Animals In Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes Appalachian Dialect

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Crawdad

My life in appalachia crawdad

See the critter in the photo-I call it a crawdad. I assumed everyone else did too until I read a dialect study about the word. The study showed most folks call it a crawfish and other folks call it a crayfish.

My Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English has an entry for crawdab saying that usage was most common in East Tennessee, but I’ve never heard it.

I was always told if a crawdad pinches you it won’t let go until it thunders.


Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.

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  • Reply
    Vernon Kimsey
    June 24, 2019 at 10:03 am

    I know from experience, they will draw blood if they are big enough….

  • Reply
    Julie Hughes
    June 30, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    I have heard that a snapping turtle won’t let go until it thunders but never a crawdad. In southern Indiana I grew up calling them crawdads. It was not until I moved to Texas that we began to call them crawfish. That might be due to the cajun influence, not sure.

  • Reply
    Glenda Beall
    June 30, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    Hi, Tipper Your post reminds me of the time I was showing off for a freind and took her to see the black crow my brothers had cuught and were keeping in a cage. We decided to feed it so we look under rocks by the pond until we found a crawfish. I thought I had seen mt brothers feed the ugly critter to the crow. He did eat it and the next day the crow was dead. Of course I was blamed. I have heard them called crawdads, and crayfish as well as crawfish.

  • Reply
    June 28, 2014 at 10:37 pm

    Up north, I heard it called Crayfish or Crawfish. In Georgia, I sometimes heard it called a Mudbug. In NC though, I’ve always heard it called a Crawdad. I wonder where it got any of those names from.
    I remember our Cousin Rick having one he was pestering in a stream down in Wintergreen Gorge when we were kids get ahold of the side of his thumb, and it let him go when he flicked it off – without the thunder (although now that I think of it, a heavy rain storm did follow shortly after as we were trying to hike out of the Gorge. Hmmm…)
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Gina S
    June 28, 2014 at 7:12 pm

    I’ve heard all the names for what I call crawfish. I’ve tasted them a time or two to see if their flavor would grow on me. Hasn’t happened yet. You won’t remember the Elvis film King Creole. In the film EP did a song Crawfish. Its lyrics are simple, but redeemed by the voice of a woman who sings in counterpoint to Elvis.

  • Reply
    Tommy Lee Stokes
    June 28, 2014 at 6:39 pm

    Mudbugs! That’s what they’re called back in Deep East Texas.

  • Reply
    eva nell wike, PhD
    June 28, 2014 at 6:31 pm

    Well Tipper: Your topic brought back some wonderful summer memories – wading in the creek/branch and screaming “There’s a crawfish!” Playing in the water was a cool game! Great substitute for air conditioning WHICH we did not have, Shucks, we didn’t even have electricity back then!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    June 28, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    Tipper–Ken and Miss Cindy need to expand their culinary horizons. I agree with Ken about not eating a ‘possum (if you see them in some of the places I’ve seen them you’d agree), but a baked young ‘coon is mighty fine. As for mud bugs, as the Cajuns call the, they are a treat whether eaten by themselves, in gumbo, etoufee, or in other ways. Give me a big pile of them, with some boudin on the side, and get out of the way. I’ll wipe out crawdad tails like nobody’s business and such the juice out of the heads in the bargain. Rest assured the Cajuns know how to eat (and have a good time).
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Bob Aufdemberge
    June 28, 2014 at 5:54 pm

    Out here on the edge of the Great Plains, I never heard them called anything else but crawdads. Never ate any, but used plenty for fish bait.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    June 28, 2014 at 5:19 pm

    I’ve always called ’em crawfish and I
    got lots of ’em in my creek where I live. You know those red lizards with
    the big black dots on them? That’s what I’ve always heard that wouldn’t let you go till it thundered. On rainy nights we use to catch hundreds on old dirt roads and in ditches. They travel when it’s raining, but soon as it stops they get under something. That was a good way to make
    money when I was a late teenager.
    I’ve even seen a couple of red craw-
    fish up above my reservoir near the
    falls. Never ate a crawfish or
    posseum, tried coon but it tasted
    more like a wet housecat…Ken

  • Reply
    Gary Powell
    June 28, 2014 at 4:54 pm

    I took my Grandkids to a creek last week, so that they could catch “crawdads” with dip nets. I showed them how to hold them so that they couldn’t pinch. We didn’t keep any. Most of them were very small.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    June 28, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    I’ve heard them called crayfish, crawdads and mud bugs but never crawdabs. When I get a line and you get a pole we’ll go down to the crawdad hole. I have boiled and eaten them, they are quiet tasty but it takes a passel of them to make a meal. They’re basically a freshwater lobster.

  • Reply
    June 28, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    I heard that saying about the thunder all my life growing up in Tennessee. We called them crawdads. When I moved to New Orleans I could NOT believe those people eat them. They called ’em crawfish and the church we attended had “crawfish boils.” I never participated. :/ …son of a gun we’ll have big fun on the buyou.”

  • Reply
    Richard Moore
    June 28, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    We fished with them some when I was a kid. I remember them scooting through the water or down a hold on a bank near the water. We called them Crawfish, less often, crawdads.
    Mother never cooked them but there were never enough gathered to make a meal. But as an adult, I’ve eaten many as Crawfish Etouffee is my favorite cajun dish. Here’s a recipe:

  • Reply
    Paul Certo
    June 28, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    As I understand it, it ‘s snapping turtles that won’t let go till it thunders. I never saw a crayfish big enough that I couldn’t dislodge it, thunder or not. Up here in Yankee Ohio, we say Crayfish, but my WVa wife & her folks always say Crawdad. More importantly, the song says Crawdad. Must not have been composed in Ohio.

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    June 28, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    In East Texas we used a raw chicken neck on a string to fish for crawdads. I still sometimes sing the crawdad song I learned as a child, “You get a line and I’ll get a pole, Honey. You get a line, and I’ll get a pole, Babe. You get a line, and I’ll get a pole and
    we’ll go down to that crawdad hole, Honey-Baby mine!”
    We never ate the ones we caught, but during the “crawdad season,” some of the restaurants in Houston had huge platters piled high with cooked “crawfish,” and in New Orleans you can eat Crawfish Etouffee.

  • Reply
    June 28, 2014 at 11:54 am

    We always called them crawdads, good fish bait small ones are the best.. We had a family that joined our Church years ago from Louisiana and they called them “Mudbugs” they love to cookém and eat the tail and suck the rest,, yuck..

  • Reply
    Mary Rutherford
    June 28, 2014 at 11:39 am

    This East Tennessee girl grew up calling them “crawdaddy”. I think I probably turned over every rock in Buffalo Creek when I was a little girl and often took my prizes in to show-and-tell at school. The best fun was catching little tiny crawdaddies that would wash up up on the creek banks during a flood. Who needs a game system when you’ve got baby crawdads around? Crawdaddies were responsible for my daddy earning his nickname “Bait” when he was little – I think I wrote about it in an earlier comment.

  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    June 28, 2014 at 11:39 am

    I used to catch them, but called them craw fish. Mother always me the old saying, she was trying to disgust me for catching all sorts of craters and insect. I down know if you every caught but they would back with their bull dozier fan Finn and be ready with their pincher to nab you. Nice memories of the crawdad.

  • Reply
    June 28, 2014 at 11:38 am

    I have seen them, but never associated a definite name to them, just another bug. I think that dad used to call them a crawfish. Humm! Got to think about this one!

  • Reply
    June 28, 2014 at 11:00 am

    Of course it’s a crawdad!! Never heard of a crawdab.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 28, 2014 at 10:43 am

    What I call them critters depends on where I’m ahold of him or he’s ahold of me.
    I’m sorry, did I just say Depends around a bunch of old people?

  • Reply
    Richard Beauchamp
    June 28, 2014 at 9:50 am

    I call them crawdads but have heard the craw fish and a man I worked with from Lousiana called them Mud bugs and always talked about how good they were to eat. I have never eaten one but used the tails for fish bait and the meat looks like shrimp.

  • Reply
    Allison Britt
    June 28, 2014 at 9:38 am

    In Northwestern NC my cousins and I spent some Summertime,Sunday afternoons netting ‘crawdads’ from the creek. Northwest NC, Southwest VA…we called ’em crawdads.

  • Reply
    Stephen Ammons
    June 28, 2014 at 9:29 am

    Up on the head of Wiggins Creek we all ways called them crawfish. I would see them all the time when I was looking for lizards for fishing or to sell the the store.
    Oh yeah, we all ways heard that it was the snapping turtle that wouldn’t let go until it thundered.I heard tales that people had cut their heads off and they still had to pry their mouth or beak open with a knife.

  • Reply
    June 28, 2014 at 9:20 am

    I have waded many creeks and raised tons of rocks to catch crawdads. We never ate them or used them for bait. I didn’t worry about them pinching my fingers, it was my toes I worried about.
    My friend took me to dinner at a new restaurant that was showcased on a local TV show. They served “crawfish” in a variety of dishes. They might have changed the name, but my stomach knew what they were.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    June 28, 2014 at 7:57 am

    I misspent a lot of my summer youth in East Tennessee wading the creeks in search of crawdads. I don’t recall anyone calling them crawdabs, but if you aren’t listening closely, I can see how you might not pick up on the “b” ending.
    I never had to conjure up thunder to get them loose from my fingers, though.

  • Reply
    June 28, 2014 at 7:47 am

    Know them as “crawdads”; hear them called “crawfish”. Had an aquarium of them in one of my classrooms. The school was next to a creek and the kids took turns daily changing out half the water with fresh creek water – some of them desperately wanted to have a crawdad boil. Don’t think I want to test the “thunder theory”!!

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    June 28, 2014 at 7:38 am

    crawdad here, have not heard the one about the thunder.

  • Reply
    Mark Selby
    June 28, 2014 at 7:33 am

    As a native East Tennesseean, I can attest to the fact that some folks here call them crawdabs. I, however, have always called them crawdads. What about the song, “The Crawdad Hole”? Surely nobody would substitute the inferior “crayfish” or “crawfish” in the lyrics.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 28, 2014 at 7:33 am

    I always heard it was a terrapin that wouldn’t let go till it thunders. That’s what my mama told me.
    Yep crawdads, that’s what I call those critters. When I was a kid we used to take a string with a little piece of bacon tied to the end of it and drop in down into the bayou. The crawdads would latch on to the bacon and you could lift the string and catch them. They are a delicacy in bayou country. Where I lived in Texas you could catch crawdads by the bucket full when it rained. It was so flat there they floated to the top of the ground during heavy rain.
    I went with a little friend to catch crawdads during a heavy rain. He had a wagon we pulled behind us and he filled it full. His mama cooked them. My mama wouldn’t cook such a thing. We were mountain people and we didn’t eat such as that but it sure was fun catching them. LOL

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