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Usu |ˈɛlbəˌdrɪč, ˈælbə-|Also sp elbedritsche, dimin elbedritschel; occas elfedritsch, -trich; elde(r)britsch; elpentrecher; albedritsch, -tritsch; albertwitsch; for addit varr see quot 1967–70[PaGer, from Ger Elbe(n)tritsch; see 1960 Hessische Blätter für Volkskunde 51/52 Textteil pp 170–217, esp 208–212; perh also infl by Scots eldritch weird, unnatural]southeastern Pennsylvania See Map
Cf snipe hunt
An imaginary creature which, as a practical joke, a greenhorn is sent to hunt or capture.
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- 1889 AN&Q 3.115/1 PA, Catching Elfetriches.—Among the “Pennsylvania Dutch” this expression would imply playing a trick upon a person, or making an April fool of him. The “elfetrich” is described as a small animal, like a rat or a squirrel, which can only be caught on a dark night, and in due time the hunter discovers that it is a humbug.
- 1935 AmSp 10.170 PA, Other German words used in English are . . elbedritsch, a mythological creature (to go elbedritsch hunting is equivalent to going snipe hunting in the Middle West—someone is left holding the bag).
- 1950 Klees PA Dutch 336, If a young man sufficiently guileless turns up, he’ll be set to catching an elbedritsche, a mythical animal now extinct. . . The difficulties of catching an elbedritsche are dwelt upon in loving detail. Almost grudgingly the old men consent to the young man joining the hunt. The greenhorn is given a bag in which to catch one and taken far off . . and stationed behind a rock or tree while the old men separate—or so he is given to understand—to drive the elbedritsches toward him. There he is left literally holding the bag.
- 1953 AmSp 28.245 sePA, To go elpentrecher hunting . . denotes waiting, burlap bag in hand, to snare the shy and elusive elpentrecher, as time-consuming an occupation as snipe hunting in other parts of the Union.
- 1959 Tallman Dict. Amer. Folkl. 105, Elbedritsche—A mythological animal that young men of the Pennsylvania Dutch use as a device for fooling naive or guileless visitors.
- 1967–70 DARE
- Qu. CC17, Imaginary animals or monsters that people around here tell tales about—especially to tease greenhorns
- Infs PA22, 29, 36, 45, 54, Albedritsches; PA36, They would give them a stick and light; when they [i.e., albedritsches] ran to this light, they were to hit them with a huge stick; PA11, Albertwitsch [ˈælbɚtˌwɪč]; PA150, Eldebritsches [ˈɛldəˌbrɪčəs]; PA162, Elbedritschel [ˈɛlbəˌdrɪčəl]—little animal; must have a partner, give him a burlap bag—only found on the coldest night; PA243, Elfedritsches [ˈɛlfədrɪčəs]—small creatures, can be caught in a bag; initiate is left holding the bag in woods, waiting for elfedritsches;
- Qu. EE33, Other outdoor games
- Inf PA22, Albedritsch [ˈælbɪdrɪtč] hunts;
- Qu. HH14, Ways of teasing a beginner
- Inf PA11, Albetritsches [ˈælbɪˌtrɪčəz]; PA242, Elderbritsches—[we] left a novice standing holding bag expecting elderbritsches to run by.
- 1967 DARE Tape
- 1987 Jrl. Engl. Ling. 20.2.169 ePA, Elbedritsch ‘a mythical creature often referred to as snipe’. . . Even though 49% of the  subjects acknowledged using elbedritsch, the large number of speakers who left the question blank demonstrates a growing unfamiliarity with the concept.