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My inlaws from Central Pennsylvania will say, "The milk is all" instead of "The milk is all gone". Another very common example, "Can you bring me some cookies?" "Sorry, the cookies are all". Anyone familiar with the usage?

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That usage can be found in several dialects of German ("die Milch ist alle"), so my first thought would be to check if this could be an import from Pennsylvania German. –  RegDwigнt Feb 11 '12 at 21:07
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3 Answers

This was a common usage in the speech of the Mennonite families who lived around me in Southern Ontario (outside K-W; on my drivers license it just said G.C.T for German Company Tract) and we picked it up as children. The connection between the "Pennsylvania Dutch" (actually Deutsch) and the Ontario Mennonites is pretty straightforward. My poor mother still thinks that many Mennonite turns of phrase are stereotypically Canadian :-), including this use of "all".

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Thanks so much! I might have guessed the connection to "Pennsylvania Dutch" and I think grandparents on both sides spoke Deutsch (I guess?) around the young kids if they wanted to keep adult secrets. I love that they use this actually, but my spouse always feels self conscious. –  new to PA Feb 11 '12 at 21:39
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This is regional but more localized than geography. @Kate Gregory's answer is correct. My mother's family is from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania which is in the far eastern corner of the state. That usage, "all" instead of "all used up", is not standard there.

My grandmother and great-uncles moved to south central Pennsylvania, near Lancaster and Harrisburg. In that very specific area, the"Pennsylvania Dutch" or "Amish country", I recall them saying that they heard many different usages of English at work. One was:

The milk is all

(or more importantly, "The chocolate is all").

My great-uncles spoke German and Danish, probably Yiddish but wouldn't acknowledge it, so they noticed these sort of expressions. Their rather heavily accented English was easily understood in this part of the state, which was a welcome change from Philadelphia.

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Definitely regional. I've never heard it here in New Zealand. I've never heard it in any American, Australian or British movie or TV show.

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