and Sam Bip
are all names of Amish men my family knows. Then there’s Peanut, Git’s Omar, Push Johnny, Porky, Piddley, Spider, and Pumpkin.
My Great-Grandmother Stoltzfus’s family was known as “The Sandy’s”, My mother believes the name came from the color of her father’s hair. And my mother’s Uncle “Johnny Esh” got the nickname Johnny Cash (yes, after the singer).
I’ve always been fascinated by the nicknames used in Amish circles. Because there are so many people with the same first names (such as John, Daniel, Jacob and David) and last names (such as Stoltzfus, Beiler, Glick and Zook) throughout Amish Communities, they’ve come up with some clever ways of telling them apart.
Of course there’s the obvious first-name nickname. Take for example my brothers Jonas and Isaac who are named after our grandfathers Jonas Esh and Isaac Dienner, and could be called Joney & Ike.
And then there’s the identification of someone through their family. Because our father’s name is Jacob my brothers would be “Jake’s Jonas” and “Jake’s Isaac”. Or for example; Abraham Stoltzfus’s son David would be “Abe Stolzfus’s Davy”.
But then there’s my favorite – the random nicknames such as the list I shared above.
“Chicken Dan” was obviously a chicken farmer. I’m not sure how the other names on the list came about. My sister told me about a family she & her husband know. Their oldest son is short and people called him “PeeWee Dan”. He had four younger brothers who were not short, but the name PeeWee stuck. They were called PeeWee Dave, PeeWee Lloyd, PeeWee Steve, and PeeWee Allan.
Although these names are usually given to men, there are occasional nicknames for women too, such as “Loopy Linda”.
In closing, I’d like to share a bit from the great article AmishNews.com posted on this topic:
The most unusual nicknames often have the most fascinating stories. Here are a few, provided by a local Amishman…
“Buck Dave” and his sons got this name from the farm they bought, which had a forge formerly owned by someone named Buckley.
“Piggy Amos” got his name from his school days, when he pretended to be a pig during a recess game.
“Double Decker Ben” received his name because of the unique barn he owned.
The “Push Esh” family got its name when they rescued a horse that had gotten stuck in a snowbank.
A boy named Sam owned a car many years ago, when it was almost never tolerated for the young people. He and his friends tried to keep it a secret, and referred to the car as “the Chamba.” In time, he got the nickname of “Chamba Sam.”
I’m not sure there’s any particularly valuable lesson I learned from my Amish family when it comes to these names. But it makes me smile, and I feel it’s an important part of the Amish community and culture. Thanks for reading. I hope it made you smile too!
~ Justina Dee
Many thanks to Lancaster County street photographer Julie Lea Waldron for the great photos! If you enjoyed this post, I’m sure you’ll love reading “The Mennonite Game”!
John Schmid’s Amish Nicknames: