Monthly Archives: November 2019

Slouching toward Bethlehem in 2019

O-Antiphons-adventChristian daily prayer has fixed poles in its main western expressions: the Venite (O come, let us sing unto the Lord) in the morning; the Magnificat (My soul doth magnify the Lord) and the Nunc dimittis (Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace) in the evening. All three of the canticles are unvarying parts of what the intentional Christian community says in unison every day of the year. This makes them by their very nature “monotonous” in a neutral meaning of the term. Over centuries, medieval tradition added short texts to be said before and after the fixed canticles as a way of relieving this monotony, and also amplifying the hymns’ meanings during the course of the Christian year. They are called antiphons. Not exactly decorations for the set texts that assert the Christian worshipers’ continuity with the worship of Israel and Jesus’ understood fulfillment of the Jewish messianic vision, the antiphons nevertheless give a special character to every day when they return in the Prayer Book during the year.

The most famous antiphons in European Christianity are the O Antiphons from the final days of Advent, digested and popularized in the beloved hymn O come, O come, Emmanuel:

December 16. O Sapientia (O Wisdom)
December 17. O Adonai (O Lord)
December 18. O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)
December 19. O Clavis David (O Key of David)
December 20. O Oriens (O Dayspring)
December 21. O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations)
December 22. O Emmanuel (O Emmanuel)
December 23. O Virgo Virginum (O Virgin of Virgins)

It has been generally forgotten that there are an abundance of other O-beginning antiphons in local Christian traditions. Fittingly, there are 31, enough to make a full December of additions to the Venite and the Mag and Nunc.

Visit here each day in Advent and beyond to read and mark with holy scripture the mighty acts that find their expression in the mouth forming itself around a gesture of openness and wonder: O come, let us sing unto the Lord. O come, O come, Emmanuel.

Beginning tomorrow, we will look in sincerity and occasional good humor at the full list of 31 (here given alphabetically, because that is how nineteenth century liturgical scholars sorted them):

1. O admirabile commercium (O wondrous exchange)
2. O Adonai (O Lord)
3. O beata Infantia (O blessed infancy)
4. O beate Thoma (O blessed Thomas)
5. O Bethlehem
6. O Bone pastor qui animam (O good shepherd who laid down thy life)
7. O Bone Pastor visite (O good shepherd, visit)
8. O Clavis David (O Key of David)
9. O coelebs pudica (O righteous bachelor)
10. O coelorum Domine (O Lord of the heavens)
11. O coelorum Rex (O king of the heavens)
12. O decus apostolicum (O ornament of the apostles)
13. O Domine fac (O Lord, make)
14. O Eloi gyrum qui contines (O hosts of Elohim who contain)
15. O Emmanuel
16. O Gabriel
17. O gloriose tactor (O glorious one who touched)
18. O Hierusalem (O Jerusalem)
19. O Oriens (O Dayspring)
20. Orietur sicut sol salvator mundi (As the sun rises like the savior of the world)
21. O Pastor Israel (O Shepherd of Israel)
22. O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)
23. O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations)
24. O rex Israel (O King of Israel)
25. O rex pacifice (O King of Peace)
26. O Sancte Sanctorum (O holy of holies)
27. O Sapientia (O Wisdom)
28. O speculum (O Mirror)
29. O summe artifex (O Highest Architect)
30. O Thoma Didyme (O Thomas the Twin)
31. O Virgo Virginum (O Virgin of Virgins)

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A Pennsylvania German Sprachinsel near Arthur, Illinois, by H. Penzl (1938)

The settlements of the Amish and Mennonites with their numerous subdivisions have gradually spread all over the United States. Not only their religious, folkloristic and sociological aspects are important, but also their linguistic ones. Originally in all these settlements the Pennsylvania German dialect was spoken. It is now being given up in the Mennonite settlement, as I could see in Sterling, Illinois. Only the Amish Old Order still use it almost exclusively among themselves.

The Amish sect is named after its founder Jakob Amman, minister of the Swiss Mennonite Church, who thought it too liberal, especially in the matter of “shunning.” Amish people, principally from the Palatinate and Switzerland, arrived in the United States around 1730. By the time of the Revolutionary War, the immigration had ceased. Amish family names of this period are Hostetler, Peachey (Pitsche), Stutzman, Zug (Zook), Mast. No foreign addition to the American Amish settlements was made until near the middle of the 19th century. Between 1820 and 1850 Amish immigrants from Alsace-Lorraine, Bavaria, Hesse-Darmstadt arrived. Family names characteristic for this period are Naffziger, Schrock, Guengerich, Stuckl, etc. The earliest Amish congregation in the United States was established in Berks Co., Pa, along North Kill Creek in 1735.

The Amish Old Order is the sect that is most conservative, and strictest in its restraints upon the personal lives of its members. The wearing of “plain” clothes, i.e. black coats and broad-trimmed hats, hooks and eyes (“hafte”) instead of buttons, is required for the men. The wearing of simple dresses with aprons and a white “devotional covering” on their heads is required for women. No automobiles, telephones and radios must be owned. Typewriters and tractors are not forbidden though. The Amish Old order do not even worship in churches, but meet in farm-houses. Horse and buggy days are still in existence for them. Much from the pioneer era seems still to be prevalent in their way of living. I mention only their pioneer hospitality towards strangers, their independent actions in many matters, e.g. inquests without the local sheriff, the custom of “bundling” among the young people (discussed in their own church paper). It is the sincere desire of the Amish to be able to live peacefully, conforming to their religious beliefs, which also forbid them to bear arms.

Not the least important means of staying apart from the world is their use of a dialect the “world” does not understand. If it were not for this unique purpose, the dialect would be dying out among the Amish as it is among the Mennonites, and the German character of the sect and its settlements abolished within a few decades. The Pennsylvania German dialect has been spoken among the Amish for more than 200 years. Wherever an Amish settlement is in existence, it forms a linguistic unit of its own, a Sprachinsel, a language island, which is surrounded by English speaking communities. We have Amish Sprachinseln of this type in many states: in Ohio in Holmes (about a thousand families), Stark, Geauga, Madison, Defiance counties; in Delaware at Dover; in Virginia at Lynnhaven, Portsmouth, in Maryland at Oakland; in Indiana at Lagrange, Middlebury, Goshen, in Marshal, Howard, Newton, Adams, Allen, Davis, Oscoda counties; in Iowa in Buchanan and Johnson counties; in Wisconsin in Taylor Co.; in Kansas at Sumner, Anderson, Reno counties; in Oklahoma at Thomas, Weatherford, in Mayes Co.; in North Dakota at Wolford and Lumberton; in Ontario, Canada, in Perth and Waterloo counties. Some of these communities in the western states have been founded in recent years, the poorer members of the old settlements are always on the look-out for cheaper lands farther West. The United States census does not recognize the fact that a large number of native-born have a mother-tongue different from English. This makes an accurate estimate of the number of those speakers impossible. The Amish people whose native language is the Pennsylvania German dialect would belong to this group, of course.

The Amish appeared in Illinois in 1829 first near Peoria and Bloomington. Their only settlement at the present time, and so the only Pennsylvania German Sprachinsel in Illinois, is near Arthur, about 30 miles from Decatur. It covers a large stretch of territory extending into three different counties, beyond Moultrie and Douglas County even into Coles County. The Amish own there some of the best farming country that is to be found in central Illinois. For many miles their big red-painted barns, close to nice-looking white houses with high windmill-pumps, are the only view in sight. The settlement was founded in 1865 by Mose Yoder, Daniel Miller, and Daniel Otto, who came with their families from Summit Mills in Somerset County, Pa. The town of Arthur, which has a population of 1800 now and is right in the center of the Amish settlement, did not exist then. They were the first Amish settlers, who came to Arthur. Others came from Holmes County, Ohio, (e.g. Daniel Schrock and family in 1870), from Indiana, Iowa (e.g. Mose Kauffman in 1868). The place had been selected in June 1864 by Bishop Fred Beachy of Grantsville, Md., and by Mose Yoder. The settlement grew continuously, as evidenced by the increase in the number of church districts: 2 in 1888 (Moultrie County part, Douglas county part), 3 in 1902, 4 in 1906, 5 in 1922, 6 in 1926, 7 in 1930, 9 at the present time (Schlabach West, East, North, South, Plank, Schrock; Mast West, East). There is continuous intercourse between Arthur and the Amish settlements in Indiana and Ohio: exchange of preachers, visiting of friends, intermarrying. H. F. Weber’s estimate of 3000 as the number of the total population is probably too high. 2000 would seem to be more correct.

Outlanders near Arthur learn the dialect very rarely. An English farmer living among the Amish, who, incidentally, called them “the world’s best neighbors,” picked up some Pennsylvania German, and so did one drug-store clerk in Arthur. The Amish in Arthur all speak English, too: they have the rare and valuable experience of being bilingual. Their English does not show any sound-substitutions; it is not “broken.” Not even any accent is noticed by the people in Arthur. When their little children are sent to the small one-room country school-houses, they understand hardly any English. In some cases they learned a little English from older children in the family, or the parents taught them a few words, not to make it too “unhendig” (unhandy) for the teacher, as I was told. But, as a rule, the children hear nothing but Pennsylvania German in their homes, before they go to school. This is the only practicable method of making them bilingual. Any foreigner living in this country, who wants his children to be bilingual, can only get a similar result by imitating the Amish. Very few have had the energy and consistency to go through with the method.

But the linguistic situation in Arthur is even more complicated. Not only the Pennsylvania German dialect and English must be considered, but also High German. This is the language of the bibles that are used in the Amish services and of their song-books, and the language of many of their prayers. Formerly German was the language of the church as Pennsylvania German was the language of everyday conversation in all the Mennonite settlements, but it has been gradually replaced by English there. The remarkable success of the “uneducated” Amish in teaching their children the dialect and preserving it thus, is even surpassed by the significance of the fact that the Amish give their children enough instruction in High German to enable them to read and write in and to understand the Bible and song-books. As other German groups elsewhere gave up the instruction of their language entirely, in many cases they did not even try to bring it back into the public high schools, where it had been dropped because of the War. The Amish who have the reputation of being opposed to education built with their own money near Arthur three white one room schoolhouses, each for about 25 children. Some tutoring in High German is done in the four summer months, when there is a vacation in the English school. Each winter in January and February for four to six weeks, German is taught there in Pennsylvania German to those who have finished the eighth grade of the English school. The age of the pupils is usually from 16 to 20. In the winter of 1937 in two of the three school-houses school was taught. The teacher is a farmer, who is paid by the parents of his pupils. After German school is over, each pupil receives a “souvenir” instead of a diploma or grade record. The pupils can read the German Bible now, and write in German script. They can follow an Amish service without difficulty.

Every Amish service, which lasts at least four hours, starts with the old “Lobgesang,” a hymn of praise. Then there is praying, preaching, and more singing. The text of the Bible is read in High German, often with a distinctly dialectal pronunciation. One of the preachers criticized in conversation another’s pronunciation. I heard myself ihnen read as “ihne,” Machen as “mache.” Herr as “Harr,” Vater as “Vatter” (with a very short a), etc. Afterwards in the sermon, the Bible text is explained in the native dialect: e.g. the answer given Judas after he had tried in vain to get rid of the money: “Du sieh du zu,” was explained. “Sell is dei Business. Sell is dei Look-out.” But the number of English loan-words in the sermon was, on the whole, very small. I did not hear more than a dozen in half an hour. The emphatic tone and the sublime subjects seem to have resulted in the avoiding of English terms that usually have more of a colloquial flabor. Many High German quotations from the Bible were used. High German was consistently used for certain religious terms. They always said heiliger Geist, for heelig would only be said of a wound, that is as good as cured; Fleisch was used as the antonym of “spirit,” Fleesch in the literal sense when the effects of the plague were described; they say Glaube, Taufe, Gemeinde, the last word emphatically instead of the more informal Gmee (church district). Some High German expressions found their way into the speech of every day life. An Amish minister asked his boy for a Wurfshaufel (which is mentioned in Matthew), but he understood only the word “Shkoop” (scoop). This shows also how certain German (dialectal or High German) expressions in the dialect are crowded out by English ones, and only used by the older generation.

High German is also the language of the first half of their church paper, “Der Herold der Wahrheit.” The editor of the German part, L. A. Miller, lives near Arthur. He is a farmer, but operates a thriving book store, in which principally bibles of all prices are sold (up to 12 dollars). It is interesting to study the High German used in “Der Herold der Wahrheit.” It shows (1) the influence of English; (2) the influence of the dialect and, (3) some archaic traits peculiar to the german of the times of Luther’s Bible translation. The punctuation is partly English, the capitalization of nouns is not very consistent. If we take two issues of the paper, the one of January 15, and the other of March 15, 1937, we find the following traces of the influence of English: loan-words and parenthetic translations, typical for a bilingual state as e.g. Pneumonia, Flu, Indigestion, Editor, Pet (in parentheses with Liebling), Neglect (Vernachlaessigung), Salvation(Seligkeit), Revival (Erquickung). Furthermore we find translations of English idioms “die Mrs. John M. Yoder ist nicht gar so gut die letzen Tagen (“is not so well;” English word order!), eine etlige Tags Reise (English syntax!) was will noch werden? (English idiom; will instead of wird), bei des Aaron Gingerich’s Leichenreden waren gehalten (waren instead of wurden), das meint Verfolgung (meint instead of bedeutet).

The influence of the dialect is shown in passages like dem Jonathan Fischer sein Buch, der Preis wissen wir nicht genau; es hat noch mehr Kranke (instead of es gibt etc.); Otto Begraebnis (instead of Friedhof, cemetery); Shnee un Dreck; von dem Saemann, wo Samen aussaete; die kleine Gemeine.

We find archaic traits in the social column: Maria, Weib von A. Schrock; elsewhere der so er lebt (archaic relative).

The dialect in the Sprachinsel shows no sign of decline. The number of speakers is identical with the total number of persons in the settlement. English is only used in their dealings with the “World.” It cannot be doubted that the Pennsylvania German dialect will continue to be spoken by the Amish as long as they adhere to their old customs and beliefs, because they realize its closeness to the language of their holy books, and they find it useful to have a language of their own that makes them also linguistically different from the “World.” The extremely conservative attitude of the Amish in every respect, is the most effective guarantee of a survival of the dialect, not only in this German Sprachinsel in central Illinois, but also in all the other settlements of the Amish Old Order.

The Morning Call (Allentown), March 12, 1938

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Meeting Frère Jacques again for the First Time (2014)

This evening, as I drove my two and a half year-old daughter home from her Quaker-sponsored daycare, she asked-told me in unmistakable chirp-tones from behind me: “Sing Dormez-vous, papa?”

I hadn’t taught it to her, and I was a little astonished at the request. But never one to lose a chance to sing in the car, I trusted her question. And so I started

Frè-re Jac-ques

and she piped along from her car-seat perfectly for the whole thing:

Frère Jacques, frère Jacques,
Dormez-vous? Dormez-vous?
Sonnez les matines! Sonnez les matines!
Ding, daing, dong. Ding, daing, dong.
A-gain!

We sang the song in unison for most of the rest of the ride home, with tears of delight forming in the corners of my eyes. (It being 14ºF outside the car, I dared not let the tears stream down my cheeks as they would have liked to. Driving without face-icicles is important in Connecticut in January.)

My Emilia gave special energy to

Dooor-mez-vooooooous? Dooor-mez-vooooooous?

And I look forward to asking her the same question at the end of naptimes from now on, like Roger Sterling to Don Draper in the wake of Megan’s Zou Bisou Bisou.

I marvel to myself as I get ready for bed tonight that my daughter is the inheritor of a song whose expanded-with-context English translation could go something like this:

Brother John, are you still sleeping? You are responsible for waking the other monks for Matins, the final nighttime office of common prayer in the monastery church! If you are still asleep, they will not be roused by your campanology in time to begin the prayers in order for them to finish by dawn. You are being lazy! This is the sin of sloth! Go ring the bells! Come on, ring the bells! […] Ding, ding, dong. Ding, ding, dong.

The simple children’s song is obscure in its origins and meanings—and we weren’t singing it in a round, as it is meant to be sung. But its roots are in a particularly French and jocular attitude about lazy clergy. There are dozens of nineteenth-century photographs and engravings of someone dressed as a priest who is feasting on hams or truffles, with subtitles like “Good Friday,” or “A Fast Day.”

It is as much a marvel to me that my own toddling daughter knows this song, as that this little song is (with all its assumed monastic knowledge and religious-contextual background) one of the most common children’s songs in the English-speaking world.

My Emi will never be a monk in a French monastery where the time is told only by bells, and not by digital clocks, or where an anticlericalist intelligentsia wait outside the windows to see what she is eating on fast days, and how late she is sleeping during the daily Liturgy of the Hours. My Emi may well, if her life and Lord should lead her there, join a community devoted to singing the daily office throughout the day—including throughout the night and the pre-dawn hours.

But I feel confident that her early formation as a person will include few other indications of the possibility of monastic Christian life. And it feels strange to me that, even with the Franco-English linguistic barrier, this first clear exposure of a “Brother John” is a mocking one that gains its power from the brother’s failure to keep the monastic regimen.

My rediscovery of Frère Jacques tonight has a rich mixture of delight and sorrow about it. “As sorrowful yet alway rejoicing,” I just plain love that she is singing a nursery song I liked very much, even if that song has as its background a monastic failing. I will keep singing it with her, but I will also keeping sharing with her the good life of communities in which wakefulness takes place, in which responsibility takes place, in which sacrifice takes place.

I want her to have the joy of singing a silly song as often as ever she likes, and I will always sing it with her. I want her, too, to have the experience of good monastics to counter it by balance, as they ring the morning bells, and ring the morning bells again the next day.

Originally published in Hartford Faith and Values on February 2, 2014.

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An All Pennsylvania-German Church Service, by Russell Wieder Gilbert (1956)

ONLY in recent years have efforts been made to conduct an all Pennsylvania-German service, where hymns, prayers, the sermon, Bible readings, and liturgy followed the dialect instead of high German. The service at Grubb’s or Botschaft Church near Port Trevorton in Snyder County was undoubtedly the first one based completely on the dialect according to the Barba-Buffington orthography. It all happened in 1954 when the Reverend Benjamin Lotz, assistant professor of religion at Susquehanna University and supply pastor of the Botschaft Church at the time, received a request for financial aid from a sister congregation in Zierenberg near Cassel in Hesse. The plea gave a practical turn to the idea of a religious service in the beautiful grove of the church and a definite purpose for the offering. Why not Pennsylvania German, the dialect of many rural residents in Snyder County?

The Reverend Mr. Lotz then asked the writer whether he would be willing to prepare materials for a service since the church council (Kaerricheratt) expressed the desire to pay for a printed bulletin. The problem was a difficult one, for I had to be careful that dialectal connotations and nuances would not interfere with the dignity of worship. Here, then, were the beginnings of the Pennsylvania-German service at Grubb’s Church. On September 5, 1954 the Reverend Eugene Steigerwalt (First Lutheran Church, Selinsgrove) used as his sermon theme, “Was Mer Unsre Deitsche Brieder Schuldich Sin” (What We Owe Our German Brothers). On September 4, 1955 the Reverend Dr. Warren C. Heinly (Grace Lutheran Church, Lancaster) preached on “Schwitze, Net Schwetze” (Work, not Talk).

Good translations into the dialect were essential. Scriptural readings from the Gospels in modern Pennsylfaanisch Deitsch could be obtained from Ralph Charles Wood, then professor of German at Muhlenberg College, and now executive director of the Carl Schurz Memorial Foundation. From German or English versions the writer translated hymns, prayers, and opening versicles. It was necessary also to coin dialect words for such terms as opening versicles (Aafangswadde) and offering (Es Kaerrichegeltgewwe). And so the Goddesdienscht in the grove of the Botschaft Church came into being.

The thought of God’s presence in all seasons throughout the year is encouraging and challenging. The thought became an original poem, which is to be sung to the tune of “O Master, Let Me Walk with Thee.” It was used “am zwette Goddesdienscht:”

Gott Iss Mei Freind im Ganse Yaahr

Gott iss mei Freind im ganse Yaahr,
Er hcbt Sei Hand mir ewich vor;
Die Yaahreszeit macht gaar nix aus,
Er iss daheem bei mir im Haus.

Im Winder blost en kalder Wind,
En weisser Schnee schtost runner gschwind,
Eiszeppche hengke an de Beem,
Gott iss doch noch bei uns daheem.

Im Friehyaahr ziegt en waarmi Luft,
Mer riecht yo glei en frischer Duft,
En grieni Saft schteigt in der Schtamm,
In Beem un Bledder, Busch un Schwamm.

Regge, Blitz, Dunner, Summerzeit,
Gricksel, Fresch, Ieme, Blumme weit,
Die Veggel zwitschre hallich froh,
Sie sehne scheene Sache do.

Es Schpotyaahr kummt, es ennert viel,
Was grie waar, watt so’n Farrweschpiel;
Es Laab losst geh vun all de Beem,
Ich bleib mit Gott bei uns daheem.

Mer lowe Gott, ’s maag sei wie’s will:
Witt du Gott heere, dann sei schtill;
Witt du Gott sehne, kumm zu mir
Un glopp en bissli an der Dier.

The American-German Review, August-September, 1956, page 15

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Pennsylvania German in Ontario German Newspapers 1835-1918, by Herbert Karl Kalbfleisch (1956)

THE PROVINCE of Ontario, known earlier as Upper Canada, was not favored by any large influx of German people until after the end of the American Revolution. Indeed, most of the German settlers who came at that time as a segment of the wider loyalist migration to British territory were soon absorbed into the predominantly English pattern of the province and lost command of the German tongue. They required neither German books nor newspapers for their edification or enjoyment.

The descendants of these German loyalists, who settled primarily in the eastern counties of Ontario, on the Bay of Quinte and in the Niagara Peninsula, are still recognizable by the German surnames they bear, but beyond that there is little distinctively German about them. A somewhat later settlement, but still made before 1800, in York County, north of Toronto, had a similar history, although here an intermixture of Mennonites in the German group served to perpetuate the German language to some extent. In southwestern Ontario, particularly in the counties of Waterloo, Perth, Huron, Grey and Bruce, a somewhat different situation prevailed. There was a sufficient concentration of German people to assure the perpetuation of the language—at least for a few generations. In many of these areas the Pennsylvania German dialect is still understood, and often spoken, even by the youngest members of the group.

The pioneer Germans in Waterloo County originated almost exclusively in Pennsylvania. Their history in Canada dates approximately from the year 1800. Before long, however, they were joined by immigrants directly from the Fatherland, who were attracted to this area by reason of the German speaking settlers already there, as well as by the opportunities for artisans and craftsmen to establish themselves successfully in the many rapidly growing villages of this prosperous agricultural community. It is striking to observe how quickly the immigrants directly from Germany adjusted their spoken language to that of the Pennsylvania German settlers who had preceded them. This adjustment may have been facilitated by the fact that both groups were heavily represented by people from approximately the same original area, the German southwest.

The first German newspaper in Berlin (now Kitchener), later the county town of Waterloo County and focal point of German settlement and activity in the province of Ontario, was established in 1835. Its editor and publisher, Heinrich Wilhelm (later Henry William) Peterson, was born in the Duchy of Oldenburg, Germany, in 1793. He went to the United States with his parents as a child of two, and spent his early years in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware. As he grew up he learned the printing trade, published newspapers and operated printing shops at several places with indifferent success. In 1832 he decided to migrate to Canada, where his parents had preceded him in 1819. His father, a Lutheran clergyman, served several parishes in York County. Heinrich Wilhelm, however, chose to settle in Berlin. To publish a newspaper for the Germans in Canada became his goal. Support for this venture was forthcoming from the German community; one of the most ardent supporters was Bishop Benjamin Eby of the Mennonite Church in the area. Bishop Eby, who was born in Warwick Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in 1785, had settled permanently in Waterloo County in 1807, and by the time Peterson began publishing the Canada Museum und Allgemeine Zeitung, he was well known in the Waterloo community.

It is noteworthy that Peterson maintained a fairly good standard of language in his Museum, although some English words for which easily accessible German equivalents were lacking, insinuated themselves into his vocabulary. Examples such as “Trosties” (trustees), “machte eine Spietsch,” “Kamp-Mieting,” “Settlementer,” and “Häfner-Schap” (shop) fall into this category. Nevertheless, Pennsylvania German matter was almost completely lacking in the Museum, a fact which is highly significant, since in the period up to 1840 the German speaking settlers of the immediate area were still predominantly of Pennsylvania German origin.

The successors to the Museum, more than twenty-five weeklies, which flourished for various lengths of time until German newspapers were prohibited toward the end of World War I, featured Pennsylvania German material in varying quantities. The immigrants from Germany who did most of the editing and publishing, seemed to enjoy the dialect, and felt that certain effects, particularly humorous ones, could be better achieved through it than through the standard language. This feeling has persisted until the present time in the former German speaking areas of Ontario. The descendants of the German pioneers who migrated directly from the Fatherland have lost command of the standard language, but have retained many humorous and pithy expressions from the Pennsylvania German. The urge to preserve fragments of the dialect is receiving some impetus, even now, as a measure of pride is becoming attached to having Pennsylvania German blood in one’s veins.

The flourishing period of the Ontario German press, between 1850 and 1900, and the period of amalgamation, decline and eventual disappearance which followed, witnessed also an increased publication of Pennsylvania German material. Much of it was provided in the form of letters and articles written over a bizarre assortment of noms de plume, but in many instances the correspondents or authors preferred to remain entirely anonymous. Some of the dialect material was acquired from German American newspapers, along with manifold items of news, scientific and academic articles, humor, and poetry.

An examination of some of the major weeklies whose files are available yields rather surprising results when compared with what must have been the distribution of clientele with respect to origin in Pennsylvania or directly from Germany. That the Berliner Journal, which ran from 1859 to 1918, should have provided a large bulk of Pennsylvania German material is not surprising. A great many of its subscribers were either from Pennsylvania, or descendants of Pennsylvania Germans. The quantity and variety of its offerings are revealed in such titles and authors as the following: “Wunnerliches,” by Wunnernahs; “Brief vum Däv;” “Eppes letz-Ueberall,” signed by Eisick Schnitzelbank; “Ich will heiern,” by Säm Beisszang; anonymously “All for nix,” “En ackommedeedinger Riegelweg,” “Net zu Bieten,” “En Ehn Cent Stohry;” then “Die Sällie hot die Gripp” and “dorich die Luft,” by Sälly Besemstiel; “Gedanke über Fenzweissle,” by Hansjörk; “Guter Roth,” by Solomon der Dumme; “Der Pit hot Wieder G’heiert,” by Säm; “Die Mad und Beisickels,” by Der Klehn Krämer; “Lokal-Nuhs,” by De Lumpa-Pete; “Johnny Kitzler über den Krieg,” by Johnny Kitzler; “Pennsylvanisch-Deutscher Brief,” by Eiseha Stoppelkopp; many letters over the name of Jonathan and John Ritsch, the latter from the New Yorker Staatszeitung; a whole series of correspondence by Pit Berastiehl, pseudonym of John P. Becker, an agent of the Berliner Journal; from 1905 until 1915 the letters of Joe Klotzkopp by the then editor of the Journal. John A. Rittinger. Of all the Pennsylvania German material in the Journal, the letters of Joe Klotzkopp were most popular. Approximately one hundred are extant from this ten-year period.

The quantity of Pennsylvania German material in relation to the total space in the Journal that was provided for matter other than news is, perhaps, not so significant as the unfailing regularity with which material in the dialect appeared. Public demand provided the incentive which dictated its inclusion and, to judge from the evidence, the voice of the public must have been very insistent. Even the carriers’ New Year’s greetings were not immune from the encroachments of the dialect, as is evident in the carriers’ poem of 1888.

However, the demand for dialect matter was not uniform over the whole German speaking area. Some newspapers, such as the Canadisches Volksblatt of New Hamburg, provided very little.

This aversion to Pennsylvania German was not shared by the weeklies of Berlin, where there was a large proportion of Pennsylvania Germans. Besides the Berliner Journal, Der Deutsche Canadier, which was published in Berlin from January, 1841, to January, 1865, also carried the dialect. While it did not publish a large amount there was always some in each issue. A greater quantity might have been expected since the Canadier was published by the sons of Bishop Benjamin Eby from its inception until 1857. On the other hand, the Deutsche Zeitung of Berlin which, during its eight years of existence between 1891 and 1899, constantly laid an almost frantic emphasis on its pure German character, soon succumbed to the desires of part of its clientele, and, perhaps in response to competition from the Berliner Journal and the Ontario Glocke of Walkerton, featured Der klehn Krämer in “Eine Sauschwanz-Kehs vor’m Schmärte Squeier” before the end of its first year of publication. Later contributors to the Pennsylvania German column in the Deutsche Zeitung were Jackson P. Hoffnakle and Piet Kickmüller, Bätschler. In 1897 a relatively lengthy missive from this gentleman appeared almost every week. In the previous year a two-column article entitled “Mei Hunting Exkurschen” over the name of Schan Schorsch Zintfade, Grocerie- und Saluhnkieper seems to have been the experiences of a local Nimrod.

The Ontario Glocke, published at Walkerton, in an area settled chiefly by Germans directly from the Fatherland, was, however, the weekly that catered most consistently to the desire for Pennsylvania German material. Articles and correspondence in the dialect appeared over the names of Pid Schnitzmacher, Missgawels Hanjerk, Hickory Jackson, Sam Quetschekern, Nochemol, Schwift Eisick, John Ritsch, D’r Hansjorg, Joe Klotzkopp and Sarah Klotzkopp, Joe’s supposed Irish wife. Of these, the letters of Joe Klotzkopp became an exceedingly popular feature of the Glocke and, after amalgamation with the Berliner Journal, in 1904, of the combined weeklies. The first Joe Klotzkopp letter appeared in the Glocke on January 22, 1890. It attracted much attention and there was an immediate demand for more. In fact, the subscribers of the Glocke looked upon Joe Klotzkopp as an indispensable adjunct to their reading. They went so far as to memorize and quote humorous passages from him, or ones containing kernels of good, homespun philosophy.

Between 1890 and 1897 approximately twenty-five Joe Klotzkopp letters, in addition to a considerable quantity of other Pennsylvania German material, were printed in the Glocke.

The quantity of dialect writing provided by the Ontario German newspapers stood in striking contrast to the active campaign they constantly waged in favor of good, standard German. The editors of the German weeklies did not deliberately desire to cater to pedestrian tastes, but the keen competition which prevailed among the fairly large number of German weeklies in an area which never contained an abundance of German speaking people frequently made a compromise necessary. It was, in short, a matter of survival. The whole province of Ontario had, according to the census of 1901, only about two hundred thousand people of German origin, and the potential subscribers to the German newspapers amounted to only a fraction of this number. Fusion and assimilation began early to exact their toll of the publications in the German settlements, particularly on the periphery. The intermixture of English words, as well as the intimate and, sometimes, trivial tone in the Pennsylvania German matter, held many wavering subscribers for a few more years.

It was evident to the publishers, however, that their newspapers dare not degenerate completely into dialect organs. For this reason hundreds of articles and many poems were dedicated to the subject of good German. The motivation was both sentimental and practical. The nostalgic longings of even second and third generations of German Canadians for the old Fatherland were aroused by the events of 1866, by German unification in 1871 following the Franco-Prussian War, and by the advances made by a united Germany, particularly in economic and scientific fields. German language study began to flourish after 1900 in the schools of the German areas in Ontario. Through this study the German newspapers felt that their future was assured. But World War I dealt these dreams a major blow, and the prohibition of German language newspapers in Canada in October, 1918 ended temporarily the story of German journalism in Ontario.

The American-German Review, 23 (1), pp. 30-32.

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