I’ve been living in Lancaster County, PA for 10 years now – wow, that’s a long time – and even though I’ve adopted some of the local customs here into my life, there’s one thing I refuse to do, and that’s talk like a local.
Granted, I have adopted some of the local inflections into my speaking voice. That’s pretty hard not to do when you move into an area. But as for the Pennsylvania Dutch sayings that are prevalent around here? Forget it.
Lancaster County Sayings That I’ll Never Incorporate Into My Vernacular
“The car needs washed” – for some reason, people around here think it’s okay to drop “to be” from a lot of their phrases. Erica will say “the laundry needs folded” or “The lawn needs mowed”. Ridiculous.
“the milk is all” – When something is “all” that means it’s empty. This one usually refers to food being empty or gone. I guess it’s short for “all gone”? I mean, really, are we trying to conserve words here or something. “the brownies are all”, “my drink is all”. How about, “my correct usage of the English Language is all”.
“Are you coming with?” – this is the only one I might dare use from time to time. Again, it’s another case of dropping words out that are deemed understood. This time it’s the word “me” that gets left off. If you ever hear me say this, feel free to land a backhand across the side of my face.
“Can you bring me the remote awhile?” – this is foolish. you would think that “awhile” is short for “in a while”, but no. “awhile” actually means now. So if you want something done awhile, you want it done right away. Why not just say “are we leaving now?” instead of “are we leaving awhile?” WHO KNOWS. (I’ve also heard that “awhile” is short for “for a while”…either way it’s just silly)
“What for shoes are those?” – This is THE WORST one of all. In this case “what for” actually means “what kind of”. So if someone says, “what for shirt is that” they mean “what kind of shirt is that” or “what brand of shirt is that”. It’s absurd. I’ve really only heard it used twice in real life. One time I heard an amish man ask someone else “what for muffler do you have on your car?” I thought he was asking what a muffler was for. Turns out he was asking what kind of muffler he had. The other time I heard this was golfing with my bro-in-law Chad a few years ago. He asked me “what for club was that?”, meaning, “Which of your irons did you just use?” I was so confused, I just looked at him with a blank stare for 20 seconds.
Some other expressions that I’ve never heard, but I know exist:
“Outen the Lights” – another way to say ‘turn the lights off.
“When’s it over till?” – a yoda-like way of asking when something is going to be finished.
“Quit yer rutching” – This means “sit still”.
If I’ve missed any, let me know. And if you ever hear me using any of these sayings, you better call me on it.