By Cindy O. Herman
For The Daily Item
“Fer” is another word that, to the best of my knowledge, is not widely used throughout the United States. In Central Pennsylvania, however, it is common. Thus, if an unusual car drives by, a Pennsylvania Dutch man might exclaim, “What fer kind of car is that?” The “fer” holds little grammatical value, and would be tough to place if diagramming a sentence. But there are those among us who would have trouble speaking without it.
Not to say that the Pennsylvania Dutch speakers have a monopoly on unusual words. In Shamokin, hecks is an acceptable word, often pronounced with a little bit of an “A” sound, coming out more like haicks. Thus, that same unusual car in Shamokin might provoke an exclamation of, “What the haicks is that?” Neither expression makes much sense, but both are perfectly understood
in their own circles. In fact, it would be interesting to put a Dutchman in Shamokin and have him politely ask, “What fer cows d’you raise here?” To which the Shamokin man would reply, “What the haicks are fur cows?” Which would make the astonished Dutchman exclaim, “What fer fur cows are you talking about?” It could end with both men learning a little something about each other’s culture. And then again, if things got out of control, it could really make.
And we’re not talking about a little rainstorm.