More Amish Tidbits & Trivia

Last week's post was so popular with readers, who like brief facts, that I decided to add more this week. For those who want cultural literacy, here are tidbits about the strictest of the strict Amish orders - Swartzentruber. Remember, this is a diverse culture, my posts do not reflect all - or everything - Amish.

Here's one of my faves about them and some of the things I share went I'm speaking at libraries, churches, schools, and book clubs:
  • The Daudy [Dawdi] House
            A comforting tradition, I think, is the daudy (dawdi) house. To look after their aging parents, the oldest married child builds a house on the home property for the parents. The parents move into the newly-built house while the married son/daughter and family move into the family’s original home. 

            Driving by Amish property, you often see two homes in close proximity, and now know why. The nice things about this arrangement is that the aging parents are constantly around their grandchildren and visa versa. My husband and I tease Harvey (our son-in-law) that he must build us a daudy house on his property. *smile*
  • Mommy (maumy) and Daudy
            Amish refer to the grandmother as “mommy” and grandfather as “daudy.” Great grandparents, then, are called “gros mommy” and “gros daudy.” Spellings differ as Amish speech is an oral language and not written. You’d be hard-pressed to find an Amish language book to study and learn to speak, although I found one, which is recommend in my new book Beyond Buggies and Bonnets: Seven True Stories of Former Amish, available this May.

Many Amish words are difficult to translate into English and vary in spelling. When I ask my Amish and former-Amish friends how to spell a word, they often spell it phonetically.
  • Orders
             I've mentioned before that this culture is multi-layered . . . like an onion. There are many different orders, each having their own Ordnung, beliefs, and behaviors. Quite frankly, the reason for the different orders is - in my experience and opinion - Amish do not compromise or negotiate. No conflict resolution skills. When there's a church disagreement, one group leaves and forms a new order.
    • Higher (more rule lenient) orders look down on lower (more rigid) ones and deride the Swartzentruber Order as the “Dirty Amish!” Does this surprise you? It did me when I learned there's a distinctness about each order and that they rarely mingle one with the other. Swartzentrubers may be called the Dirty Amish because they generally ignore daily personal hygiene, taking baths and brushing teeth only on Saturdays. 
    • Lower orders may think the higher ones are too "worldly."
             Did you know an Amish person may be shunned for leaving a lower order (like Swartzentruber) to join a higher one (like New Order)? Relocating or dating within different orders is typically discouraged.
  • Looking for Loopholes
            The Amish resourcefully “look for loopholes” to see what they can get away with before the line is crossed and the bishop or preacher comes a'callin'.

            Mosie chuckled when he told me of property where the no household electricity rule didn't include the barn. In the barn, Amish enjoyed lights, radios, and power tools . . . and charged their cell phones. Harvey smiled when he told of the time he invented a buggy windshield (verboten for Swartzentruber Amish) by encasing it with clear plastic wrap. But he was reprimanded by his father - the bishop.

            I've met Swartzentruber Amish who've bought homes from English, with indoor plumbing, but kept promising the bishop they'd remove that "worldly" convenience or when they add on to the home they won't put in electric and plumbing. Somehow that room addition is never built.

            Others have boasted of their ingenuity in getting around the rules. Among the teens, radios and cell phones are hid in the woods or inside the barn. Girls buy underwear at Victoria's Secret because, after all, nobody will see their "worldly" underwear. Others keep a verboten automobile tucked away in the woods. They ride buggies into the woods where they tie up the horse, change into English clothes, hop in the car, and cruise around town. Without a driver's license! In the wee early-morning hours, they drive the vehicle back to the designated hide out, change back into the plain Amish clothing, climb into the buggy and trot home before morning's light.

            “In the late 60's when I was a teen,” said Lisa of Ohio, “my dad owned land that a local Amish family sub-rented and farmed. Every time we visited with this family, their son, my age, always bragged about how he and his father went out drinking till 4-5 in the morning. They always got home in time to go start their chores for the day.”

            Before he left the Amish, our son-in-love Harvey found an old, broken bicycle on a farmer's dump. He claimed the verboten (Swartzentrubers reject bikes) prize and walked it over two miles home, while his parents were away. Then hid the thing in the barn. He laughed as he told me how he'd put the bicycle in his dad's shop to make repairs! I think my son-in-law was pretty clever to repair something he'd never owned. Then he took his "new" evil device over a hill and hid it in a culvert. He told some of his friends so they could all share in the community sin. "But," he added, "we rode at night so we wouldn't get caught."

  • Secret Sex Offenders
           I read recently about a man who sexually abused his little girls repeatedly. His wife knew about the abuse, his church knew about the abuse, and he was told to stop it, yet he continued,” wrote one former Amish. The most recent public conviction I know of is of Daniel Miller who committed 17 acts of sex crimes against young girls! The youngest being only four-years-old! The Amish community tried to internally handle this sicko, which complicated the case.

My friend, Emma, lived 32 years as an Old Order Amish (OOA). During her adult years, she was married to a man who verbally and physically abused her. The settlement knew about it but, did nothing to help Emma or their children. 

Emma left the Amish . . . with some of her children. Her married ones remained. She's since earned her GED, a college degree, and is a contributing member to our society. I'm proud of her and proud to call her my friend.

Like any culture, some sexual perversion exists within the Amish. No people group is perfect. Usually the clergy chooses to quietly handle - or ignore - it without going to outside authorities. 

What do you think? Leave your comments below...

With more than 5 years experience living with, researching, and helping former-Amish, I've tons of stories! Do you know a group that would love to hear facts and stories?

I've designed 2 Power Point presentations: The Amish: Inside and Out, and Out of Amish: Where are they Now? Pick the one that would serve your group.
The Amish is an audience magnet! 
If your library, church, school, book club, or organization needs a program speaker, 
email me speaker2parents @ juno.com and let's pick a date for me to share fascinating facts.

AND, in my new book Beyond Buggies and Bonnets: Seven True Stories of Former Amish you'll learn more about the Swartzentruber and conservative OOA than you would think to ask. "Live" with me as I help their runaways transition to the non-Amish world. Compelling and compassionate stories. Look for this book May 2015. Available in ebook and paperback formats!

(C)Copyright, 2015, Brenda Nixon.

1 comment:

  1. I really like the Amish.

    I wish they were taught about The Placebo Effect in school though. They need to aware of people/professions that will take advantage of them.

    I've seen some alternative Healers, like Chiropractors, Herbalists, etc., take advantage of certain communities.

    In my world, The Placebo Effect is the existence of a God.