As an Ohio girl, I’ve always been aware of the Amish. Every year during my childhood, my family would make an annual trip to Holmes County around Easter. We went to enjoy the scenery, eat, and shop. It’s one of my favorite childhood memories. I can see my dad now loading his plate at the Amish salad bar at the Der Dutchman. He especially liked the pickled and mustard eggs.
I love England and have been there many times. It’s one of the few places I’ve visited that I’m always eager to see again. However as a child, I couldn’t wrap my head around why the Amish called us English. I told my parents, “I’m not English. I’m American.” Around the age of seven or eight I knew all about the Revolutionary War, the Declaration of Independence, and George Washington. My grandpa signed me up for an American history children’s book of the month club. Each month, I eagerly awaited the next book and read it cover to cover when it arrived. It confused me me when the Amish said we were “Englischers.”
It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned the real reason why. There’s actually a very simple answer. The Amish call us English because we speak English. Pennsylvania Dutch is the Amish’s first language. They start learning English when they start school around age five or six.
Now the Amish use “Englischer” for anyone who is not Amish or Mennonite whether or not they speak English as their first language. Right now in Holmes County, Japanese tourists may overhear the Amish calling them “Englischer” and wonder why…
A Plain Scandal, forthcoming Feb. 15, 2013–Now Available for preorder