A Manitoban Goat and a Low-Grade Insult in the Language of My People

I met this goat in Manitoba at a farm/open air restaurant/petting zoo.

I come from Mennonites, and I grew up hearing Plautdietsch — it is Mennonite Low German, an East Low German dialect with Dutch influence that developed in the 16th and 17th centuries — but I never learned to speak it. I wish I had learned it, because I've been told it's a very funny language, and I never understood most of the laughter when my older relatives were talking.

Three Old Colony Mennonite women at this farm started talking out loud about me in something very low-german-y. They must have assumed I wouldn't understand, because I look nothing like your usual Low German speaker. To my complete surprise, it turns out that I must have picked up some of the language subconsciously during all those family gatherings, because I had a brief flash of buried knowledge just long enough to understand that I was being mocked in the language of my people:

"What is she doing with that?" one said while pointing at my phone. (This is, of course, only a rough translation.)

"She's probably taking pictures of everything," another said, making a small arc around her with her hand, and they all laughed. I guess tourists are hilarious.

I wish I'd had a good Plautdietsch comeback for them, because the look of shock and shame-death on their faces would have been priceless.

Of course, I was taking photos of everything, because capturing images puts me in a position to pause and look, really look, at where I am and how it feels to be there. Anxiety can spin me up until I feel like I'm not actually touching anything, and the focus of photography brings me back into connection with physical space.

That little black goat, though, was a saving delight. She had these quick little nibbly lips that tried to suck up my fingertips, and she had the good sense to snub the gossipy Menno ladies when they tried to touch her. Instead, she skipped across the pen to me so I could get a better shot of her flippy ears, which is just what I needed after the only Low German I'd ever properly understood turned out to be a low grade insult.

When the bitches are out, we decent beasts have to stick together.