Appalachia Appalachian Dialect

Appalachian Grammar Lesson 11

Appalachian Grammar Lesson 11
Its time for this month’s Appalachian Grammar Lesson.

Often I’ll think of word usage that is common here in Appalachia-and I’ll know it’s not correct usage-but its been so long since I had grammar in school-I can’t figure out how to explain what I’m trying to say.

Lucky for me-and you-the 2 words (wantin & liking) I had on my mind this month are described in the Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English.

In 7.1 of the Grammar and Syntax of Smoky Mountain English I found the following:

“Progressive forms are frequently employed for stative verbs of mental activity, especially want, in the process giving the verbs a dynamic interpretation.”

Appalachian Grammar Lesson 11 2

Trying to understand exactly what the quote says-kinda makes my brain hurt. I think it means the words wanting and liking are typically used to describe feelings, however in Appalachia (and probably beyond) they are sometimes given more emphasis-which almost makes them seem like action verbs.

I really don’t have a clue if that’s what the quote means or not-but I do know the following examples can be heard on a regular basis in the southern mountains of Appalachia.

  • “I saw him walking down the road about dinner time. He said he was wantin somebody to take him to town to buy some cigarettes.”
  • “I was liking that crowd up at the resturaunt just fine until they got to talking ugly. I never said a word to nobody I just up and left.”

Hope you’ll leave me a comment and tell me if you’re familiar with hearing or using the words like and want in this manner.



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  • Reply
    Andy McWilliams
    March 3, 2019 at 1:40 pm

    I live in the Ozarks of Arkansas, and I don’t see anything unusual about it.

  • Reply
    W.V.A girl
    September 30, 2011 at 11:46 am

    I have to laugh when reading this because when I take my grandsons to visit family in West Virginia, they say they start talking like all of the people who live there.People in Ohio still say I have an accent after living here almost 40 years.I say with pride, I come from W.Va(yes I still use the old way instead of WV)

  • Reply
    Grandma Sallie
    September 30, 2011 at 9:03 am

    I “used” to type papers for my son when he was attending University. Sometimes I would put my own comments in. He told me not to do that, because my English was incorrect. Great column Tipper! I still use wantin and likin.

  • Reply
    September 24, 2011 at 10:12 am

    These are in everyday usage here in the northern foothills. Also ‘wants’ used in the place of needs, as in, “What she really wants is a good spanking.”

  • Reply
    September 24, 2011 at 1:10 am

    Use these all the time….and love reading all the comments!

  • Reply
    September 23, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    Rachel-we say scrooch as in scrooch up close to me I’m cold or scrooch up there near the front so you won’t get left out. Your comment made me think of another one-scarf. Not like the kind you wear. Pap says you better scarf that biscuit up before I take it away from you and eat it myself-ever heard that one? Or Scrooch?
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    Kimberly Burnette-Dean
    September 23, 2011 at 10:08 am

    I still use wanting & liking in this manner all of the time. I know what you mean about that definition making your head hurt because it sure does confuse my poor old brain! (You would think that since I minored in English that it would make a bit more sense!)

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    September 23, 2011 at 8:27 am

    Yes, I’ve heard that usage before. To me those words are a fairly normal way of talking.

  • Reply
    brenda s 'okie in colorado'
    September 23, 2011 at 3:03 am

    Tipper, Being from Oklahoma originally, I always used fixin’ (I’m fixin’ to go home). Then, I moved to California… I had so many people make fun of me for that. I worked on it and don’t use it so much anymore. But I’m always wantin’ to go shopping and likin’ what I see. Like Jeanna Morgan, I always thought that is the way people talked. And, like her, I speak correctly when I am in a situation that calls for it. I’m also guilty of using, How much do you like? I know the difference of like and lack, but choose to use like. I’m 60 and I’ll talk how I want!
    Thanks Tipper, great post.

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    September 23, 2011 at 12:07 am

    I’ve used those forms all my life — and I’m from Florida. If I remember correctly, in Shaw’s PYGMALION, a Welshman speaks that way — ” I’m wanting to tell you…” I think too that those forms are used by English speaking Irish folks.

  • Reply
    September 22, 2011 at 11:55 pm

    Tipper, you may have done this one, but I wondered if you ever used in your grammar post the word, and I’m not sure how to spell it, “scrage.” I’d use it like this;
    “Go ahead Tipper and scrage in there amongst them! They’re getting ahead of us!”
    A friend of mine used this one when they were in a crowd trying to scrage to the front, and the friend she was with, from New England, had no clue as to what she was talking about!!!

  • Reply
    John Stonecypher
    September 22, 2011 at 11:44 pm

    after readen this its just like hearing my grandpa talk. sure would to here him one more time. I sure do enjoy this email thank you

  • Reply
    September 22, 2011 at 11:36 pm

    Oh yes, I’m very familiar with those words, we used them all the time. I don’t use them so much now, but since you reminded me, it’s got me to wantin to!! 🙂

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    September 22, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    Well, I was fixin’ to leave a comment, but when I read that quote my head liked to have bust! This old English major was wantin’ to talk to you about it-think I need an asprin instead.

  • Reply
    Larry Proffitt
    September 22, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    Tipper, Sounds like common english to me . Of course I am old and my parents taught me to talk rather than the TV here in the mountains of east tennessee.
    Larry Proffitt

  • Reply
    Uncle Al
    September 22, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    Use ’em all the time. I’m fixin to get me some dessert. Bless their heart they don’t know any better I reckon.

  • Reply
    Rosann Kent
    September 22, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    Yes, I use those words all the time:) My grandfather added what I call a “grace note” to them.
    a-walking and a-liking
    For example, about courting my grandmother, he said, “Well, I was a-liking her pretty good when Enoch Thomas wrote her a letter. He was a-wanting to take her to a candy-drawin.”
    Anyone know what a “candy drawin'” is?

  • Reply
    September 22, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    Sure do use um all time. I know there’s a proper way to talk and i can if need be,but long as you get the meaning across who much cares! It’s just more handy to talk the way i was raised than taught in school.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    September 22, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    Tipper–I probably have a bit more formal education than most of the folks on this wondrous site, and I “professed” for a quarter of a century in that liberal-infested world known as higher education.
    Having said that, and having read and re-read the “Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English” from kivver to kivver multiple times, I don’t have so much as a clue as to the meaning of the material you quote. Obviously there are significant gaps in my education,and maybe I need to turn litigious and sue someone from letting me progress through masters and doctoral levels without acquiring this knowledge. Somehow though, I reckon I’ll manage to get along despite my profound ignorance when it comes to stative verbs and such like.Or, to put it another way, I do believe that in this particular case I’ll just talk mountain talk the way I always have and accept the enduring wisdom which suggests “ignorance is bliss.”
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    September 22, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    Someone mentioned the Grammar Police and….BAM! This sweet little know-it-all in our area came to mind. She was constantly laughing at all of us hicks and the way we talked. Her over grown husband humbled himself once long enough to ask me for directions once and I told him to bear to the right when he got to a certain forks in the road. Well, she broke out into a psychotic laugh and said that was not the right word. A bear was an animal She wasn’t always right but, she was never wrong.
    I let her have her moment of glory. I later told everyone in the livingroom that if she was so smart wonder why she wasn’t rich?
    Then I handed them the Webster’s Dictionary and envited them to look up the word (it’s an intransitive verb). We talk the way we want around here and if anybody don’t like it…….

  • Reply
    Laura Cunningham
    September 22, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    All of this Apalachia language sounds eerily similar to the way people sound in West Texas. I grew up in Austin and when I would visit my grandparents in Abilene, they would tell me I sounded like a yankee. Hahaha. They were always fixin’ to do somethin’. Even though I didn’t grow up in West Texas, a lot of the language stuck anyway.

  • Reply
    September 22, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    Never thought a whole lot about it
    but the way you described sounds
    about right to me…Ken

  • Reply
    September 22, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    Carol-yes I have heard holp used in place of help : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    September 22, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    PinnacleCreek-its common to hear hollerin used like that here too!
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    Barbara Johnson
    September 22, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    Oh my! I guess I never realized that you shouldn’t use those words that much for my degree in education! lol

  • Reply
    September 22, 2011 at 11:50 am

    I came back on here to mention the usage of “like” in the same way Mary did. So,I’m proud she mentioned somebody “like to have died”, as I like to have forgot.
    I also appreciate Joe’s comment about “midwestern news anchors”. I learned to do that real quick when we moved to Central FL just before 5th grade. Now, my accent is disgustingly bland, I think – except when I go to New Jersey and they call me a “Reb”.

  • Reply
    September 22, 2011 at 11:32 am

    It is that form of the verb “be”(in this case “was”) that throws people off. Without the “was” people would probably say “wanted” and “liked”, but who wants to do things right all the time? If someone is “wantin” and “thinkin”, good for them. I personally am fond of “fixin”, as in “I am fixin to go to town”. This drives my Missouri friends crazy but now most understand what I mean. The language of the hills has a certain kind of beauty. Somehow it seems more honest and sincere than the more formal usages.
    For now, I am fixin’ to do laundry and I’m wishin’ you a happy day that I hope you are right now havin”!

  • Reply
    Joe Mode
    September 22, 2011 at 10:56 am

    Of course we use these, but unfortunatley some grammar Nazi got ahold of my younger son and he talks like a midwestern news anchor, or better yet, like he is from nowhere, and that drives me nuts.
    Now he is in a school play, set in Applachia or the south, and will have to learn our dialect, most likely exaggerated. He was practicing the word “hit” for “it.” Butchered it. If I find the teacher is making fun of the way we speak, really over doing it, we will have a nice little talk. I’m not fond of this type of transplant, but fully expect my boys to learn what I call “business English.” I don’t cotton to the notion that there is one, perfect way, or proper way to speak. Wouldn’t it be boring if we all spoke or sounded the same… those news anchors?

  • Reply
    September 22, 2011 at 10:34 am

    Absolutely!! Still use them that way; didn’t know there was a difference. 🙂

  • Reply
    Kristina in TN
    September 22, 2011 at 10:23 am

    I would like to think that I use proper American English most of the time, but even I, a non-native but long-time resident of the region, will use wantin’ or fixin’ from time to time. All these word uses seem as common to me as the sun risin’ in the morning!

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    September 22, 2011 at 10:22 am

    All of these sound like perfectly good English to me. To “Hope” someone is good old pure Anglo-Saxon English or Middle English and Chaucer would have undersood us Applachain folks much better than he would’ve the present day folks who choose to use Dr. Johnson’s “Elite English”. The important thing is we understand each other so anyone who doesn’t understand what our words mean need to learn since they have survived centuries and will continue to survive as long as we continue to have pride in our heritage. Those who claim we “talk funny” are only skinin their ignorance and showing that they’re imports.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    September 22, 2011 at 10:07 am

    I’m with you, Tipper, makes my brain hurt,but more in a progressive form than a stative form. LOL
    Of course I use those words, sounds perfectly normal and proper to me.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    September 22, 2011 at 10:05 am

    I understand that the old man was always a “wantin” for somethin’…so they “liken” to help him out!..
    I use them all the time!
    Another mind “tinker”…Yes not thinker “tinker”! At 70+ my brain don’t fire right and “tinker’n” hopes it along..
    Thanks Tipper for another great post!

  • Reply
    Melissa P (Misplaced Southerner)
    September 22, 2011 at 9:37 am

    Uh, oh! I use these expressions ALL the time. Never thought a thing about it. Guess I’m fixin to learn something new. ;>

  • Reply
    teresa atkinson
    September 22, 2011 at 9:23 am

    Both are a part of my daily usage in exactly the forms described. Unfortunately,I also use fixin’. Which drives several of those close around me nuts.

  • Reply
    September 22, 2011 at 9:16 am

    I up and left… Absolutely nothing wrong with that sentence as I say it all the time. I have one of those grammar police in my family, too. Now I have proof that I’m right and she is wrong. I will down and send this link to her as soon as I can. I have been wantin proof that other people are the ones that talk funny. Thanks!

  • Reply
    September 22, 2011 at 9:11 am

    You are scarin’ me to death! I use these expressions all the time and did not realize they were not used everywhere.
    There is an expression used in this area which is used to put emphasis on what one is saying.
    For example,
    “My boyfriend has started hollerin’ he wants to get married.” or “Those young’ins are always hollerin’ ’bout goin’ to get Pizza.”
    I am curious if it is unique to this area of WV. Thanks, Tipper, for permitting us to learn more about our wonderful culture.

  • Reply
    September 22, 2011 at 9:10 am

    Funny – I always thought the usage of “wantin” in your example was a correct form, and isn’t “like” often a verb? One thing that confused me as a child, though: if someone wasn’t finished with a task, they might be asked, “How much do ya ‘like’?”, pronounced as “like”, but meaning “lack” – a word I wasn’t familiar with.

  • Reply
    September 22, 2011 at 8:28 am

    same answer i always give you, in the past life in KY yes to both words, but not in my daily life now.

  • Reply
    Laurie Stone
    September 22, 2011 at 8:23 am

    No kidding – having to reach back and remember what stative and dynamic verbs do is usually something I can’t think about before my first cup of coffee (in fact I reckon I might need a whole pot).
    Here’s how I see it.
    Stative – a verb that could mean a long period of time.
    When I am in the forest I can sometimes HEAR an owl.
    Dynamic – a verb that is meant to mean an action for a short period of time or just one time and with emphasis.
    Me and Tessie, we was a walkin acrost the path in the wooded land when we HEARED and ole screech owl hoot. It LIKEND to scare the wits out of us.
    I think other words that work that way might be that way, but are more accepted would be:
    I minded my own business.
    She thinked real hard about verbs.
    Charlie feeled like he was being put upon.
    I have no idea if I’m right, cause I haven’t had any coffee yet.
    – Laurie

  • Reply
    September 22, 2011 at 7:50 am

    Some I’ve heard a lot, “He/she like to have died over that new-mony last winter”.
    “She’s wantin’ a new dress for….”
    Yes, those usages are still pretty common here in the Ozarks as well.

  • Reply
    September 22, 2011 at 7:49 am

    I’m guilty of this myself! Have you ever heard the “old folks ” say;
    I hoped him cut his wood instead of I helped him?

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    September 22, 2011 at 7:37 am

    I didn’t know it was incorrect either, I have always used wantin and likin just that way.

  • Reply
    September 22, 2011 at 7:23 am

    Common in east Tennessee. Another good one is “a settin’. “He’s a settin’ on the porch.” Or, “the old hen is a settin’ on the eggs.”

  • Reply
    September 22, 2011 at 6:59 am

    You know I use them both.
    You mean I’m not using correct grammar???? LOL

  • Reply
    Jeanna Morgan
    September 22, 2011 at 6:54 am

    Doesn’t everyone talk like that? I have a son who is like the grammar police and he is all the time correcting me for things like this. I explain that I am from Appalachia and there is nothing wrong with the way I talk. I also tell him I am smart enough to speak correctly when I am in a situation that calls for it.

  • Reply
    September 22, 2011 at 6:09 am

    Wow, after reading that quote, I had to shake it off. Then I read what you said and felt better 🙂 bout not understadin’ it.
    Well I might be Apalachian cause I didn’t see anything unusual about the usage of wantin & liking above. LOL I’m not sure what hurt my head more, the quote or trying to figure out what was unusual about those sentences 🙂

  • Reply
    September 22, 2011 at 4:28 am

    Oh, gosh, Tipper. You know I’m a teacher, and I was thinking I was doing a good job, but you just reminded me that I have to be careful with my grammar. I use these progressive forms all the time.

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