Thursday, September 16, 2010

Old World Wisconsin: Oh the Germanity!

Milwaukee's vocabulary is still replete with adopted German words and expressions. Hannah Jacobson found the city's dialect sufficiently unusual to furnish her theme for a B.A. degree thesis at the University of Wisconsin. She discovered :"Ach" being used as an exclamation in everyday speech. Many Milwaukee children say "tante" for "aunt"; the streetcar bends (turns) the corner"; people "stay to home" (zu Hause) instead of "stay at home"; "I go by my aunt's house" instead of "I go to my aunt's house"; "make my apron shut" is a current idiom for the English "tie my apron"; "nix come eraus" is a customary byword for "nichts kommt heraus"; "set yourself down" is a translation of the request "setzen Sie sich nieder" and "Aufwiedersehen," a friendly farewell word, may be overheard on any Milwaukee street corner as companions part to go different ways.
Near the turn of the [20th] century, with the discontinuance of language papers and decline in the preaching of sermons in German, many of the cities began to lose their Old World flavor. The change is less noticeable in rural communities.*
-Fred L. Holmes, "Freiheit Ist Meine" Old World Wisconsin (1944)
*I noted a few of my father's own curious rural Germanic idioms expressed in his letters home: here (footnote [2] and here (footnote [1]).

1 comment:

  1. 1944 was the good old days when students still wrote a thesis to get a B.A. degree.