Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes Appalachian Dialect

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Quit Harping

My life in appalachia quit harping

The other day I was excited and words were just flying out of my mouth. I was in mid-stream of making my point saying “It’s just unbelievable! For all this time they’ve been harping and harping about….” when I suddenly stopped and thought “hmmm wonder if the rest of the world says harp?”

Every once in a while that happens-I’ll say something and then wonder if what I’ve said is an Appalachian thing?

I could hardly wait to look up the word harp and see where it came from. A quick look through my Appalachian dialect books showed nothing.

I did find the following on the Online Etymology Dictionary:

harp (n.)
Old English hearpe, from Proto-Germanic *kharpon- (cf. Old Saxon harpa “instrument of torture;” Old Norse harpa, Dutch harp, Old High German harpfa, German Harfe “harp”). Late Latin harpa, source of words in some Romanic languages, is a borrowing from Germanic. Meaning “harmonica” is from 1887, short for mouth-harp. The harp seal (1784) is so called for the harp-shaped markings on its back.

harp (v.)
Old English hearpian; see harp (n.). Cognate with Middle Dutch, Dutch harpen, Middle High German harpfen, German harfen. Figurative sense of “talk overmuch” (about something) first recorded mid-15c., originally to harp upon one string. Related: Harped; harping.

As you can see the second entry gives the definition we most often connect to the word harp (other than the musical definition) the figurative sense of talk overmuch.

However I feel like the first entry better fits my excited comment: instrument of torture. When someone is harping on and on doesn’t it feel like an instrument of torture to you?


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  • Reply
    November 17, 2018 at 10:19 am

    My family never said harp. They would say, quit your bellyaching . It was on and on. Us kids was awful bout it. Thanks Tipper! God Bless

  • Reply
    March 28, 2017 at 1:28 pm

    I love the term harp–I learned it from my parents in SW Virginia. Fits perfectly in lots of situations! I imagine I have been accused of harping on a subject from time to time.

  • Reply
    February 16, 2014 at 9:01 am

    Yep. Harping on this or that is a well-known crime in my neck of the woods. And I’m sure I’ve been guilty of it many times! I got in the terrible habit of repeating myself when I worked for someone who never listened, and later would say “you never told me that.” So I’d say things over…and over…and over…
    I think I’m still trying to stop harping on things!

  • Reply
    Paul Certo
    February 16, 2014 at 12:09 am

    It’s a common saying up here in the Flatlands, too.

  • Reply
    Susie Swanson
    February 15, 2014 at 5:34 pm

    I’ve been harping all winter and now my husband is too. LOL Men do it too.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    February 15, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    Yes, it does bother me too. One time
    my oldest niece told me she liked the
    e-mails best, cause that way you
    could talk to someone without listening.
    How true! …Ken

  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    February 15, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    Tipper, men harp as well as women. I had heard this all my life. Stop your harping you sound like a broke record.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    February 15, 2014 at 11:49 am

    Yes, I know the expression well and I use it too. My daddy would say quit your yapping or stop bumping your gums so much! I’ve never thought about where the word harping came from but my wife has harped on me a few times about one thing or the other. : )

  • Reply
    February 15, 2014 at 11:27 am

    Gosh! That is one of my words when I get reminded a number of times to do something pronto. I might eventually ask them to stop harping on it. Also, I think the news stations keep harping on particular subjects.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    February 15, 2014 at 10:44 am

    Yes, I sometimes talk overmuch without a thought about it until someone says, “I heard you the first time”! LOL
    I’m guilty, I ‘fess up, I’m done, won’t do it agin!
    Until I hear, “I can’t believe it, he was right there, 2” from the basket, (or goal) and could’nt make the points. How could they miss that many! They need to change the line-up or put so and so in the game or make this play, or change up the defence….ya, da, ya, da!
    Then I start! It is only a game, how can one worry so over a game, forget about it, ya da ya da……LOL
    Yes, men do it too….but maybe they think that “ballgame talk overmuch’, is not harping!
    Thanks Tipper,
    Loved this post!

  • Reply
    Kerry in GA
    February 15, 2014 at 10:35 am

    We were told a many a times growing up to quit harping. We were told not to “waller” either. We would have many disappointments in life and it was ok to be disappointed but you didn’t waller. In Daddy’s words “suck it up and go on”.

  • Reply
    February 15, 2014 at 9:56 am

    hmmm – I know plenty of men who “harp” on things also!! Definitely still have family using this one from the tip o’Texas through the central plains.
    Kinda cool the way the two definitions you found fit with the use in mythology.

  • Reply
    allison britt
    February 15, 2014 at 9:56 am

    Yes…it’s a word I use fairly often. ‘Quit harping on that’,… ‘they harped and harped on it’. Haven’t thought that much about the word before, either, but I think it does a fine job at getting the point across. I liked what Ms Ethelene said…harp less!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    February 15, 2014 at 9:22 am

    Seems to me the Juice, Jews, Jaw Harp is a more appropriate personification application here. It plays only one note over and over and over and over and over again and again and again and occasionally flips bits of frothy slobber on unawary, tone deaf listeners.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    February 15, 2014 at 8:57 am

    I grew up where people used “He (or she) harps on and on about that…” and they would repeat what the perpetrator of “many words” was over-talking about! And yes! Sometimes that over-active tongue would be an instrument of torture! I think I learned early in life that harping was not the answer to my wishes, however sincerely I approached my requests. What I learned also became a lesson for me–and a mode to practice as a teacher–“You cannot harp and get done what you want people to do!” Find something to commend; and harp less! And you know what? That worked, many, many times–in the classroom, and in seeking to rear my own children!

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    February 15, 2014 at 8:54 am

    Thanks for the info on “harping”. I have used this all my life and never really thought much about it until now. I agree that the first definition is also appropriate for the receiver of all the “harping”.

  • Reply
    February 15, 2014 at 8:42 am

    I’ve been harping about this snow that’s been on the ground for two weeks. Mom used to say, “quit grumbling.”

  • Reply
    Marc Kruger
    February 15, 2014 at 8:36 am

    In ancient mythology, there was a creature that was part human and part bird. They were called Harpies and they tormented people. Perhaps there is a connection to our expression of harping.

    • Reply
      Joyce McCombs
      November 17, 2018 at 10:03 pm

      i remember about the harpies. I have always taken that thought and harping as very negative. Now, these young girls are naming their baby girls, “Harper!” That is just too much for me.

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, PhD
    February 15, 2014 at 8:15 am

    Well Tipper, I don’t what to keep harping about that word. But my mother sure used it when she wanted one of her eleven children to stop complaining about an issue she could not settle. All it took was her blue-eyed glare and that harping word and our talking ceased! Yes I still remember but hardly ever use that word!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    John Rawdon
    February 15, 2014 at 8:14 am

    Tipper I sure enjoy your post. Harp is a word we use here in Lewis Co. Tn. My mom has said many times, now quit your harping and get to work or one of my brothers would say, don’t you be harping on me. Be blessed. John

  • Reply
    Judy Mincey
    February 15, 2014 at 8:10 am

    This is a familiar turn of speech to me. Usually phased in a negative way. Everybody around here has been harping on and on about the weather. Fortunately they can’t change it.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 15, 2014 at 7:58 am

    Yes, indeed it does. Sometimes I think if they would just shut up for 2 minuets I could breath. But no, they just continue harping on the same thing what seems like forever!
    Yes, sometimes a mouth is in instrument of torture.

  • Reply
    February 15, 2014 at 6:19 am

    I always thought it was a talent that God gave women,, (just kidding), but I do find in my area more women than men “harp” on things more…and O yea fills like nails on a chalk board…

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