Oderbrüchisch Low German Children’s Tale, Anna Seifert, 1940s

This is an excerpt from an interview that Lester W. J. “Smoky” Seifert (1915–1996) made in the late 1940s with his mother, Anna (Jagow) Seifert (1876–1958). Anna recites a version of the German children’s story “Widewidewenne,” which is an example of a cumulative tale, similar to “The House That Jack Built” or Dr. Seuss’s “Green Eggs and Ham.” “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” is a cumulative song.

The version of “Widewidewenne” recited by Anna Seifert in Oderbrüchisch tells the story of a farmer acquiring five animals (a rooster, a goat, a cow, a horse, and a dog) and two people (a hired man and a wife). Each animal and person has a name that rhymes with the Low German words for them, following the pattern “[name] heet mien [animal/person]”. “Heet” is the Oderbrüchisch word for ‘is called’; “mien” means ‘my’. Some of the names have specific meanings, which are given below with their standard German equivalents.

At one point during Anna’s recitation a dog can be heard barking in the background. When she is finished, one can hear Lester and Anna chuckling.

Dialect: Oderbrüchisch, Wisconsin German Dialects

Location: Dodge, Wisconsin

Kunkeldaan heet mien Hahn (rooster) [“Kunkel” ‘distaff’, i.e., a stick or spindle onto which wool or flax is wound for spinning]

Trippetraas heet mien Gaas (goat) [the sound of goats walking, cf. English “trip, trap, trip, trap” in “The Three Billy Goats Gruff”]

Af un Tau heet mien Kauh (cow) [“ab und zu” ‘now and then’]

Ehrewert heet mien Peerd (horse) [“ehrenwert” ‘honorable’]

Kunterbunt heet mien Hund (dog) [“kunterbunt” ‘multicolored, motley’]

Ehrerecht heet mien Knecht (hired man) [“Ehrenrecht” lit. ‘right of honor’; in the 19th century it denoted a special social privilege, which in the context of the usage here is ironic, since a Knecht was of modest social status]

Tiidverdriif heet mien Wiif (wife) [“Zeitvertreib” ‘pastime, amusement’]