Amish terminology is surprisingly prevalent in modern American English. While it may not be as widespread as Spanglish or other hybrid languages, Pennsylvania Dutch — or “Dietsch” — gives English many words that it wouldn’t have otherwise.
One of these is the word “rutsch,” often said as “rutsching” and pronounced like the word “hutch.”
In the simplest terms, “rutsching” means “squirming.” For example, if someone is re-situating in a seat or having a hard time getting settled, they’re “rutsching” in their chair. If someone is lying in bed and can’t get comfortable, they’re “rutsching” in bed.
While there’s not an exact translation for “rutch” in English, it’s straightforward enough that non-Dietsch speakers can easily understand what it means.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg. How is “rutch” pronounced, and where did it originate in the first place?
In this blog, we’ll answer both of those questions.
How Is “Rutsch” Pronounced?
“Rutsch” is pronounced like “ruh-tsch.” It rhymes with “hutch.” You may also hear it spoken with a long U sound where it rhymes with “hooch,” but this is a less common pronunciation.
“Rutsch” is pronounced this way because, as we established up top, it comes from Pennsylvania Dutch.
This brings us to the origins of the word “rutsch.”
Where Did “Rutsch” Originate?
Ironically, Pennsylvania Dutch is derived from German — not Dutch. This is why you may hear Amish or Mennonites calling it “Dietsch.”
“Dietsch” itself is a bastardization of the word “Deutsch,” which means “German” in German.
Knowing this, the pronunciation of “rutch” becomes a little easier to understand. German is full of hard consonants, short vowel sounds, and otherwise harsh-sounding phonemes, especially when compared to romance languages like Spanish or French.
But German is not only a language — it’s also the parent of a language family. So you have romance languages, and you also have Germanic languages.
The Germanic language family includes German, English, Dutch, Yiddish, Afrikaans, and — of course — Pennsylvania Dutch.
Pennsylvania Dutch became a distinct dialect sometime around the 18th Century when German immigrants planted their roots in Pennsylvania. Some of these immigrants included Amish and Mennonites coming from the Alsace region at the French-German border.
(Funnily enough, Mennonites are older than the Amish too.)
As the immigrants settled in North America, they had children. Those children began meeting the children of other immigrants, speaking together, and generating new hybrid languages in which they borrow from one another’s speech.
This process happens naturally whenever a new generation is born into a culture into which parents immigrated. It’s how we got Spanglish and other linguistic hybrids, among more minor details.
The clash of English and antiquated German created what we know as Pennsylvania Dutch or “Dietsch” to the people who actually speak it.
The language has kept the characteristic guttural sounds associated with German, but it’s also taken on a number of English words that are now shared between the two languages to mean the same thing. Linguistically, these are called cognates. They happen so frequently in Pennsylvania Dutch because English is itself a Germanic language, so the words in each language are already related.
This clash of languages has also led to a number of fun sayings that you can hear in Pennsylvania Dutch and practically nowhere else. In their English forms, these sayings are grammatically incorrect and may not even make sense.
In Pennsylvania Dutch, they’re just practical.
For example, the phrase “Mach’s Licht aus” contextually means “Turn off the light.”
Literally translated, it means “Make the light off.” You could also hear someone say “Outen the light,” which includes an entirely new conjugation of the preposition “out” and makes it a verb.
You could also hear the phrase “Es wunnert mich.” This contextually means “It makes me wonder.”
Directly translated, it means “It wonders me.”
You can also hear phrasing like “hurrieder” to mean “faster,” “dippy ecks” to mean “eggs over easy,” and “make wet” as a question meaning “is it going to rain?”
Of course, you’ll also hear the Pennsylvania Dutch staple words “rutsch,” “all,” “once,” and “yet.”
So with all of this discussed, we have one final question to ask — how do you use the word “rutsch” in conversation?
How Do You Use the Word “Rutsch” in Conversation?
Generally speaking, “rutsch” means “to squirm.” But it doesn’t apply to, say, a worm flailing on a sidewalk after it rains.
Instead, it’s about someone (or sometimes an animal) who can’t get situated somewhere.
So if you see a baby trying to twist out of their parents’ arms, you could say that baby is rutsching.
If your friend can’t get comfortable in a movie theater seat, you can tell them to “stop rutsching around.”
Even if your dog keeps getting up to find a new way to get comfortable on its bed, you can say they’re rutsching and trying to get comfortable.
Fair warning — unless you have friends who know Pennsylvania Dutch or understand the word “rutsch,” you may get a few blank stares.
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