Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes Appalachian Dialect

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Living Daylights

My life in appalachia - Daylight

One day this week I heard Chitter asking her Daddy about daylight-more specifically why it was staying daylight longer in the evenings than it had been.

Their conversation reminded me of the photo above. I took it on our porch last summer. I was trying to get a shot of a piece of found art we have hanging on the wall. Its a small piece of dried wood with a piece of barbed wire growing through it. The sun was shining brightly just off the end of the porch. It was just about to peek around the edge of the house. When I loaded the photo on the computer I was surprised at the colors my camera picked up in the rays of sunlight. Its almost like I captured daylight.

Like me you’ve probably heard the sayings about daylight your whole life-ones like:

  • He scared the ever living daylights out of me
  • He beat the daylights out of me
  • I knocked the daylights out of him

On The Phrase Finder website I discovered during the 18th Century daylights literally meant eyes. Here is a direct quote from the website:

Usage of ‘daylights’ was largely limited to the eyes and to threats to close them by force. The first known citation of the word is one such example, in Henry Fielding’s novel Amelia, 1752:

“Good woman! I don’t use to be so treated. If the lady says such another word to me, d–n me, I will darken her daylights.”

The Phrase Finder website pointed out using the plural daylights made sense-since we have 2 eyes. The article also stated that the 1987 James Bond movie-The Living Daylights was responsible for bringing the term back into common usage.

As far as I know the use of the word daylights has never went out of fashion in Appalachia.


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



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  • Reply
    January 8, 2019 at 9:41 pm

    My mother used that often. She also had an unusual substitute for “living daylights.” She sometimes threatened, “I’m gonna knock the skillet o’ mush outa you!!!” I’ve searched the Internet more than once, but never found any other instance of its use, much less an origin. Maybe it was a Mother original. Let me know if you ever run across that one.

  • Reply
    March 30, 2017 at 9:21 am

    I have heard living tar (?) all my life too..

  • Reply
    January 31, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    I’ve heard it used most of my life, so I don’t think it ever went out of fashion in NW PA either.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    January 30, 2012 at 12:41 am

    This has nothing to do with “daylights” (which were always being scared out of me), but the saying “nekkid as a Jaybird” referring to nude people all the way to undecorated Christmas trees. I often do searches for the history behind some sayings; I am always amazed at the different things I learn. And you teach me too, Tipper!

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    January 29, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    LOL! If I had a dime for every time my Mama said “living daylights” when I was growin’ up, I’d be a verrry rich woman today-& she wasn’t scared, either!

  • Reply
    January 29, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    Heard this all my life, too- especially from my mama! I just naturally thought the action, if carried out, would cause absence of light, one way or the other, temporary or permanent. I do love this root definition, literally, the ‘eyes’.

  • Reply
    January 29, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    ‘daylights’ has never gone out of style in Oklahoma either!

  • Reply
    Connie Arnold
    January 29, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    That’s a beautiful picture. I love how it captures the light and colors. Haven’t heard those expressions using daylight in a long time but remember them from sometime in the past.

  • Reply
    Mary Rutherford
    January 29, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    Tipper you are always shedding the daylight on something that most of us don’t stop long enough to to think about or even notice. I have always liked what photographers call the little shiny reflection in our eyes: a “catch-light”.

  • Reply
    Uncle Al
    January 29, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    Heard the term all my life in many of the same ways…however, I’m still laughing at some of the comments your post generated today. headlights…. :O)

  • Reply
    susie swanson
    January 29, 2012 at 11:50 am

    I’ve heard the word daylights used all of my life.. I think words like that is just the natural way to talk in these parts…lol.Susie

  • Reply
    Karen Larsen
    January 29, 2012 at 10:56 am

    I’ve heard and used that expression- knock the living daylights outta…. but never knew what it meant. If it happens at night, do you get the living nightlights knocked outta you? Or is that just when you have the Big Eye?

  • Reply
    Special Ed
    January 29, 2012 at 10:32 am

    Once when I was is my early teens I had the livin daylights knocked out of me. It was dark:30 and like the true genius I am I was running down Wiggins Creek road. My buddy Beanie Sutton was running up the same road at the same time. When we collided I saw a bright flash of light and woke up off over the road bank in a brar patch. I reckon the flash I saw my livin daylights leaving.
    Beanie still has a scar on his forehead where my mouth hit him. I don’t have visible scars but the little piece of tissue up under my upper lip where it attaches to my face is just a flap hanging down.

  • Reply
    Ed Myers
    January 29, 2012 at 10:17 am

    To B. Ruth,
    As a grown boy into a man, the term “headlights”, when paired with a girl or woman, referred to something more prominent on her anatomy than mine.

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    January 29, 2012 at 10:11 am

    Tipper: I’ve had the daylights scared out of me but usually that happened on a dark creepy night. lol

  • Reply
    January 29, 2012 at 10:10 am

    You know, I never really knew what the living daylights meant, especially having them knocked out of me! Never thought of light rays or anything scientific. I just figured that having the living daylights knocked out of me was something that would hurt like crazy.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    January 29, 2012 at 10:01 am

    That is a wonderful photo, I so would like to capture daylight in a painting …and that one would make a wonderful watercolor or mixed media…
    I am so glad I am able to see daylight…at this time in my life..I sure would hate to have missed this one….
    Great post Tipper,

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    January 29, 2012 at 9:52 am

    Like you I have heard “daylights” all my life and playing ball as a kid had them knocked out a time or two….That said,
    Remember that I am 70ish folks…
    I was a tag-a-long, going somewhere with my grown boys. As we were approaching a girl on a running trail and as another shiny car was coming toward us in the opposite lane,…one of the boys said, “Look at the headlights on her!”…Well, I looked at the car and the “headlights” looked normal to me!..I stated so, and the boys just laughed at me!..LOL…
    MY question… Is the reason, that “headlights” are not called “daylights” on autos because the auto industry thought we would only use them in the daylight and not at night…and nowadays when we keep our “headlights” on during the day..Can we now call “headlights” “daylights”????
    Thanks Tipper for a very interesting post…Please don’t darken my “daylights” I was just ponderin’….

  • Reply
    January 29, 2012 at 9:38 am

    Oh yeah, that was a phrase my Mom used often. LOL

  • Reply
    January 29, 2012 at 9:34 am

    In Appalachia we don’t leave our old expressions unchanged. I have heard it expressed as, “He scared the ever lovin’ daylights outta me.” “Yep, jus’ keep up that baloney, and somebody gonna knock the ever lovin’ daylights outta you”, is another way I used to hear this. Here in the southern part of WV, I think I may be glad the latter expression is rarely used.
    Yes, Tipper. I think you may have captured daylight, as you capture the best of Appalachia every day. We Blind Pig readers are sooo grateful!

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    January 29, 2012 at 9:28 am

    I’m being educated although daylights seems to an informal use pertaining to one’s senses. Interesting thought process! Keep up the thought
    provoking ideas.

  • Reply
    Lonnie L. Dockery
    January 29, 2012 at 9:10 am

    Never knew that! That is interesting. Makes perfect sense now!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    January 29, 2012 at 8:58 am

    I’ve heard that expression all my life. Before and after James Bond. In fact, I’m thinking he got it from us not the other way around.
    The Picture is pretty, I like the colors.
    Tipper, the reason I like picture framing is all the wonderful colors of mat board. When I took the first class in framing I fell in love with all the mat board colors that were available!
    Window lights is another old expression not used much now except by old folks. It’s the glass in the window.
    It all seems to be about the presence or absence of light.

  • Reply
    January 29, 2012 at 8:33 am

    We always used that one too Tipper and as a youngster I would wonder what the heck it meant. As a young adult and hearing it again I thought, “OH, it means turning the lights out”, so in my head it was like passing out or dying.
    That was very interesting!

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    January 29, 2012 at 8:26 am

    I’ve heard daylights used all my life; with scared and beat mostly. Never thought of the connection with the eyes, but it makes sense.

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    January 29, 2012 at 8:17 am

    Yes, I think the saying has always been in common use in Appalachia. I’ve always heard ‘he scared the living daylights out of me.’

  • Reply
    January 29, 2012 at 8:16 am

    i have been having the living daylights scared out of me since the day i was born and that was long before James Bond movies. it is and was a common sentence in my life.

  • Reply
    Patty Hall
    January 29, 2012 at 8:13 am

    How interesting! I still say this but never knew it meant the eyes. That picture is beautiful! Hope ya’ll are doing well.

  • Reply
    Donna W
    January 29, 2012 at 8:07 am

    It’s been a long time since I’ve heard anybody use that expression, but it used to be quite common.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    January 29, 2012 at 7:52 am

    Looks like a rainbow snuck into your picture. Did you notice the little purple bell down in the lower left corner? I never cease to be amazed at how you can look at a scene or a picture and see something others cannot. And pen a story from it.
    I never wudda thunk to look at you picture and seek the derivation of “the living daylights”
    I like that your playlist starts with Chatter’s “Baby Blue Eyes” Now that youngin shore can sing. I’m playing it over and over. It’s a pity the music player doesn’t float along and stay on the screen as we scroll down or switch to previous blogs. Is there is a way to do that? Or maybe a repeat button?

  • Reply
    Sallie Covolo
    January 29, 2012 at 7:15 am

    Great Post Tipper. I am amazed how you ‘come up’ with interesting and educational information daily, Daylights referring to the eyes! Who would have known?

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