Many German-speakers in Wisconsin spoke two (or more) varieties of the language, their ancestral dialect (usually a form of Low German) and Wisconsin High German, which was used in schools, the press, and churches. This speaker discusses learning High German from his parents and an Eastphalian (West Low German) dialect from his peers. In many localities, multiple dialects were spoken. In this speaker’s area, for example, there were also speakers of an East Low German dialect, Pomeranian. It was typical in Wisconsin for German dialects to remain distinct from one another since marriage across cultural lines was not common.
Dialect: Ostfälisch, Wisconsin German Dialects
Location: Sauk, Wisconsin
Yes, you see, my father and mother always taught me High German. Low German I learned from the neighbors. There were two kinds of Low German here, there were Hannoveraner [Ostfälisch speakers] and the other group, from North Freedom, those were the Pomeranians. And of course, I learned from them both, I can speak High German, Low German [Ostfälisch], and Pommersch. There’s no difference, I can speak Pommersch and also Low German. I remember, when the first cars came around here, there were two old boys sitting in church, they were Pomeranians, and the old Pomeranians, they said, “Those old cars, they’re pitiful things.” They said, “One should just shoot the whole lot of them with revolvers.” I’ll never forget that, “Shoot the whole lot of them with revolvers.”