No matter where you go, you’ll find a cultural group with its own distinctive names. What makes them so entertaining for the rest of us, is that they’re unique to that specific culture. It’s only natural that some of us find the unfamiliarity intriguing.
Certain groups indeed have some decidedly amusing names, too. This is one of the most interesting traits of the Amish people. Let’s look at some of these funny Amish names, and learn more about their origins and purpose.
What this article covers:
Where Do Amish Names Come from?
When the first Amish settlers arrived in the US in the mid-1700s, they brought their rich cultural heritage with them. This included their names, but where did these early Amish names come from?
The Anabaptists - Beginnings of the Amish People
Descendants of those pioneers of Christian Protestant reformation, the Anabaptists, these brave folk settled in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Escaping the religious persecution that had taken hold in their native Europe, these mostly Swiss people formed the early Amish community.
This influence can be seen today, in the most common Amish last names, most of which have a German sound. However, some of these were anglicized, or changed to occupational-type names in English, to better facilitate their immigration to the US.
Minimal Outside Influences
They chose to live in their own separate community, and marry only within their own settlement. This seclusion meant there were almost no influences from the outside world. As the Amish ban community members from marrying outside of their faith, few external influences are present in their surnames.
As times changed, and the US attracted more and more settlers, the Amish community spread out and formed other settlements. However, they continued to live on their own terms, and without modern interference. This meant that they also had no exposure to new trends in first names.
The Biblical Influence
As a devout religious community, almost all names were taken from the Bible. Many, if not most, of these names, while popular in biblical times, are not quite so trendy in modern society today.
For this reason, common Amish personal names, particularly male Amish names, sound ‘funny’ to the ears of the non-Amish community.
Naming After Relatives
As is often the case in traditional strongholds of patriarchal hierarchy, sons were (and still are) named after their fathers, grandfathers, and uncles.
This wasn’t limited to the men, though. Many female Amish names were likewise duplicated. This soon led to confusion, as several people in any given community would end up with the same name.
Funny Amish Nicknames
Nicknames were introduced to resolve the issue, but they did not eradicate the problem entirely. The most common way of distinguishing between two people of the same name was to add their father’s name, or in the case of a married woman, her spouse’s name.
When that also failed to clear up the confusion, identifying characteristics and work titles were used. It all became rather complicated. This led to some hilarious Amish names. In a community full of Jacobs and Johns, you're sure to meet a ‘Double John’, ‘Jacob son of John’, or ‘John son of Jacob’. Maybe all three!
Funny Amish Town Names
You'd be wrong if you think that the Amish only have funny names for their people. Amish town names often raise a couple of giggles, too.
Larger communities near modern cities often just took their name from that neighboring city. However, just like the previous problem, this became confusing when two or more settlements cropped up in the same area.
This necessitated the introduction of nicknames for communities, too! The shape of the land would be employed as a name if all else failed. This is how such odd town names as ‘Stone’ and ‘Diagonal’ came about.
Funny Amish Recipe Names
That’s right, even recipes are not immune to this funny-name phenomenon, but unlike the personal names and town names, which had to be assigned nicknames out of necessity, this is just for pure enjoyment.
Unfortunately, the backstory to the names of some of their most interesting recipes has been lost to time, but we can still have a good laugh at their love of fun names, even for food.
Examples of this include ‘Shoofly Pie’, ‘Told You So Cookies’, and the very aptly named ‘Slapstick Chicken’.
What the Amish Think About Their Funny Names
A trip to an Amish community can offer plenty of opportunities for a good chuckle. You may pass signposts with strange town names, only to arrive and find residents with even funnier nicknames.
You’ll see a group of children carrying their handmade faceless Amish dolls, with the names of their parents and grandparents. You’ll meet women baking loaves of delicious fresh bread for their vintage-style rustic bread boxes, with the names of their mothers or grandmothers.
Out in the fields, Amish men will be working the land to grow vegetables to fill their garden harvest baskets. Several of them will have identical names and some very funny nicknames. But don’t feel ashamed that you find some of their names funny.
The Amish are not only aware that this amuses outsiders, but they’re also quite happy about it. This topic has even been immortalized in a popular folk song.
This song was penned by a non-Amish country singer, John Schmid, who has close ties to the Amish community. He sings it in fluent Pennsylvania Dutch, much to the amazement and delight of all Amish who have heard it.
Names, we all have them, it’s just part of human life, isn’t it? And yet, even this ordinary aspect of human existence can provide us with a chance to laugh, and an opportunity to learn. The Amish names may seem unfamiliar, and even a bit funny, but they are a wonderful example of their rich culture and history.
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