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Die Kuh ist über die Fence gejumpt.
March 2, 2014 3:59 PM   Subscribe

Sure, it's unfortunate that the Philadelphia accent is fading away a bit, but on the other hand, have you ever even heard of the Texas German accent?
posted by DoctorFedora (43 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
I've been to Fredericksburg TX several times so yeah, I know the Texas-German accent.
posted by xmutex at 4:11 PM on March 2


A friend of mine worked on his post-grad studying/documenting Texas German. He went out into these small towns in the hill country and interviewed native Texans for whom Texas German is their first language. I asked him what it sounded like, and he said "Well, like German, but with the thickest Texan accent you've ever heard."

When promted for an examplesof differences of German and Texas German words, he told me about the term for skunk translated different in Texas German. In German it's "pole cat" or "stink cat" (I don't remember which), and in Texas German it's the other way around.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 4:14 PM on March 2 [4 favorites]


I'm from Austin and have spent plenty of time in New Braunfels and Fredericksburg. So I'm very aware of the German connection to the area. But I didn't realize there was a specific Texas German accent, so this is pretty interesting.

Also, the bit about the way Texas German sounds different from High German definitely explains stuff like why Koenig Road in Austin is pronounced "Kay-nig" and not "Koh-nig" or the more German "König."

Thanks for posting!
posted by chasing at 4:16 PM on March 2 [2 favorites]


I found out about Fredericksburg when I was driving to Austin on my move here. I was bopping down this little state highway and all of a sudden fucking Austrian ski chalets and buildings that looked like they were air-dropped from quaint Alpine villages appeared. I thought I was hallucinating or something. Fun little town, if very touristy.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 4:21 PM on March 2 [3 favorites]


There's a ton of German influence of American (US, that is) culture, way more than most people realize or acknowledge. It's just that two two wars made German-speaking pretty unpopular for a long time and unlike smaller cultural groups, the germans, like the English were pretty assimilationist. But there are pockets of German-ness all over the US. The quasi-Bavarian-ness of Frankenmuth MI never ceases to amuse me.
posted by GuyZero at 4:22 PM on March 2 [7 favorites]


(But which Martin or Jovian dialect of who knows what explains Manchaca pronounced like Manshack???)
posted by kmz at 4:24 PM on March 2 [5 favorites]


The Germans in Texas are also why accordions are so commonplace in tejano and norteno music.
posted by 445supermag at 4:30 PM on March 2 [18 favorites]


the volume on the BBC's video player goes to 11
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 4:31 PM on March 2 [4 favorites]


There's a ton of German influence of American (US, that is) culture, way more than most people realize or acknowledge.

Ben Franklin warned us this would happen.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 5:18 PM on March 2


See also the Adelsverein, a serious 1840s effort to establish a German colony in Texas. That's a generation before Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico, the former Archduke and Imperial Prince of Austria.

You can't have Texas barbeque without Texas Germans. It comes out of the German butchery and smoking tradition, albeit with a delicious shift from pork to beef. Kreuz Market is one of the finer BBQ joints with a visibly German name. I still can't get myself to pronounce it Texas-correctly as Krites.
posted by Nelson at 5:21 PM on March 2


Don't forget the legions of anabaptist based groups that speak in some sort of german-ish language across the US.
posted by Ferreous at 5:22 PM on March 2 [2 favorites]


I wonder why "die Fence" and not "der Fence"? I think "der Zaun" is the Hochdeutsch word, interesting it's a different gender. Then again the Texas Germans probably aren't thinking about the German word and have their own rules for gender for repurposed English words.
posted by Nelson at 5:25 PM on March 2


The Germans in the U.S. brought us cool traditions like fried brain sandwich. Also you might consider the chicken fried steak a special case of Wiener Schnitzel.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:25 PM on March 2 [2 favorites]


A lot of Texas culture comes from the fusion of German and Mexican culture (but watch out for mixed dancing -- Germans polka spins one way and Mexican polka spins the other). Chicken Fried steak is a German schnitzel dish as modified by a Mexican chef.

My ex-husband is from one of the founding families of New Braunfels, settled in the 1840's. Some of his contemporaries started school in 1959 speaking no English because their parents only spoke Tex-German at home. My understanding is that prior to WWII, if you spoke no German, you would have a hard time doing business in New Braunfels.
posted by pbrim at 5:30 PM on March 2 [9 favorites]


There are more people of German descent in North America than any other ethnicity. It's actually kind of remarkable that we don't all speak German.

BTW, if you've ever wondered where Lawrence Welk's unmistakably foreign accent is from, it's Strasburg -- Strasburg, North Dakota, that is.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:51 PM on March 2 [4 favorites]


It's actually kind of remarkable that we don't all speak German.
We do, but English has also absorbed a lot of French and bits and pieces of many other languages.
posted by b1tr0t at 5:59 PM on March 2


Wie gehts, amigo?
posted by TedW at 6:02 PM on March 2 [6 favorites]


There was a great Texas Monthly article about this recently. My mom still remembers going into gas stations in Fredericksburg as a kid in the sixites and hearing the old folks behind the counter talking to each other in German.
posted by theweasel at 6:33 PM on March 2 [2 favorites]


Chicken Fried steak is a German schnitzel dish as modified by a Mexican chef.

O.o

It makes perfect sense! I did not know that, and am much happier for knowing that piece of trivia.
posted by zabuni at 7:02 PM on March 2 [1 favorite]


I had a great-great, Theodore Douai (after which my Uncle Ted is named), run out of town on a rail for publishing abolitionist articles in a German-language San Antonio newspaper. And, indeed, the german-speaking Texans were generally Unionist, and on one occasion, to the last man.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:06 PM on March 2 [1 favorite]


My deceased aunt grew up in Muenster TX, where Catholic mass was said in German, pre-WWII, pre-Vatican II. It's a town that celebrates Germanfest in April to skip out on visiting drunks in October ;) (probably not the Chamber's official statement).
posted by childofTethys at 7:16 PM on March 2 [1 favorite]


Next stop, Germans of South America. Thanks for this.
posted by IndigoJones at 7:32 PM on March 2


I didn't know there was a Texas dialect of German, but I'm totally not surprised. I bet it also explains the weird pronunciation of Kuykendahl in Houston.
posted by immlass at 7:37 PM on March 2 [1 favorite]


Also, in my head-canon, Frederich Johann Duches (Fred J. Dukes) natters on with Erich Magnus in almost mutually incomprehensible german dialects when they get together.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:43 PM on March 2


Most of the use of cheese in Mexican cooking comes from Germans as well! Almost all of the Mexican cheeses in your local Hispanic grocery store have European counterparts.
posted by rossination at 8:03 PM on March 2


If you ever make it to New Braunfels you might consider staying at the Faust Hotel...
posted by jim in austin at 8:05 PM on March 2


All the vowels sound more like US English to me. Very interesting stuff.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:10 PM on March 2


Yes, it's German spoken by people who have never heard German before. :)
posted by GuyZero at 8:55 PM on March 2


Yes, it's German spoken by people who have never heard German before

Don't know exactly how serious you're being there, but kind of, yes! At least, the German spoken by people who immigrated before the standardization of the German and are modern nation state/Bismarck, what have you. It's as if a whole bunch of 12th century English speakers were stranded in Georgia for a few centuries, adapting their language as time passed, and ten we drove to their town to stay at a really nice bed and breakfast and do some antiquing.
posted by theweasel at 9:10 PM on March 2 [2 favorites]


I'm happy to read this. Dr. Boas, featured in the video, is continuing the work of Dr. Glenn Gilbert who I had the good fortune to study under.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_German

There are many pockets of German somewhat like what we see here in Texas. For my research I spoke with people in southern Illinois, for whom German was their first language. Mind you, their families immigrated 150 years ago! And not 20 minutes from St. Louis are people (mostly elderly in nursing homes) who did not speak English for the first time until they attended grade school. I suppose this isn't terribly remarkable in the big picture, but it's pretty mind-blowing when you discover these people living literally in your own neighborhood. It's so omnipresent that there are words peculiar to the area that locals swear are perfectly good English words… except that they're German! Or you get other weird things like a town of barely a thousand people… where there are three (!) accepted pronunciations of the town's name!
posted by readyfreddy at 9:22 PM on March 2 [5 favorites]


Also, the Wends of Texas. A particular and interesting little side-note to this whole topic.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:18 PM on March 2


> I didn't know there was a Texas dialect of German, but I'm totally not surprised. I bet it also explains the weird pronunciation of Kuykendahl in Houston.

The name Kuykendahl sounds like it could be Dutch in origin. Kuiken means chick. Dal means valley.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:05 AM on March 3


No, Kuykendahl is an old German family name. The roads and schools in that area (actually Spring, Texas) are all names of old German families who used to have small farms in the area. The Kuykendahls came to the area via a land grant in the early 1800s, as part of the Old Three Hundred. We pronounce it like this: Ker-ken-doll.

Kuykendahl runs through Klein ISD, named for the Klein family who moved here from Stuttgart. The Stracks came from Germany and opened a sawmill; schools, a restaurant, and their old family cemetery still bear their name. Stuebner-Airline is a road named after the Stuebner family, Bammel is a road and school named after the Bammels who used to run a general store here, Theiss is another road named after a German founding family.

Kids go to schools with names like Benfer, Ehrhardt, Haude, Kaiser, Schultz, Doerre, Klenk, Mittelstadt, Hildebrandt, Strack, etc., and probably none of those are pronounced the way you might think.

What's probably the oldest church in the area is a Lutheran one, established by German families in the 1870s.

Lyle Lovett's family is actually one of the old families in Spring, TX. His mother was a Klein.

The local German families settled in Spring and Tomball, and then further west, mostly in the mid-1800s. Texas was offering homesteading grants, and Germans were immigrating at that time.

This is the area I grew up in.
posted by Houstonian at 3:29 AM on March 3 [9 favorites]


It could still be both. The history of Germany is intermingled with that of the Netherlands, we even used to speak one and the same language long ago. I wouldn't find it odd to find names in one country that originated in the other.
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:53 AM on March 3


Chicken Fried steak is a German schnitzel dish as modified by a Mexican chef.

You can also count me as astounded and humbled to learn this factoid. I always lumped chicken-fried steak into the "soul food" category of southern cuisine, but the schnitzel connection makes so much sense. Next thing, I'll find out that Kraftwerk weren't actually an early Minneapolis funk band...
posted by Strange Interlude at 4:43 AM on March 3 [1 favorite]


The name Kuykendahl sounds like it could be Dutch in origin. Kuiken means chick. Dal means valley.

What are popularly deemed "languages" within the same families are really continuums of dialects. The Low German dialect (from which Texas German is apparently derived) is in some sense the intermediary between High German and Dutch, which is a closely related language to German. In fact, the term "Dutch" is a cognate of "Deutsch," which is the German word for the German language and people.

This is an oversimplification, but imagine "poles" of a theoretical pure High German starting in northeastern Germany and a theoretical pure Dutch in the Western Netherlands. In between are local dialects resembling the two languages based on the proximity to one of the poles. Modern communications have seriously eroded this, but that's how language families once organically dispersed-- "absolute" languages are more reference points than reality.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:50 AM on March 3


...explains stuff like why Koenig Road in Austin is pronounced "Kay-nig" and not "Koh-nig" or the more German "König."

And now I understand why Boehner pronounces his name 'Bay-ner' and not something more like 'Burner' (Also Matt 'Gray-ning').

I've noticed that there are a few people with my obscure German surname down in this part of Texas too (such as the Chevrolet dealer in a town called Eden). I wonder if they are long-lost kin? The story goes that my great-grandfather was one of three brothers in Schleswig-Holstein, who in the 1890s were about to be drafted into the Prussian army. Being cowards, obviously, all of them chose to emigrate (I imagine them simultaneously embarking on three ships at the Kiel harbour but it probably didn't happen quite like that). One went to Russia, one went to South Africa (my forebear) and one to America.
posted by Flashman at 5:51 AM on March 3


No, Kuykendahl is an old German family name.

I met my first Kuykendahl in Arkansas and immediately labeled it one of the top ten names you will never know how to spell by sound unless you simply know how to spell it. The fellow I met was in my class, so I heard him have to correct teacher after teacher on the first day.

I always find the German immigrant communities of the 1800s generally intriguing because while I have a significant German ancestry, there is virtually nothing but the name that lingers on culturally speaking. The reason being that my German ancestors arrived in the 1700s and assimilated into the English speaking world of the western mountains of Virginia. One fellow, a guy named Stigler, ran off from the British army (possibly a Hessian?) and his son changed the name to Stiltner. Thus, my interest in these immigrants who not only kept their names but also their language and culture.
posted by Atreides at 6:36 AM on March 3


The Texas Monthly article linked earlier mentions this, but what's happened with German Texans is also what's happened with Czech Texans. Germans and Czechs came to Texas at roughly the same time, and all settled in the same areas, and the Czechs like the Germans maintained their language and traditions, with it varying over time and now dying out.
posted by Houstonian at 6:49 AM on March 3


The Texas German Dialect Project
posted by mrbill at 7:47 AM on March 3 [1 favorite]


This morning I'm reminded of another delicious part of Texas German heritage, Shiner Bock beer, brewed by the Spoetzl brewery. Or maybe that's Czech? When I was growing up in Houston in the 80s, Shiner was the cheap shitty beer the high school kids drank. The Olympia of Texas, if you will. But the business got bought and rehabilitated in the 1990s and now it's a pretty popular, high quality craft beer. I like it because it's got more integrity and flavor than basic American shitty beers but it's not some overhopped monstrosity like most American fancy beers. It's the perfect thing to drink on a hot day with some sausages and cole slaw, before the dessert course of ambrosia.

(If you're in San Francisco, Baby Blues BBQ in Mission / La Lengua has Shiner on tap. Also decent brisket; it's no Black's, but there's proper smoke flavor and a nice set of sauces.)
posted by Nelson at 8:21 AM on March 3 [2 favorites]


The town of Comfort, Texas was founded by German Freethinkers.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:49 AM on March 3


When I was growing up in Houston in the 80s, Shiner was the cheap shitty beer the high school kids drank.

When I was in college in the late 80s, it was the shitty beer you got for $0.75 in a plastic cup at Valhalla (the grad student bar at Rice). These days apparently drinking it gets me the side-eye as a frat bro type!

Touring the Shiner brewery is on my bucket list.
posted by immlass at 11:26 AM on March 3 [1 favorite]


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