you say?


Monica the Garden Faerie said...

It's interesting how far away from German German these are. Languages are interesting!

Benjamin Vogt said...

Yeah, it sure ain't high German. Could even be plautdietsch, so it's two steps removed from high German. I don't even have the accents and etc in there. Je parle francais....

Gaia Gardener: said...

The eating advice (emperor at breakfast, etc.) is also interesting because research is pointing out how important this is! Food calories eaten at night have much more tendency to go straight to fat than food eaten in the morning or at midday, especially if you're physically active.

UrsulaV said...

I love some of these. Although now I wonder what growing up behind the oven means!

Benjamin Vogt said...

Gaia--You should see their diet pre industrialization, nothing but lard, fat, butter, cream. I'm sure they burned it off each day. I can't stand breakfast myself--can hardly eat a small bowl of cereal.
Ursula--Maybe it means they stayed inside, hunkered down by the heat in winter, and never lived?

Craig @ Ellis Hollow said...

These bring back memories. We used to live in Mennonite country in southeast Pennsylvania back in the day. We sent our kids to the Shaynah Kinner (cute kids) nursery school and the youngest came back talking the 'dutch'.

On diet: There weren't many veggies at the Kutztown Farmers Market back then. But lots of 'head cheese'. (You don't want to know.)

I always loved the community's choices on what technology was appropriate. I remember the young women biking along the roads in their long dresses, prayer bonnets and really nice sneakers, and am wondering what the low German is for 'Nikes'.

Benjamin Vogt said...

Craig--similar, but different kind of Mennonite, for sure, between PA and my KS / OK folk. But at least your kids were cute. :) And I know what head cheese is. Yup. Also heard stories from great aunts of every detail of hog butchering. EVERY detail. Nikes in Low German must be Nikjes.

Donna@Gardens Eye View said...

I love these...# 1 is definitely to be heeded...I also love #2....great to have these because it gives us a glimpse into their world...great look into this wonderful culture! Wish I had Italian sayings from my ancestors area of Italy.

Benjamin Vogt said...

* I just added one about drinking noodles out of a jug. *

Donna, and what a hard, crazy world it was. I wish my grandmother was still alive--I'd be getting loads and loads of stuff, but missed her by five years for this project.

Sunnyside Dru said...

funny, I just gave the advice of look to the parents to a couple of young women I know..yes, you might live with the boy, but how the parents interact with each other future happiness and stability..

Anonymous said...

It sounds a bit like the accent people have in Limburg (a Dutch province bordering Germany): the southern part of Reinland - Westfalen. Just guessing!

Diana Studer said...

As you have written them they look more Dutch than German. Had a German colleague whose father spoke Plattdeutsch. Her saying was - where we live it is so flat, you can see who is coming to dinner at lunchtime.

Benjamin Vogt said...

SD--And how parents interact with their kid!
Anon--That should be right on the money, where these people are from 550 years ago.
D--They should be heavily Dutch, since they were once from the Netherlands. I never want to live anywhere where I can't see things coming, or the sun touching the edge of the earth.

Victoria Summerley said...

A lot of wisdom in there! And lots of sayings that we still use today - "If you want to see how your wife will turn out, look at her mother", for example.
And the one of being behind the oven - that's like "He was hiding behind the door when they gave out the brains".
In the UK, we say "Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper".
Here are a couple of my favourite sayings is from the Scottish side of my family - "As daft as a yett on a windy day", meaning silly, or scatterbrained. (Yett means gate in Scots.) And "Shak yir ain mats at yir ain back door" (Shake your own mats at your own back door), in other words, mind your own business

Helen said...

I love colourful expressions. One of my dad's in plain old English was: I feel as bright as a sack of wet mice. Although it's quite ridiculous, it needs no translation.

Benjamin Vogt said...

V--You're blowing up the wrong kilt, lass. No, I love those. I just tried saying them out loud like Groundskeeper Willy from the Simpsons. My cat is looking at me strange. I think he might attack me.
H--That is the strangest one I've ever heard. I think it might need translation for my over-edumicated self.

Annie in Austin said...

2nd try at commenting because it's a fun post:

Are these Low German sayings akin to the Pennsylvania Dutch proverbs once painted & decorated on tourist items back in the 1960's?

Someone brought back a sign for my mom that said "Kissin' don't last - Cookin' do." Another was, "We grow too soon old and too late smart".

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Benjamin Vogt said...

Hey Annie, long time no talk! I know there are significant differences between PA Mennonites and those from Russia, and I think folks tend to jam them together. The PA came over much sooner and were much more conservative, for starters. Their roots are the same (1550s), but how far back do those sayings go? I know for the Russian German Mennonites, their langauges and culture (and food!) were constantly changing as they went from the Netherlands, to Germany, to Russia. I don't think the same can be true for the PA Mennonites. So that's a long, somewhat unsure yet mildly informed answer based on the 500p book of Anabaptist history I recently read. :)

Walt Klassen said...

these are very funny and bring me many happy memories of listening to the older relatives visit while I was a youngster.

K Grams said...

"sat die dov att die krank" (SP) Sit yourself down and eat yourself sick.

Anonymous said...

Hi I found an old amish book that belonged to an elderly relative and this was written in the front, anyone know what it says please, I am intrigued

Du brauchst net da Davel froha, er kommt ohne froga.

Adam said...

Hi I found an old amish book that belonged to an elderly relative and this was written in the front, anyone know what it says please, I am intrigued

Du brauchst net da Davel froha, er kommt ohne froga.

July 31, 2014 at 2:53 PM

The House of Chapman said...

My grandmother, was related to the Frantz-Slaymaker families of Lancaster county, Pa. Her favorite saying was, "do not be a nincompoop" when I had done something dumb. And when I was good, I was a "litle shnikerdoddle" (spelling? )

The House of Chapman said...

My grandmother, was related to the Frantz-Slaymaker families of Lancaster county, Pa. Her favorite saying was, "do not be a nincompoop" when I had done something dumb. And when I was good, I was a "litle shnikerdoddle" (spelling? )

Bernard Baars said...

This is a fun discussion. Thank you Mr. Vogt --- which is a Dutch (Netherlands) last name, I think. As I just figured out by googling Austrian (Vienna) Low German, which doesn't sound anything like High German. They keep on denying that the words "low" and "high" refer to prestige and looking down on the regular folks, but if you read popular Viennese gags, they are much more "folksy" than official High German. (Obviously with lots of exceptions).

So this whole discussion is very cool. English is classified as a Low Germanic language. So is Dutch, and apparently a huge part of what is now called Germany, but which used to be separate provinces with separate dialects. Wiki-p claims there are up to 250 German dialects, depending how closely you slice the sausage.

As for folk wisdom --- I'll bet some of those sayings go back, oh, about 6,000 years..., when people lived in settlements (rather than living as nomads), and started farming. Just a guess.

Anonymous said...

Overheard in my Saskatchewan home town was a woman telling her peers about her sick husband, "...and then he walks there yet round as if with him nothing loose is". English desecration of what is syntactically accurate low german. Cliff Ratzlaff (retired psych)

Anonymous said...

My parents were Russian Mennonites that eventually immigrated to Canada in the 1950s. I think the Pennsylvania dutch are quite different. My parents spoke high German to us but low German to each other. The expressions or sayings seem definitely to be low german or Plautdietsch as it is also known. The saying above from the Amish book i think means ... you don't need to ask the devil questions, it comes without question. Doesn't always make sense in English.

Anonymous said...

I shouldn't say Russians Mennonites...just that they were born in Russia in the Ukraine area. They considered themselves ethnic Germans.

Donald Thiessen said...

Mr. Vogt,
I just came across this blog today. I am fluent in the language of the sayings you posted. It is Plautdietsch, the language spoken by the Mennonites who moved to North and South America from 1874 and on. As some one indicated, it is the forerunner to English and is more than a throat disease. It is one of the few languages in the world that is still seeing an increase in the number of speakers. The two translations of the Bible (and two more of the New Testament) are helping in standardizing the spelling. I am in the process of publishing a book that includes 200 of these LG sayings. I would have loved to include these.

Anonymous said...

I wondered if growing up behind the oven referred to the cut wood….mindless, cut short, sort of similar to our phrase, - “dumb as a stump”

Carol said...

I like your blog