Amish Intelligence

No, this column has nothing to do with Steven Spielberg’s fascinating movie, A.I., which stands for "Artificial Intelligence." For me, A.I. is for "Amish Intelligence." To be precise, I’m talking about your Amish I.Q.

When most of us visit a foreign country, we go with many stereotypes and misconceptions. In many ways, coming to Amish country is not unlike a visit to another world. For years, the local Convention and Visitors Bureau encouraged people to "visit another country – Pennsylvania Dutch Country." Many visitors come with preconceived ideas about the Amish. Some of these may be true, such as the Amish driving a horse and buggy, or married men having beards. But others prove to be incorrect, such as Amish parents arranging marriages, or all teenage boys having "courting buggies."

We pick up our misinformation from various sources, particularly newspapers, TV, the Internet, and movies. (See our series on "The Amish in the Media.") A columnist for the New York Post recently wrote that "everything I know about the Amish I learned from the old Harrison Ford movie, Witness." This is a disturbing, but honest confession. Perhaps it is even true for you!

Following are a few questions to test your Lancaster County Amish I.Q.

True or false?

1. Amish don’t use mirrors.
2. Amish dolls never have faces.
3. Amish men wear straw hats in summer and black felt in winter.
4. Amish men can’t wear buttons.
5. The Amish live the same way now as they did 100 years ago.
6. Amish are not allowed to ride in cars.
7. Amish like to decorate their barns with hex signs.
8. Most of the Amish are farmers.
9. The Amish cannot have telephones.
10. The Amish population is decreasing.

1. Amish have mirrors in the house and, of course, on their carriages.
2. While in the past dolls often didn’t have faces, today many Amish buy commercial dolls and dress them in Amish clothing.
3. There is no "rule" about when to wear a particular hat. One older Amishman lamented to me, "Why, some men even wear straw hats to funerals nowadays!"
4. The formal dress coat and vest have hooks and eyes, but work coats, shirts, sweaters, and pants have buttons.
5. The Amish continue to change and most here have bottled gas stoves and refrigerators. Many Amish enterprises have machinery operated by diesel engines, compressed air, and hydraulics. Car batteries are used for lights on the carriages.
6. Although Amish church members do not own or drive cars, they are allowed to ride in cars, buses, and trains, especially for long distance trips.
7. Traditionally, the Amish have not used hex signs or barn decorations.
8. By now, less than half of Lancaster’s Amish are farmers, largely due to the increasing population and the scarcity and high price of remaining farmland.
9. The Amish may use phones, but they are usually outside the house and often shared by two or more families. The use of cell phones has become more common.
10. With large families and most young people joining the faith, the population here doubles about every 23 years. There are more Amish now than at any time in history.

If you said all the answers are false, you have a high Amish I.Q. Congratulations!

Amish Country News Publisher's Message by Brad Igou (2001)


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