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I know this is a stretch, but my father grew up Amish in mid-northeastern Ohio, and he tried to repeat a phrase to me that he said he couldn't quite translate to English, as we were comparing words and phrases from the little I know in German to what he knows in Amish German. Much of what he speaks can be related to German, though the pronunciations and spellings have obviously deviated over the generations.

I'm wondering whether anyone can offer up any similar phrases in German, given my very poor transcription of my father's words, plus his loose English translation.

He says it something like "hinner (hinter maybe?) vella oof." He grew up speaking this dialect, but not writing it, so he can't spell it.

He says the idea is something like full throttle, pedal to metal, balls to the wall, just do it, etc.

He thinks literally it might mean something like "ass against open" or "back against open".

I'd love to know any German phrases that capture this idea.

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    Hintern voll auf comes to mind, but it's nowhere near a common phrase. – Janka Jul 26 at 2:10
  • @Janka That seems like it could be close. He said his father said it a lot, so 70s - 80s maybe. – Travis Troyer Jul 26 at 2:45
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    Maybe vella is more like the German wollen (third pers. pl.). That (as an alternative to wellet) would be the contemporary Swabian pronunciation, and Amish people »came from various parts of the southwest corner of the German-speaking region of Europe«. It would make more sense as the jump from (English) v to (German) v [f] is far-fetched. – Philipp Jul 26 at 6:35
  • Quite a stretch, but might be somewhat connected (e. g. a non-flattering way to describe someone who applies full throttle etc.): den Arsch offen haben – The Awful Language Jul 26 at 6:59
  • @Janka: Kennst Du das denn überhaupt als Phrase, oder sind das 3 Wörter, die Du da assoziierst? Könnte es genauso gut "Hinterwäldler, auf!" sein? – user unknown Jul 27 at 16:42
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Given your transcription ([hinner vella oof]), it’s hard to pinpoint the exact wording. It would probably help someone who is good with dialects and the history of the German language (which I’m not) to know where your dad’s family is from.

Janka suggests Hintern voll auf (buttocks full up), but firstly, that’s not a phrase I’ve ever heard and secondly, I assume the [v] in [vella] is pronounced as in van, whereas the [v] in voll is pronounced as in fun. The first objection I’d be willing to dismiss, because that’s 300 years of language evolution we’re talking about, but the second still holds, I believe.

Maybe [vella] is more like the German word wollen (to want sth.) and would be the contemporary Swabian pronunciation, and Amish people »came from various parts of the southwest corner of the German-speaking region of Europe«, including Swabia. It does not really match the modern Palatine pronunciation though, and Palatine seems to be the main source of the contemporary Amish language (Pennsylvania Dutch). Also, the language has changed a lot over time: »When individuals from the Palatinate (Pfalz) region of Germany encounter Pennsylvania German speakers today, conversation is often possible to a limited degree.« So it’s nothing I’d wager my lunch on.

That being said, there is a modern German phrase that uses the same idea, namely the butt and the direction of up, but it does not sound close to the pronunciation you provide:

Hoch mit dem Hintern! / Hintern hoch! ([Get your] Butt up!)

It means someone should overcome laziness or an initial hesitation when they should do something unpleasant, often (but not always) connected to physical activity (because one has to move their butt to do it). A few examples:

Hintern hoch, runter vom Sofa, wir gehen jetzt joggen! (Get your butt of the couch, we’re going for a run!)

Or:

Du musst die Hausaufgaben sowieso heute machen, also Hintern hoch! Dann hast du’s hinter dir. (You have to do your homework anyway, so move your butt and do it now.)

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    From the OP's description ("He says the idea is something like full throttle, pedal to metal, balls to the wall, just do it, etc.") it seems to be the opposite of Hoch mit dem Hintern and rather describe someone mit Feuer im Hintern. – The Awful Language Jul 26 at 7:26
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    @TheAwfulLanguage The way I understand the examples is that the phrase should motivate someone to do something with vigour, not that it describes someone’s behaviour in general (like er hat Feuer im Hintern would). The definitions of the pedal to the metal and balls to the wall seem to support that. More in the sense of Mach hinne! – Philipp Jul 26 at 7:43
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    It's unclear in the question, but there's still a wide gap between making someone overcome inertia and going to the maximum (from your link to the definition of "balls to the wall": "With maximum effort, energy, or speed, and without caution or restraint."). If you tell someone Mach hinne, do you want them to accelerate to 200 km/h in a verkehrsberuhigten Zone? – The Awful Language Jul 26 at 7:49
  • @TheAwfulLanguage it would be good to get feedback from the OP – Philipp Jul 26 at 8:07
  • I understood it to be more like a description of going with maximum effort, but said as to suggest that maybe you're not quite there yet, but you could and should be. So less about getting off your butt, and more about overcoming restraint. I'll try to get more out of my father, maybe by having him use the individual words in other phrases. Plenty of great information regardless! – Travis Troyer Jul 26 at 23:25

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