Ferhuddle and Pennsylvania Dutch


This week’s word, ferhuddle, is a suggestion by one of the blog’s readers, Elizabeth Rimert. If you’d like to suggest a word yourself for the blog, drop me a comment below.

You probably won’t find ferhuddle in a standard English dictionary, but it is widely used in Pennsylvania, U.S.A., as an adjective for confused or mixed up. Sadly I wasn’t able to find an online pronunciation audio file for ferhuddle, but you could probably work it out from the PA Dutch online dictionary.

Not being American myself, I had only a vague awareness of PA Dutch so I went exploring. I was surprised to discover PA Dutch is much closer to German than Dutch. I studied standard German for six years as a teen, and found the PA Dutch samples online to be fairly understandable.

The name for the language is Deitsch, which probably explains the Dutch vs. Deutsch confusion. PA Dutch is a version of German spoken by about 250,000 people in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and in Ontario, Canada. It arrived with immigrants from Germany, Alsace-Lorraine, and Switzerland in the late 1600 and early 1700s.

Sadly PA Dutch speakers have been in decline, especially since World War II, but it is still widely used in Amish and Mennonite communities. With wonderful words like ferhuddle to give us, I hope it survives.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

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