Deep in south Poland is a town called Wilamowice. Like many towns in Poland, it has a German name as well, in this case Wilmesau. But this town has a third name, Wymysau, in a dialect of German spoken only there, Wymysojer. So obscure is this dialect (even Ethnologue ignores it) that Avva suspected that the Wikipedia article about it might be a clever fiction, along with Florian Biesik, who was said to have written poetry in it in the 19th century. But no, apparently it’s genuine; there are at least two scholarly articles and a book about it. So I guess we can accept this lullaby (from the Wikipedia article) as genuine as well:

Śtöf duy buwła fest!
Skumma frmdy gest,
Skumma muma ana fettyn,
Z’ brennia nysła ana epułn,
Śtöf duy Jasiu fest!
Sleep, my boy, soundly!
Foreign guests are coming,
Aunts and uncles are coming,
Bringing nuts and apples,
Sleep Johnny sound!

My only remaining question is whether there’s any relation between this town and the great scholar Enno Friedrich Wichard Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, editor of Philologische Untersuchungen for 45 years, author of a famous attack on Nietzsche as well as many critical works on Greek history and literature, and creator of the immortal epigram (on hack philologists) “Einmal heisst keinmal und zweimal heisst immer.” [‘Once means never and twice means always’—in other words, if a form occurs once, they ignore it; if it occurs twice, they assume it’s regular.]


  1. I have to admit that the supposed “third name” in the obscure dialect sounds pretty similar to how quite a few German speakers would pronounce Wilmesau, especially if they were speaking quickly. The “il” gets turned into a “y” sound (sorry, not really familiar with the IPA) in a lot of German dialects, a common example being “willst” becoming “wyst”.
    But I don’t think that’s the point of your post at all.

  2. Well, take a look at the words in the list at the Wikipedia article and see if they look like normal German to you.

  3. I knew I should have added a smiley at the end, but I try to limit my use of emoticons. I did find the linked Wikipedia article interesting and, not knowing Polish, the word list looks like examples from a dialect of German written using Polish orthography (or my idea of Polish orthography). The unfamiliar words, though, are intriguing and “uöbroz” is delightfully baffling. Is that from Polish?
    My original comment had more to do with the specific “third name” as opposed to the dialect.
    But I do love dialects, especially in English and German (the two languages I have a high degree of fluency in). Speaking of German dialects, are you aware of the Asterix Mundart (the page focuses on Austrian dialects, but the series has other dialects in it) series in German? I have always treasured my copy of Asterix auf Wienerisch: Da große Grobn, despite the complaints of a Viennese friend, who found its dialect an artificial composite and even a caricature of the divers Viennese dialects. I suspect there is some truth in the matter, but I can only note that it is an Asterix comic (where everything is a caricature) and that a reaction such as that of my Viennese friend is to be expected from natives the world over encountering a portrayal of that nativeness (to emphasize the critic’s nativeness).
    Perhaps some gainful employment could be found for one (or more) of those 100 native speakers of Wymysojer in translating an Asterix comic to Wymysojer. Perhaps we can look forward to Östyryks öif Wymysojer: Dyr grosse gröbn or whatever it would really be called.
    And finally, on an Anglo-Saxon note, “a mikieła” struck me as interesting because of its relationship to Old English “micel”. Considering “micel” means “large” or “much”, it seems an interesting journey for the cognate to become part of a phrase meaning “a bit”. Also, I am tempted to edit this article considering it refers to the languages of “Old English” and “Anglo-Saxon” in such a manner that they might be viewed as separate languages.

  4. And I have just noticed that my comment about the strangeness of the “micel” cognate ending up in that phrase has already been brought up in the discussion section of that Wikipedia article.

  5. Śtöf duy buwła fest!
    Skumma frmdy gest,
    Skumma muma ana fettyn,
    Z’ brennia nysła ana epułn,
    Śtöf duy Jasiu fest!
    That Stöf should be Slöf. Dialects are often written in strange ways. This has presumably been written by a Polish speaker. There’s nothing unusual here.
    Schlaf der Bua (Bub) fest
    Es kommen fremde Gäst(e)
    Sie bringen Nüss(el)e und Äppel (Äpfel)
    Schlaf der Jasiu fest.

  6. Michael Farris says

    “Stöf should be Slöf.”
    Well, the historic Polish “hard” l (though now it’s [w]) is written ł, so maybe somebody confused a handwritten ł with a t ???

  7. That seems likely.
    I can’t believe this is other than a dialect. I traced the place – just SW of Oswiecim (excuse no diacritics) and Cracow – in a 1941 German atlas, where there is no Poland, it is called Wilamowice. I’m trying to pin it to the other German dialects on a map. Incidentally, I’ve heard quite a bit of Transylvanian and they came from Luxembourg and the Rhineland, as far as I remember. I see that mickel (sp?) is listed, which I know as Scottish.
    I forgot Skumma muma ana fettyn, translated elsewhere as aunts and uncles – I know Mumme, and fettyn sounds more like cousins, Vetter – so maybe just female and male cousins.
    Here’s something referring to the Wilamowice ‘Flemings’ http://www.kuwi.euv-frankfurt-o.de/~sw1www/publikation/sprmin.htm
    Als andere Minderheiten (mit einem unklaren ethnosprachlichen Status) werden Kaschuben, Lemken (oder Ruthenen) und die Wilamowicer sogenannten „Flamen“ bezeichnet.
    Another thing: there is a Deutscher Sprachatlas of all dialects which I remember being mentioned in hushed tones when I was at university in the sixties. I find German in Wilamowice listed in a document summarizing that:
    It is definitely always linked to the one town, but I can’t see evidence of its being a language as opposed to a dialect.
    And I remember the Dt. Sprachatlas website has a digital version of an earlier work.
    http://www.diwa.info/ – But I haven’t got very far with that.

  8. Michael Farris says

    Yeah, judging by an article from a Polish magazine a year or so ago this seems like a not-so-divergent German dialect with a heavily Polish-influenced orthography that makes it seem more unique than it is.

  9. There seems no doubt the place exists and maybe has an interesting dialect, but the Wikipedia article contains quite some nonsence. Take for example: “The inhabitants of Wilamowice are thought to be descendants of Dutch, German and Scottish settlers who arrived in Poland in the 13th century. The inhabitants of Wilamowice always strongly refused any connections with Germany and proclaimed their Dutch origins.” The fact is, in the 13th century, there was no Dutch nation, and neither was there a German nation. The Netherlands were formed in the 16th century, and Germany as we no it didn’t exist until a good few centuries later. Also, Dutch ‘volgen’ has no ordinary use ‘to understand’ or to ‘hear’, and I doubt whether anyone in the 13th century had ever seen an ‘olifant’ in this part of Europe…

  10. So correct it. That’s what Wikipedia is all about — mistakes are supposed to be corrected by anyone who notices them. Just try to write your correction in as objective a way as possible.

  11. Sorry to come down on this so hard! I don’t have the knowledge to replace it in Wikipedia by a good text. I do think it’s a dialect with some peculiarities, but I think it’s of most interest to the locals to exaggerate them somewhat. I see in the list tove must be ‘love’.
    I found a book with dialect maps here at last, but it doesn’t have much to locate this dialect. In the movement eastward and southward of German, there was some leapfrogging – for instance, German in South Tyrol was separated by some Italian-speaking bits from the rest of the German-speaking area. Poland is shown as full of German language islands. Probably this dialect was a form of Silesian, but that doesn’t help much. Most of the eastern German regions had versions of Hessisch or Mittelfränkisch or Schlesisch, but some had Niederdeutsch, i.e. Low German, and I wonder if this might be what is meant by ‘Dutch’. The two dialects closest to Wilamovice are Schlesisch and Neiderländisch. The latter is a form of Low German and might be the main dialect group it belongs to.

  12. Interesting story! I have little doubt that there’s really an interesting dialect in this town, as it is also mentioned in an official document of the European Union:
    The entry for Poland in this document was written by Tomasz Wicherkiewicz, who also wrote the book and one of the scholarly articles. He gave a lecture at Groningen University in 2000. Here’s an abstract in Dutch:
    There he writes that the dialect is “an archiac form of Silezian-German, directly originating from Middle High-German.” Apparently, the people from Wilamowice only thought that they are descendent from Flemish settlers, but it’s not clear from linguistic point of view.
    However, the Belgian site of the Polish embassy writes that Wilamowice was founded by a Flemish settler, called Willem.
    A journalist of the Dutch newspaper “Reformatorisch Dagblad” writes about the town in his report on a visit to Poland. He’s welcomed by a choir singing an unintelliguble song in Wilamowicean. The major tells in the cultural house (which is decorated by the Dutch flag) that Wilamowice was founded by Flemish weavers and that Wilamowicean is a form of Old-Flemish. During WWII the Germans forced upon the inhabits to acknowledge their German roots. Later the journalist notes that a woman starts singing a song “sounding more German than Dutch.”
    But why do they show the Dutch flag, if they consider themselves as descendants from Flemish?

  13. Peter Dirix says

    Maybe because Flemish was the general adjective for the Low Countries in the Middle Ages?

  14. Was it? I think it referred to the county Flandres. This seems more likely, as their supposed ancestors were weavers and current Belgium was always more famous for this art than Holland.

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