Take a buggy ride with an Amish driver, eat dinner in an Amish home, engage in a conversation with an Amish man or woman at an auction, the general store, or any other location in an Amish community, and you’ll quickly realize that the Amish have a healthy sense of humor.
Dan Byler, President and General Manager of LaGwana Printing in Shipshewana, Indiana, finds the Amish sense of humor as varied as it is in the “English” world.
“I have Amish friends that do great dry humor. It can be very difficult to know when they are joking or when they are serious, which just makes it so much funnier once you figure it out! I have Amish friends that love playing jokes on each other … things like completely rearranging their entire house because they came to visit and no one was home … and the door had been left unlocked. I have Amish friends that love puns … especially puns that work because they are using English and Pennsylvania Deitsch words in the same pun. I have Amish friends that love riddles. People are people. It doesn’t really make any difference what group of people you talk about, most of the character traits found in the general population will show up in the smaller group as well.”
Kristina Schlabach, General Manager of the Carlisle Inn in Sugarcreek, Ohio, shares an example of the pun Dan is talking about. “Welcome with the Dutch accent sounds a little like the Amish word for corn, which is velshkin. So we often say You’re velshkin, instead of You’re welcome.” Then, the comeback in Dutch is until the crows get you and then you’re a cob!”
Noted author Suzanne Woods Fisher shares many Amish proverbs in her book, Amish Proverbs: Words of Wisdom from the Simple Life (Revell Books). Here are a few samples of Amish wisdom mixed with a keen sense of humor:
By the time most folks get to greener pastures, they can’t climb the fence.
There is one thing more exasperating than the wife who can cook and won’t, and that’s the wife who can’t cook and will.
Winter is the season when we keep the house as hot as it was last summer when we complained about how hot it was.
Between doing publicity for her newest book, The Photograph, New York Times bestselling novelist Beverly Lewis took the time to share the following anecdote with me:
“A young Amish couple moved from one church district to another in Lancaster County. Their new neighbors, also Old Order Amish, thought it was interesting when the young husband removed all of the fire alarms in the farmhouse in accordance with their new church ordinance. Instead, he taped a big bag of un-popped corn kernels just outside their bedroom door, thinking that if the house caught fire, the popping corn would wake them up and save their lives!”
Mel Riegsecker, owner of The Blue Gate Restaurant and Theater, as well as the Blue Gate Garden Inn in Shipshewana, grew up Amish, and after one visit to his theater you’ll know that his sense of humor is well-honed. Visitors are often treated to a few of his humorous stories as he emcees the star-studded shows and Broadway-style musicals which run year round.
Dan Byler adds, “Within my larger family, many of whom are Old Order Amish, humor is hugely appreciated. Someone who is good at telling stories and jokes is valued and appreciated. Many of my Amish friends absolutely love real life stories where humor is found in everyday life … as long as it is told well. This is especially true if the story teller is the one that had some unfortunate incident happen and is willing to find, and share, the humor in it.”
Perhaps the following Amish proverb best sums up the Amish sense of humor.
The best thing to have up your sleeve is your funny bone.
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Martha Bolton is the author of 87 books, including her newest, Josiah for President, which has now been adapted into a play. She was a staff writer for Bob Hope for fifteen years, and received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Achievement in Music and Lyrics. She has also written for dozens of comedians and entertainers, including Phyllis Diller, Wayne Newton, and Mark Lowry. Her popular series of books for middle-agers (Didn’t My Skin Used to Fit?, Cooking With Hot Flashes, and others) have addressed the subject of growing older in a fun and fresh way.
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