Appalachian Dialect

A Body

its got to where a bodys got to lock the door

“It’s got to where a body can’t even leave the house without locking the door behind him.”

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body noun Someone, a person (often with reference to oneself), a term in common use among older speakers observed by Joseph Hall in the 1930s. (Note: the combining form –body is more prevalent than –one to form indefinite pronouns, thus anybody, everybody, somebody).

1895 Edson and Fairchild Tenn Mts 370 A body can’t git along here. 1924 Spring Lydia Whaley 2 To know when soap is finished you cool it ’till a body can keep a finger in it. 1937 Hall Coll. Upper Cosby Creek TN Fever weed breaks the fever on a body. (Veenie Ramsey) 1939 Hall Coll. One-armed Jim is right feeble. I reckon a body’ll find him dead somewheres. 1940 Haun Hawk’s Done 48 There wasn’t anything a body could say to Barshia that would do him any good 1962 Dykeman Tall Woman 93 When I brush his hair just right, a body would hardly notice. 1969 GSMNP-25:1:30 A body thought about it back then. 1989 Smith Flyin’ Bullets 40 “A body never knowed when they just might come in the middle of the night,” Delia said, “and drag ye out of bed, and take ye out to kill ye, fer no reason a’tall.” 1997 Montgomery Coll. Could a body buy that there dog? How can a body live on such piddlin’s? (Brown)
[cf Scottish usage: “If a body meet a body coming through the Rye”; DARE esp Midland]

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English

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The usage of the word body described in the dictionary entry is still alive and well in my part of Appalachia.

Tipper

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20 Comments

  • Reply
    Tipper
    June 23, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    Charline-I took the photo of the door knob in the historic church at Smokemont-or Ocona Lufty whichever!
    Hope you are well-thank you for all the comments!

  • Reply
    George Pettie
    June 20, 2017 at 7:27 pm

    Mark Twain used this meaning of “a body” in the earthy dialog found in many of his 19th century writings.

  • Reply
    Charline
    June 20, 2017 at 3:49 pm

    And where did you find such a great doorknob?

  • Reply
    Charline
    June 20, 2017 at 3:48 pm

    Oh, I remember this usage- it could make a body cry to miss their folks.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    June 20, 2017 at 2:49 pm

    Well, if a body had a mind to he could do just about anything!
    I’ve heard and used it my whole life.
    But I only use it around people who I know would understand it.

  • Reply
    JustAnOldGuy
    June 20, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    Did you spell it wrong? Ain’t the word yer a usin bydee? Hit’s a common earer what inybydee could make so don’t take hit ta hart.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    June 20, 2017 at 2:28 pm

    I’ve heard and used “body” in this sense as long as I can remember.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 20, 2017 at 1:58 pm

    What’s a body gonna do? It’s that box that used to sit on the corner. Now it’s on the wall. It’s our kids’ babysitter. They learn to talk listening to Blues Clues and Big Bird not from Mommy, Daddy and the Grands. When they get big enough to hold their head up we prop them up in front of it. People are too busy to raise their own children. Not you, dear Tipper! I have heard your girls speak and they speak just like I do. You and the Mr. have done a fine job.

  • Reply
    Ken
    June 20, 2017 at 11:47 am

    Tipper,
    When I grew-up we didn’t even lock our doors and we had drunks all around us. But at least they worked and folks were honest back then. A few years ago I left the shop to get a haircut downtown. I bet I wasn’t gone 40 minutes but some dope head stole two cord of my busted wood. Don’t get me started on Cell Phones! …Ken

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    June 20, 2017 at 10:10 am

    Yes, I have heard and used that expression all my life, although it seems to be vanishing from ordinary speech. Makes a body sad to think about that.

  • Reply
    Tamela
    June 20, 2017 at 9:43 am

    “If a body would just get out of my way, I could get some work done!”
    Heard it – use it- but often associated with consternation.
    By the way, Howland – I learned the song, “An’ if a laddie kiss a lassie, need a lassie cry?” ♫ ♪

  • Reply
    Shirl
    June 20, 2017 at 9:17 am

    My friend from West Virginia called and was talking about having to mow the grass so frequently. She went on to say how hard it is on a ‘bidy’ who is not in good health to begin with.
    Miss Cindy, I had a coworker from ‘summers’ in NY, too. Did that girl ever have an attitude! Always in a bad mood, didn’t get along with others and poked fun constantly. She even thought the other coworkers from Louisville had a hillbilly accent.

  • Reply
    PinnacleCreek
    June 20, 2017 at 9:17 am

    I don’t know that I have heard that in my area, but it is familiar. It seems I have heard in movies that have southern setting. These southern portrayals sometimes had the ladies fanning a lot. which is something never seen in our age of air conditioning.
    Randomly, I will recall expressions unique to my area of southern WV, and I wonder if common in other areas of Appalachia. One such expression I heard many times was “setting up housekeeping.” It seems the old timers never had honeymoons, but the ladies of that era could recall the exact date and place they “set up housekeeping.” This would possibly have been a memorable event for a young housewife after having to live with kinfolk due to limited finances. Tipper, you have gone and made a body ponder over their coffee again.

  • Reply
    Jack
    June 20, 2017 at 9:08 am

    I don’t remember that usage in my neighborhood. However, do recall Robert Burns poem, “Comin thro the Rye”…” when a body meet a body comin thro the rye…”.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    June 20, 2017 at 8:42 am

    Tipper,
    Why just yesterday I avoided using, a body, in my sentence…”I wonder if ‘one’ could substitute part butter for shortening.” After your post today, I wish I had used a body instead of one! I’ve done this before when referring to one as someone, etc.
    Especially my grandmother used a body. When I read your post I could see her face in a conversation using a body!
    Why does a body, after moving on to public education…out of our mountain raisin’ with the wonderful Scot-Irish dialects avoid using them. Especially, if a body knows it is the perfect fit, albeit the old term for the phrase?
    Thanks for the great post today Tipper and the memory.

  • Reply
    H Lee Mears
    June 20, 2017 at 8:34 am

    I don’t know that I’ve heard ‘a body’ since Granny died in 1990, and maybe had forgotten it. You know, a body can’t remember everything! I can guarantee I heard it when with her till day she died. I’m glad you mentioned it, Tipper. More wonderful memories.
    Like Cindy , living everywhere, people tried to straighten us up to speaking the Queens English. Which most certainly didn’t include ‘a body’ tryin to explain something to them in Appalachian .
    My favorite is yours, ” a body can’t leave the house without lockin it up! “. How very true and probably said long ago.

  • Reply
    Howland
    June 20, 2017 at 8:02 am

    Well, We’ve got (some)body, (no)body, and (any)body, so (a) body fits right in. I don’t use it much, but my wife is quite handy with it.
    “An’ if a body kiss a body, need a body cry?” ♫ ♪
    They useta teach that stuff in grade school…

  • Reply
    Larry Proffitt
    June 20, 2017 at 8:00 am

    And alive and well here across the mountain in Tennessee.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    June 20, 2017 at 7:55 am

    I am sure I use this term occasionally because it was a common
    thing to hear all during my childhood.
    Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles all used this phrase.
    I really had not given it any thought til today.
    This is why I love The Blind Pig. Brings back so many forgotten
    memories.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 20, 2017 at 7:33 am

    Oh yes, Tip, heard that one and used it too. So many of these words and expressions you feature are things I’ve heard all my life in the mountains. Those years that I lived away from the mountains I did not hear them.
    I used to have a coworker who would occasionally say to me ” your country is showing,” in response to something that I had just said. I usually couldn’t remember what he was referring to because these life long expressions are so much a part of me that I am not even aware of saying them.
    Speaking of regional dialects, that coworker was from upstate New York!

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