Appalachia Appalachian Dialect

Appalachian Grammar Lesson 3


Years ago, my Appalachian Studies Professor told my class: “We Appalachians are a funny bunch. Sometimes we save time by removing letters or syllables from words but then we turn right around and add extra letters and syllables to others.” For this month’s grammar lesson I have a few examples.

Shortening words.

  • Leaving the s off the end of plural units of measure (pounds, miles, years). “I bet that box weighed 50 pound. I should know since I’m the one that carried it up the hill every day for the last 10 year!” (this example is very common in my area of Appalachia)
  • Leaving the g off of words that end in ing. “If I hear you’ve been a fightin at school they’ll be no pickin or grinnin with Pap come Sunday.”

Lengthening words.

  • Adding an es to words that only need an s to be made plural. “The doctor told Aunt Moreen they’d have to run more testes before they could send her home from the hospital.” (other examples: maskes, nestes, postes, deskes, ghostes)
  • Adding a r to words. “Mommy always did the warsh on Saturdays. That way she said we’d be clean for the new week.” (other examples: rurnt, breakfurst, womern)

My Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English said using the es on words to make them plural is a hold over from old English. According to the notes I kept from my Appalachian Studies class my professor also said the es plural thing was an old English way of speaking.

Hope you’ll leave me a comment and tell me if you’re familiar with the examples of shortening words and lengthening words.

Tipper

 

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38 Comments

  • Reply
    John
    January 11, 2019 at 2:51 am

    Same here, also we use disc-ed ie I disc Ed 10 a res yesterday

  • Reply
    kathryn Magendie
    February 6, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    Made me smile – just always loving coming here! – I’m still thinking about the Pinto Beans from the other day 😀

  • Reply
    Janet
    January 26, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    Oh yes, we are always shortening words around here.

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    January 26, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    Thank you, Tipper, for this helpful post. I am intrigued by dialects, language drift and peculiar idiom. You may recall a letter I found in an old falling-down house in Southwest Virginia; in fact, you featured the letter in your Christmas stories one year. You carefully kept the spelling and the sentence construction just the way the pining woman had written her letter to her sister.
    As I read this post today, I see your display of words where “es” is added; you gave testes (tests) as an example.
    When I first read the woman’s letter I had never seen the “es” practice. She used the word “testes” talking about a doctor’s visit. I thought she had just misspelled the word “tests” by her own mistake.
    You very interesting post here shows me that her grammar was not all that unusual and not an error as far as she was concerned.
    Thank you again for a very fine, and important, post.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    January 25, 2011 at 11:20 pm

    I have been so busy I just got the chance to read these. I too leave the g off most words that end in ing. But, I was taught NOT to use contractions. So I usually say will not instead of won’t, can not instead of can’t or caint. A proper southern girl just did not use them.

  • Reply
    Bradley
    January 25, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    Jim,
    That statement about Churchill dealing with the preposition ending a sentence and how to deal with it is a gem. So, I just have to tell about the time some of us country boys were about to take an exam in English class. One of the more cultured boys was giving some of us other boys some last minute advice. He warned against ending a sentence with a preposition, using a subject verb disagreement, run on sentence, an “oh yes, and be shore and don’t use no double negatives!” lol.
    Hope you don’t mind but I’m going to use that Churchill quote and tell all my nieces and nephews how Churchill avoided that problem with the preposition. That one is one to remember.
    Thanks,
    Bradley

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    January 25, 2011 at 6:32 am

    Tipper, this has been great fun.
    When I was reading through the first time, I wondered if you’d put the testes in there just to see if someone would pick it up and run with it. Count on a good old boy like Lonnie to do it (great story, Lonnie!).
    And Miss Cindy, keep a-pourin it on when it comes to straightenin Jim out. I loved your comment (and Jim obviously did, too).

  • Reply
    janet pressley
    January 25, 2011 at 1:56 am

    hereins unutha un. my lags hurtin sa bat.

  • Reply
    kenneth o. hoffman
    January 25, 2011 at 12:31 am

    Tipper: these are words and non-words , we all use around here.in spite of the fact all of our folks have been out here since the twenties and thirties. i guess as i grew up ,i tried to become my dad, i admired him so much,and his wonderful stories of hazel creek.i have a great picture of my folks house at the elephant rock. my grandfather built it with out plans or permits. well enough ramblings for now. your friend k.o.h

  • Reply
    Lanny
    January 25, 2011 at 12:31 am

    Here’s a favorite lengthener by a little girl ’round these parts. Girls have chesteses. Who really pronounces that ridiculous g any way? I do believe it gets in the way most time. Just sayin.

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    January 24, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    Waspers is much easier to say than wasps.

  • Reply
    Greta Koehl
    January 24, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    Then there’s “hyper-correction” – when people get corrected often for not saying the “g” at the end of “ing” words, they sometimes correct words like mountain into “mounting.”

  • Reply
    Bradley
    January 24, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    Tipper,
    I forgot to tell you this one. Years ago I worked with an old country boy that was almost as country as me. You know this statement about putting an e with the s to make a word plural, well one night he and his wife and another couple (not me) were in a restaurant. When the waitress asked him what he wanted to eat he said he would like two chicken breastes. His wife came unglued and said “Junior, it is breast not breastes!” He was quick to reply: “I know that Lovey, but I want more than one!
    Well, you know, there’s days when nothing goes right.
    Bradley

  • Reply
    Becky
    January 24, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    Oh yeah, you know I have. LOL
    Mostly from the older generation, but I still slip sometimes. LOL

  • Reply
    Tipper
    January 24, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    Bradley-yes that is the same stumped tailed dog from the Christmas video. His name is Bill but we call him Wild Bill : ) thanks for the comment!
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    Bradley
    January 24, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    Tipper,
    I’m gwiana tuh teh’ye sumpin rat now. I moan shore be fooled if at ain’t at bob tailed dawg I seed inat snow video back around Christmas time. Hon’t know but it looks like Im’on have to start gwine to school so I’kin talk better.
    We sometimes talk like that around here. We know better but we don’t care. Sometimes we can really put it on when some city slicker is around just so we can play dumb when they point out our grammar problems.
    Another thing,is that the same dog that was playing around in the snow in the Christmas video?
    Sorry to be so crazy, but sometimes the little boy comes out in me!
    Enjoyed all the grammer!
    Bradler

  • Reply
    Nancy Simpson
    January 24, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    It’s interestin. I love hearin it.

  • Reply
    Stacey
    January 24, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    Wow, that’s some different talking. I have to say though, that I have never heard anyone really talk using any of the pronounciations you speak of.
    My area has an accent that I didn’t pick up, my dad has it, my mom doesn’t. I do, however, use a word that is custom to Pittsburgh (so I hear) which is “yinz” or “yinz guys”
    “Yinz have a vocabulary all your own.”
    “What are yinz guys doing tonight?”
    Just for using that word specifically, my husband, who’s from NYC calls me a hillbilly, lol!
    I’d love to hear a conversation with your accents.
    Stacey
    SWPA

  • Reply
    elithea
    January 24, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    when i was a kid in california, i was mortified to discover that a drawing i had labelled “Chicargo” was misspelled. Well, that’s how my florida mama said it!
    meanwhile, i’ve named the socks i’m making to sell in Brasstown “Silva Soxes” and i never even knew it was an Appalachian thing! I was thinking more Gollum.:) did i tell you that when i got back to tampa after spending winter break in brasstown, one of my 4th graders asked if i’d been “somewhere country”? 🙂

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    January 24, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    Miss Cindy–You flat-out caught me with my overalls unbuckled when it comes to use of the apostrophe in mountain English. Alas, I fear I have a pronounced penchant for the pedantic which results from being a recoverin’ professor,and although the disease is mainly in remission sometimes there’s a temporary outbreak. You’uns also need to realize that I trade words for nickels (or maybe it’s more like pennies these days)and writin’ right is almost second nature, never mind the fact that I usually fail to proofread what is printed here.
    Lonnie–I absolutely loved the tale of the testes, and it leads me to share a personal story of a somewhat similar nature.
    Back in my “professin'” days I taught one mass freshman class of 150-200 students each semester in addition to my smaller upper level and graduate classes. Sheer size necessitated checking the roll by use of a seating chart, and one day while doing that I noticed there was unaccustomed giggling and sniggering. Finally, a boy up near the front said: “Dr. Casada, your pants are unzipped.” He then immediately turned to an attractive coed sitting next to him and added: “But I didn’t notice it, she did!”
    Poor girl–she turned every possible hue of red as the class erupted in laughter (as I discreetly turned my back and rectified the sartorial slip-up with a zip-up).
    Jim Casada
    http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com

  • Reply
    Nancy
    January 24, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    I think I’m guilty of shortenin’. Adding the extra “es” to wordses is a hoot.
    I love these lessonses. So interestin’!

  • Reply
    Sallie Covolo
    January 24, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    I really enjoyed your Appalachian Grammar Post. On leaving a letter off (especially an s)my California born offspring always laughed at me for saying 50 cent or ten cent. I expect we are all disposed to leave letters off such as the g.
    I have heard people say warsh instead of wash.
    Your blog is fantastic.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    January 24, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    I relate to a bunch of the comments here. Like Wayne’s mother, our Mama did try to get us to use proper grammar. I had never heard the use of “you’uns” until my first day in school. I must’ve really liked hearing it, because that evening I came home and found a way to use my newly-acquired word. Mama scolded me about it (lightly), and I didn’t make it part of my speech back then. But it is now (Mama, if you’re listening or reading Tipper’s blog up there, I hope you’ll understand).
    I’m an engineer whose main focus is on helping industrial plants use energy efficiently, and tend to look at things through that set of eyes. In the case of mountain speech, I think what you’re seeing is energy efficiency in well-nigh perfect practice.
    Think about a couple of the words Tipper has cited as examples:
    Ruined vs rurnt: Try pronouncing those two words and think about how much more work it takes to say ruined.
    Desks vs deskes: Again, just pronounce both of them and see which takes the most effort.
    Or try aren’t vs ain’t (be sure to pronounce aren’t the way folks without the benefit of our cultural endowments would – with two syllables).
    And consider the word efficient. The dictionary would tell you to pronounce it
    ih-fish-uhnt
    I say it
    uh-fish-uhnt
    Much easier (more efficient!)
    So if anyone ever starts throwin’ out the idee that you’uns is lazy, just tell ’em you’re bein’ uhfishunt.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    January 24, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    Now Jim, it may be proper stylistic use to add the apostrophe when a letter is omitted but we don’t acknowledge that we’ve omitted anything we are just speaking proper Southern, with a capital S. lol!
    Tipper I know all of these but the one I’m most likely to use is dropping the g from words ending in ing.
    Nice pictures of Bill. He sure is a sweet dog.

  • Reply
    Ken
    January 24, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    Tipper,
    Is that Ruby Sue? If she can ever
    have pups, I’d like to buy one. A
    good picture and brings back some
    memories of my Little Bit.
    When I lived in northwest Atlanta,
    there was a lady that had the most
    beautiful ‘Southern’ accent. When
    she spoke she never pronounced the
    ‘r’ in her words. Since we were
    neighbors, I would ask her things
    about her early Atlanta years,
    just to appreciate her speech.
    Our speech throughout Appalachia
    is surely different from the rest
    of the world…Ken

  • Reply
    petra michelle
    January 24, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    So interesting, Tipper! I’ve never heard anyone add the “es” to pluralize, but have heard many add the “r” as in warsh, etc. even here in New Jersey.
    Hope you’re staying warm! :))

  • Reply
    Lonnie L. Dockery
    January 24, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Tipper, we have to be careful how we pronounce some of the words we create. Years ago we had a receptionist who was purely Appalachian and a counselor who was not. He asked her to make copies of some tests for him. When she returned to her desk she found she had people waiting so she yelled across the crowded lobby to him: “B___, Your testes are on my desk!” He had to wait until everyone left to go get them!

  • Reply
    Ethel
    January 24, 2011 at 11:46 am

    Well this one was really fun! I had to laugh at myself – generally I love and embrace our peculair vernacular, but “warsh” is one of those pronounciations that set my teeth on edge! My mom always says it that way, and I remember sassing her once about saying warshrag, informing her that “warsh isn’t a word”, and, “rags are for scrubbing the floor, I use a cloth to bathe.” Of course she slapped the fire out of me,and I did eventually learn to respect my elders and our living language! There’s not much adding an ‘es’ to words around here. We do leave the ‘g’ off the end of words, but it seems to depend on the particular word and where it’s at in a sentence. It is quite common to leave the ‘s’ off weights and measures here too; “I have a couple pound of potatoes in the bin, I think I’ll fry them up with onions and bell pepper, like Mom always did. Then I think I’ll call her and thank her (again)for putting up with the sassy teenaged Ethel!” Thanks Tipper, for another pleasant stroll down memory lane!

  • Reply
    Pat in east TN
    January 24, 2011 at 11:12 am

    I agree with everyone … all this is very common in my area.

  • Reply
    D
    January 24, 2011 at 10:59 am

    We did the warshin on sardee. 🙂

  • Reply
    Sandra
    January 24, 2011 at 9:11 am

    since i am half applachaian and half georgia cracker, i am guilty of the first but not the last. i do all of the shortin you mentioned, but not the lengething. i do make a 2 syllabe word into 2 or 3 syllables which does make them longer. these are great

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    January 24, 2011 at 8:25 am

    Tipper–The omisson of a concluding “g” extends far beyond Appalachia, although it is extremely common usage in the area. For proper stylistic use, omission of the “g” (or other letters for that matter, is indicated through use of the apostrophe. For example, “one of these days I hope to sit in on a picin’ and grinnin’ session featurin’ Pap and Paul.”
    The word them often is expressed as ’em, as in directions to a dog “fetch ’em, boy.”
    It is fairly common to hear “learnt” for learned, “burnt” for burned, “ruint” for ruined, “skeert” for scared, and other situations where a concluding “t” replaces ed.
    On a personal basis, my wife constantly teases me about my pronunciation of mockingbird (I say “mawkingbird”).
    Another mountain speech trait I really enjoy is use of sounds to create words. For example, I never knew what a towhee was until long after I was grown. I always called it a joree (which is a much more accurate rendition of the bird’s two-note song).
    As someone who putatively (you won’t hear that word much in the mountains!) makes his living using words, I always enjoy these side roads into speechifying.
    Jim Casada
    http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com

  • Reply
    WAYNE NEWTON
    January 24, 2011 at 8:07 am

    My Mama, taught me from the cradle to speak proper English, but from my peers I learned south Georgia speak.
    I traveled to many parts of the world, in business, and was compelled to speak correct or proper English, simply to be understood by others.
    Now retired for ten years, I find that most of those bad habits are left behind, and I speak like most other southerners, though as a Piney-woods boy some of our words are a little different.
    Occasionally I slip back to library English, but I quickly catch myself. Southern speak just sounds better. It rolls off the tongue better.

  • Reply
    barbara gantt
    January 24, 2011 at 8:03 am

    Your makin me homesick, Barbara

  • Reply
    Farmchick
    January 24, 2011 at 6:48 am

    All of these things are very common in my central KY area. Especially leaving the “g” off the ending of words.

  • Reply
    Sara Middlebrook
    January 24, 2011 at 6:32 am

    To this day I still don’t use the g’s! My hubands personal favorite is fixin! As in “I’m fixin to slap you upside the head if you don’t hush” And rurnt, yes I use that one too. You can take the girl out of the mountains, but you can not take the mountains out of the girl.

  • Reply
    B Ruth
    January 24, 2011 at 6:10 am

    Tipper,
    One of the bestes times I ever did have was swingin offen the tree and swimin in the lake…It twert much difurnt from the holler pond, fifty yard down the road, but that lake water must’ve been 200 hundernt foot acrost.
    I’ve heard and probably used all of these…had a friend that constantly used bestes cake, bread, coffee etc…
    Thanks Tipper….

  • Reply
    Donna W
    January 24, 2011 at 5:34 am

    My grandma left the “s” off pies, as in “I baked two pie today.”
    I leave the g off “ing” most of the time.

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