Perhaps the most useful words and phrases to know in any language are those that express anger, excitement, or grief. For your convenience, here is a helpful list of Plautdietsch curse words and insults, along with pronunciation and a brief example of where a Mennonite might use such words. Thankfully for your ears, Mennonites don’t normally utter any truly bad words, but this is as close as it gets. Here are a few choice gems:
Dietschlaunt! – (DEETCH-lawnd) – “Germany” (inoffensive) You’re feeding the hogs, when your cousin Herman, who is a total schwäa, deliberately drops the bucket in such a way that is splashes up onto your slacks. While wiping the slop from your pants you might exclaim “Dietschlaunt!” though nobody really knows why.
Diewel! – (DEE-vil) – “Devil” (mildly offensive) You’re from Paraguay, Mexico, or Abbotsford and so aren’t used to the cold Canadian winters. When you arrive at the Winnipeg airport and are escorted by your cousins back to the farm in Plum Coulee, you might exclaim, “Diewel, it’s cold out there once!” and your cousins will just laugh and say, “you call this cold yet?”
Donna! – (Dawna) – “Thunder” (offensive) You know that saying it will get your mouth washed out with soap, but you’re so upset over the fact that your brothers Henry, Hans, Knels, and Peter all got to go to the Ascencion Day service, but you had to stay home and milk the cows, so you exclaim, “Donna!” and are immediately punished to the fullest extent of the law since it doesn’t really mean “thunder” but actually means “Hell” and you should know better than to say such things.
Jauma Lied! – (YO-ma LEED) – “Pitiful people” (inoffensive) Let’s say that your cousins Frida and Elsie are sitting around the quilt circle and gossiping about the other cousins who are not present because they’re probably off galavanting with those Friesen boys. Frida might say “Jauma Lied” to Elsie and Elsie would nod in agreement or perhaps say, “oba jo!”
Mensch ekj saj! – (Mench eck zie) – “Man, I say” (inoffensive) Suppose Onkel Henry has traipsed into the kitchen without taking off his barn clothes and has now soiled the freshly mopped floor with his dirty boots. Taunte Lise might say to him, “mensch ekj saj” and he would know he had done something really wrong and feel very remorseful.
Na, Junges/Mejales! – (NAH, Young-ess/ NAH, Mee-all-ess) – “Well, young man/young woman” (inoffensive) If a boy or girl does something very bad they might get taken behind the barn, but if they only did something mildly annoying that just deserves a firm scolding, or if the annoyed adult is not a parent, grandparent, uncle, aunt or older sibling and didn’t have the proper authority to impose full discipline, they would be told “na, junges” or “na, mejales!”
Na, Taunte – (NAH, Tawnt-a) – “Well, Auntie” (inoffensive) Let’s say you’re driving into town to pick up something at the Co-op and mother spots an older lady walking across the street in a flower dress and socks with sandals and things are a little out of place and she doesn’t look very put together, then mother might comment, “na, taunte” even though it’s not really her Aunt.
Oba jo/na – (O-ba YO/ O-ba NAY<em>) – “but yes/no” (inoffensive) You’re sitting there in a nice Mennonite restaurant, peacefully waiting for your gloms koki to arrive. When they do you exclaim, “oba jo!” and high-five the waitress. When she tells you they’re all out of pecan butter tarts you shake your head and say, “oba na.
Rüt met die! – (ROOT met dee) – “Out with you” (inoffensive) Oma Toews is still busy preparing faspa and has not cut the cheese yet, but the grandchildren are coming up from the basement already and have demonstrated themselves to have ants in their pants. Oma would then yell, “rüt met die!” to the children and the children would go outside and throw rocks at the cows until it’s time for faspa.
Schwaä– (SHVAY-a) – “boil” (inoffensive) That same cousin Herman is constantly causing trouble. Grandma knows it. Grandpa knows it. All the other cousins find him such a nuisance yet. Behind his back everyone says of him, “Oba, that Herman is such a schwaä!”
Schwiena’rie! (SHVEEN-e-REE) – “a place where pigs are kept” (mildly offensive)You’ve been playing knipsbrat and Dutch Blitz all afternoon and Grandma Koop doesn’t like the sight of the knipsers and cards strewn all over her shag carpet, so she says “schwiena’rie!” and you know it’s time to clean up before she gets out the wooden spoon.
Waut de schissjat? – (VAWT duh SHISS-yut) – “What the heck?” (mildly offensive) Church is about to start and Helen Dueck is still standing on the men’s side talking to Abe Peters, and so you whisper to her “waut de schissjat, Helen, get over here!” and she quickly scampers over to the women’s side and everything is much better after that.
(photo credit: Alessandro Lucia/CC)