Appalachia Appalachian Dialect

Appalachian Grammar Lesson 25

"Bloodroot" flowers...the orange juice from the root was used as a cough remedy.

The word done is the past participle of the word do (do did done). In Appalachia we often use the word done as a helping verb or an adverb. Done is used in this manner to mean already, completely, or that something doesn’t need to be repeated-but it’s usage in the sentence isn’t necessary.

  • I don’t know why he went down there. I told him we done cleaned that place out and there ain’t nothing left to do.
  • We tried to stop her, but by the time we drove over there she’d done sold all those old records to somebody on the internet.
  • Frank’s done and told him he’d pay him when he could. He might as well forget about getting any money from me.

If you take done out of the sentences above-the meaning would be exactly the same.


I was recently reminded of something I read on the Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English website-it’s a quote from Michael Montgomery:

“Not long ago at a professional conference a linguist from the University of California remarked to me that “Appalachian English is one of my favorite dialects” and asked “Does anyone still speak it?” I looked him in the eye and after pausing a couple of seconds, replied matter-of-factly, “Oh, I’d say about twenty million people.” He seemed a bit surprised, so I explained that mountain folks actually choose to talk the way they do and that their distinctive English is here to stay. Appalachian dialect defines who they are, whether they live in Kentucky or have moved to Detroit to work in a plant.”


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  • Reply
    Sallie Covolo
    April 30, 2014 at 8:10 am

    Loved this post Tipper..You’ve done good as usual.

  • Reply
    Eldonna Ashley
    April 30, 2014 at 3:39 am

    You are right. It is a choice, and I am choosing it more often. I reckon it is a yearnin’ for simpler times. As the only native Appalacian speaker in my family I don’t want the words and meanings to be lost to my grandchildren.
    Yes, I got an education. I had to adapt my speech to teach children to use phonics. I married someone wonderful from another part of he country, and we ended up in the northern part of my home state. Here, because of German heritage, “sippin’ on the cider” is fairly common. I about lost it the first time I saw someone wear a T-shirt with a beer logo. Oh, they wore it to a church activity.
    So my grands know about britches, and fixin’ to, and know that sometimes they done done it. I miss my home area. I wanted to move there when I retired. But the grands are farther north than we are. I done got reasons to stay put.

  • Reply
    Steve Wilson
    April 29, 2014 at 8:09 pm

    When you’re done with done, you can start on the
    word “seen”. As in “I done seen her yesterday”.

  • Reply
    April 29, 2014 at 5:19 pm

    A-men on the dialect, reminds me of a friend of my wife’s, they are from Kansas, and when they moved here, they had a hard time knowing what we mint when we said it,, but you can carry on a conversation with just about anyone who is originally form the south and never explain yourself…

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    April 29, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    When my youngest daughter was about
    3, she pulled off her doll’s head and
    threw it away. When we asked her what
    happened to the head, she said “It
    done dis-appeared!” …Ken

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    April 29, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    I have me a cute little doctor, who talks funny. I said to him,
    “You’re not frum around here are you?” He looked up from his notes with an astounded look! Before he could say a word, I said, ” Frum the sound of yore dialect, you are straight frum the Bronx, NY!” He laughed and said, “How did you know, I have lived in Knoxville several years!” “Well, I said”, “When I travel, I’m so used to people askin’ me that question, and it gets kinda tiresome!”
    Sooo, I thought when I heard a quip of your Bronx dialect, I just thought I would ask you, as I figured I’d never get to have the chance in my lifetime!”
    Bless his heart! He laughed and said, “I’m glad I could help!”
    Thanks Tipper, Loved this post!
    You’ve gone and done good again!

  • Reply
    April 29, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    Love this old speech. My mother was born in West TN but all your vocabulary is much like her speech. Wish I had recorded her. I was kidding someone about having a drink (alcohol) the other day & immediately thought Mama would have said they had been, “Sippin on the cider”.

  • Reply
    Julie Hughes
    April 29, 2014 at 11:17 am

    All of the examples are alive and well in my house. This reminds me of an old boyfriend’s response to our breakup. I told him ” you finally done done it! I’m done.” He kept asking me what that meant! I guess he done figured it out!

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    April 29, 2014 at 10:02 am

    It’s them folks that talks funny!! There actually is a fair amount of Appalachian English that derives from English that goes way back.

  • Reply
    Granny Sue
    April 29, 2014 at 9:36 am

    There is something musical in the way we talk. I could say I’m going to go to the store, but it just sounds better to say I’m a fixin’ to go to the store. I like the sound, the flow of the words to my ears. In college I wrote a paper once about how I would speak one way in certain places (work, school, around my parents in northern Virginia), but differently at home with my West-Virginia-raised husband and my neighbors.

  • Reply
    April 29, 2014 at 9:25 am

    I had a male friend who was born and raised up north, lived several years in Boston and finally settled in KY. He constantly critcized my dialect and tried to get me to listen to some Word Enrichment CDs he had in his vehicle. He said I talked too much like Loretta Lynn and that he had formed an opinion of her years ago. That did it! I told him I done had enough of him.

  • Reply
    Brian Blake
    April 29, 2014 at 9:19 am

    Thanks, Tipper, for this valuable note on the defining Appalachian linguistic heritage of 20-million Americans. It’s incorporated with attribution in “Comin’ Round The Mountain,” my chapter on Appalachia in “Under Brilliant Stars.”

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike
    April 29, 2014 at 8:54 am

    Yuns have to forgive them New York folks. They do the best they can under the circumstances. I once got lost in ‘the city’ and I jest about panicked. Thar was not a soul that I felt like asken fer direcshuns.
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    April 29, 2014 at 8:47 am

    You done got it right! An extra “done” adds emphasis. How we speak professionally, whether from Appalachia, general country, the Canadian border, or American Desert is most likely quite different from the way we speak at the local coffee shop, on a horse, behind a tractor, at the market, at the hairdressers, or on the square. I know many professors, lawyers, engineers, doctors who, if you heard them outside their professional settings, would be difficult for their professional cohorts to identify by voice alone in a conversation. Folks like teachers and salespeople seem to generally benefit from retaining their home-speech. Seems to make others more comfortable with them; but in the right setting, where they need to command respect or emphasize the authority of what they are saying, they can speak “professionally” with ease.

  • Reply
    April 29, 2014 at 8:42 am

    I concur, however, I think that the type of dialect and word usuage is more prevelent in areas where everyone seems to use the same language forms. Sometimes when one is out of its element, word usuage will change and the speaker will begin to adopt new forms of usuage. When I first came to NC, I was told that I talk funny and I need to learn how to talk the NC way. I still chuckle about that! I’m a retired English teacher!

  • Reply
    April 29, 2014 at 8:23 am

    I personally think the Appalachian dialect is in danger in my area. One teacher many years ago made an effort to teach us how pure our speech actually is.
    Everybody has a cause, and I wish more effort was put into teaching a love and respect for our Appalachian culture. This is one of the many reasons The Blind Pig is followed with devotion by many. Another reason, of course, is the efforts of Tipper to keep it interesting.
    I have a deep devotion to any and all things Appalachian…the ramp grows in my herb garden… I look forward to the day I can try Molly Moochers for the first time.

  • Reply
    April 29, 2014 at 8:09 am

    When we served out West (Arizona and Utah) people would comment on our accent. My response was, “You’re the one that talks funny. We speak correctly.”
    Sometimes my wife would chime in with, “I can always understand him. I struggle to grasp what you’re saying especially when you call me a guy. We’re y’alls, not guys.”

  • Reply
    Carol Isler
    April 29, 2014 at 7:58 am

    I do my best to keep our dialect alive.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    April 29, 2014 at 7:45 am

    ♪♫ My Momma done tol me,
    when I was in knee pants♪
    ♫ Now, I’ll be gone gone gone, gone gone gone, gone gone gone, done and gone ♪

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    April 29, 2014 at 7:41 am

    I concur with Michael Montgomery’s evaluation of our “Appalachian English.” It may not be solely distinctive our our people in Appalachia, and what we were “brought up on.” Some of us, when we moved away, went to college and the like, somewhat developed a purer and “more educated” form of spoken and written English. But when we were again associated with our families who remained in the hills, or those who still spoke our Appalachian English vernacular, we could easily revert to our “old” and “colorful” way of speaking. And bout done as a helping word not needed, I can remember a double-emphasis, as “We done did the work of laying-by the crops. We can rest a spell and take in the protracted meeting next week at the church.” And then, after the week–or maybe two weeks’ revival was over, we might comment on it: “We done had us a good time at revival meeting. Everybody was done in one mind and accord, and the Spirit done worked among us.”

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    April 29, 2014 at 7:21 am

    Yes sir, we are what we are and we like it. I used to work with a man, a social worker actually. He would occasionally say to me “your country is showing” in response to something I said. I would look at him and say “and?”
    You would think with my curt response he would give up trying to get me to talk like he did but it never happened. LOL! He was a nice guy from upstate New York….

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