7 Things Every Outsider needs to Know About Low German – According to Me.
1. And then God Said, “Let there be Low German!”
Or something like that. Nobody really knows.
Low German, the Mennonite language, is also referred to as Plattdeutsch. It is NOT German. Don’t tell a German their language is low and don’t tell a Mennonite they speak German (for obvious reasons).
Example: You would never confuse ground beef with filet mignon? Which language is filet mignon and which is ground beef? I’m not going there.
There is debate over where/how Low German originated. Some Mennonites are convinced European languages came from Low German. Others insist Low German originated from European languages. It’s not important. Which was first, the chicken or the egg? It doesn’t matter because they both taste great in a burrito.
2. Explaining Low German is Impossible.
I Dub thee Creole. “A creole language is a stable natural language developed from a mixture of different languages”. – Wikipedia.
I described Low German in my blog, “About Mennonites: 6 Warnings for the Outsider” as, “A language (like a European- Creole) of German, Dutch, Russian, Yiddish and whatever else happens to be thrown in there mixed with made up words that don’t belong to any language.”
This created disagreements online. I see the confusion. Most creoles are combinations of Spanish, French, Portuguese and African languages in Louisiana and the Caribbean. But if you mixed only European languages it would be Low German. Therefore it’s like a European-Creole and the perfect way for an outsider to wrap their brain around Low German. It also explains how Mennonites understand parts of Dutch, Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, German, Yiddish, Lassie, and Krusty the Clown.
And this is where Mennonites remind me that the creator of the Simpsons had a Mennonite Oma. Allegedly.
Similar to how English words, spellings and pronunciation can differ among Canadians and Texans- there are differences in Low German among Mennonite communities. Whether Texans speak English IS up for debate, just like their “Mexican food”.
These differences created more arguments online over one word in particular…
3. Nah-yo? Nah-yo! Nah-yo.
Na Jo, Oba Jo, Oba Yo, Nayo, NAH- yo, etc.
Not all Mennonites agree on how to spell it or on it’s original meaning . It can mean anything – yes, no, I love you, kill that guy and feed him to sharks… This is the only word you will ever need as an outsider.
There is no similar English word, and so I conclude: Low German SUPERIOR to English.
Oma speaks to you in Low-German and you can’t understand? “Nah yo?”
Ask an un-pregnant friend when she’s due? “Nah yo!”
4. Mennonites Love Their Language Almost as Much as Metaschlope.
The Mennonite perception of Low German is romanced.
When Mennonites describe their beloved language, without hearing it first you might think, “Low German must be a beautiful ancient language of angelical beings.” Or “I bet Jesus spoke Low German!”
Some Mennonites will tell you that, Jesus in fact did speak Low German.
5. Young Mennonites are English-Speaking Rebels.
I hope this language can be saved. It’s a beautiful product of their complex history.
Younger generations are not learning Low German but they’ve developed a fond attachment to the fiercest-sounding languages on Earth. Mennonite kids listen with nostalgia and tears as these gruff languages invoke memories of family gatherings and farm animals.
As they grow to adults, they will attempt to learn German, Russian or similar dialects when homesick. My husband has begun learning German. He’s taught me German can’t be spoken; only shouted while punching the air, walls or furniture. Or while eating large amounts of food in a fur coat and fur hat.
All Mennonite kids imitate their Low German-speaking relative’s accents perfectly. It’s great at parties.
6. Mennonite Kids Know Low German Words for Food.
They compare non-Mennonite foods to their traditional food and rename them accordingly.
Example: One day my uncle made Biscuits and Gravy. My husband was very excited. “Hey, this is almost like Schaundt Fat!”
I said, “Yeah… because it’s gravy.”
To this day, all gravy is Schmaundt Fat and follows with an explanation about how this Schmaundt Fat is garbage compared to his Oma’s.
7. Mennonite Children are Frauds.
Mennonite kids are resourceful, smart and sneaky.
These qualities are not learned. They are trademark Mennonite mutations. Mennonite sneakiness is why their youth don’t practice Rumspringa to make dumb choices. They don’t need it.
Since Mennonite kids don’t know Low German, it creates convenient situations for parents to discuss Christmas presents, family gossip, arguments, finances and any number of inappropriate things for their children’s ears out in the open. Except intimacy. Mennonite parents don’t discuss that in any language.
The following conspiracy is earth shattering to the aging Mennonite community: Although my husband cannot speak or read Low German, he and thousands of other Mennonite youth can understand it!
Mennonite kids can recite 12plus wholesome verses of Rock of Ages by memory in English on Sunday and eavesdrop on their parents inappropriate Low German conversations the rest of the week. Generations have played dumb and reaped the sweet rewards of faked ignorance.
Moral of the story:
If you and your Menno-spouse do procreate, don’t trust your lying children. They are 50% Mennonite