The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

January 17, 2014

Outen no turnoff

Part 1

By Cindy Herman
For The Daily Item

— PEOPLE MAKE FUN OF THE PENNSYLVANIA DUTCH FOR SAYING “OUTEN THE LIGHTS,” BUT I CAN’T UNDERSTAND WHY. JUST TAKE A LOOK AT ALL THE PERFECTLY REASONABLE -EN THINGS YOU CAN DO.

You can fasten your seat belt and lighten the load, soften the blow and moisten your lips, dampen someone’s spirits, and frighten them off. You can even darken their doorstep … Why, then, can’t you outen the lights? It just doesn’t make any sense. I can, however, understand the commotion over “for the half.”

“For the half” is a sort of phrase that flies in the face of logic because “half” is a very specific word that requires a “whole” to be understood, as in, “You may have half of my apple dumpling.” Slice that dumpling into two equal pieces, and you have a half.

Or even, “I’ll go halfers with you on the cost of a hot pretzel.” Find the total cost of the pretzel, pay half of it, and you’ve got yourself a deal. You can’t get more specific than “half.” But somehow the Pennsylvania Dutch have found a way to blur the specific.