Years ago, Amish people named their babies John and Daniel and Samuel and Susie and Mary and Sadie and Lydia. Often babies were named after a grandfather or grandmother or aunt or uncle. As a result, many Amish people have the same names. To help differentiate among John Stoltzfus in New Holland, John Stoltzfus in Leola, and John Stoltzfus in Bird in Hand, people use nick names.

When one guy crawled up on a roof, someone took away his ladder as a joke. Later someone saw him on the ground and asked him how he got there. “I chumped down,” he said. After that, he was called “Chumba.”

A guy kept talking about a movie that had a brown cow in it. He talked about it so much that people started calling him “Brown Cow.” Chippy was named after someone caught him curled up sleeping like a chipmunk. One man never had enough money, but after he sold a lot of pigs and finally had money, people called him Piggie. Zip bought a zipper jacket when he was a teenager. Likely he wasn’t supposed to have one!

A little baby was doing poorly on his mother’s milk. Desperate to help the sickly baby, the mother made banana milk for her child. He started thriving and became healthy and chubby. “Little pudding,” his father called him. Ever after that, his name was “Pud.” 

My Grandpa’s name was Paul. His boys were called Paul’s Jake, Paul’s Omar, and Paul’s Dan. To make it easier to say, they were known as PJ, PO, and PD. Fortunately Amish people don’t name their boys Ulysses, because he would have fared very badly in this family!

Unique physical features can result in nick names. My aunt’s dad was called Pumpkin because of his distinctively round pumpkin-like head. Short is a short man. Slim was very tall and thin.

 

Elmer was a cook out west. A Chinese who couldn’t speak English well called him “Cookee, Cookee.” His boys today are still called Cookee Alvin and Cookee Elmer and Cookee Jess and Cookee Elam. Collectively they are called the “Cookee Boys.” This story surprised me since I knew the Cookie family all my life, and I always assumed their name had something to do with cookies.

Hansie’s real name was John, but since “Hans” is the German name for John, he was called “Hansie.”

Often a man’s occupation names him. My dad was Butcher Dan. Chicken John was a chicken farmer. Schriner Christ was a carpenter (Schriner is Pennsylvania German for carpenter). Poochy Botchy’s Peanut Davy sold peanuts. I wonder where the first part of his name came from. Don’t assume that a name necessarily indicates profession; Preach was not a preacher!

Even though Johnny Fisher was Amish, he drove a sprayer truck for a spraying business. The truck had an open windshield and no top and apparently was not prohibited. At any rate, Johnny got away with driving it. He had a reputation for driving fast, and this earned him the name of Johnny Hammerdown. 

Perhaps Nick especially deserved his name. He was called Nick because he gave so many other people their nick names!

For some reason few Amish women have nick names. Becky Beiler was one exception. She had the misfortune of getting stuck in a bathroom. She banged on the door till someone heard her, and was ever after called Bang Bang Becky Beiler.

Other Amish nick names include Quaker, Shooter, Swifty Dave, Wolfer, Slider, Weasel, Frecks, Squirrley, Kicky, Pickle, Humpy, Termite, Dutch, Block, Pee-Wee, Hector, Whitey, Nute, Antique John, and Bootsie. If anybody knows any stories behind any Amish nick names, I would love to hear about them so that I can write about more of them in a further post. Email any stories to questions@speakingamish.com