Appalachia Appalachian Dialect

Appalachian Grammar Lesson 5

Today’s Appalachian Grammar Lesson centers around the words: good, bad, worst, and awful. The words are used to place great emphasis on the subject’s tendencies.


*Zelma was always good to help out at church.

*He was bad to drink and it finally caught up with him.

*She was the worst liar I ever seen. You couldn’t believe nothing she said.

*That bait of fish we had for supper was awful good.

The examples above are exactly what I would say. Well except for ‘bait’ I probably wouldn’t say that-but The Deer Hunter would.

So how about you-is this type of grammar usage common in your area?



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  • Reply
    April 6, 2011 at 6:32 am

    Well, I don’t know about my area, I’m a little “different” from those in my area. But in my house….I definitely would say all of those.

  • Reply
    March 30, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    these are all familiar words to me. I’ve used them a lot.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    March 27, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    I’m two days late and a full brain short, but I had to jump in on this great subject.
    On Saturday, Susan and I went to the Sugarlands to listen to Margaret and J.C. McCaulley talk about the book she wrote about his early years and his folks, “A Cades Cove Childhood.” Their love for mountain people and ways is immediately apparent, both in person and through the pages of the book. The book is absolutely delightful, and I’d strongly recommend that anyone reading this get themselves a copy.
    During their talk, the subject of ramps came up. Mr. McCaulley told of how some of the boys used to eat ramps in the springtime in order to get excused from school. That tradition was being carried on in Swain County, NC when I was growing up in the 50’s and 60’s. But the mention of the subject got me to wanting a bait of ramps in the worst way.
    I’m mighty bad about getting out and rambling through the woods – this time of year in particular. How can you have roots in these mountains and not feel like you’re being renewed yourself when you see bloodroot, trout lilies, spring beauties, rue anemone, hepatica, star chickweed, trillium, geraniums – and on and on – in their springtime exuberance? So after enjoying the time hearing the McCaulleys yesterday, we went rambling around off trail for awhile – it was a great day in spite of the ominous weather forecast.
    Then we came home and enjoyed some fresh spring ramps (I’m not saying where I got them); they were awful good. Can life on this earth get much better than a spring day in the mountains topped off by a bait of fresh ramps?

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    March 27, 2011 at 10:38 am

    I’ve used all exce3pt for bait, but heard it used often. Awful was used as full of awe in the traditional sense, my grandmother used it this way. We used mess as in mess of greens, fish or “everwhat”.
    I just gt back to FL from a brief trip to NC and it was “awful” with all the pear, apple, cherry and redbud blossoms. I believe I saw the Sarvice trees you mentioned in your post last Spring as it is too early for the Dogwoods. We drove in rain and hail all the way through GA

  • Reply
    March 27, 2011 at 7:33 am

    Bradley-good ones! The ‘name it’ one is still common here-and getting fuzzed up about something is very common in my household : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at

  • Reply
    March 27, 2011 at 7:29 am

    Wayne-I do : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    March 26, 2011 at 10:37 pm

    All are familiar too me but I haven’t often heard ‘bait’ used that way. It would more likely be mess of fish.
    I love the ‘bad to’ and ‘good to’ usages!Mainly hear it in phrases like “Law,he was bad to drink!”

  • Reply
    barbara gantt
    March 26, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    We use them all except bait. We always said a mess of fish. Enjoy these post so much, Barbara

  • Reply
    March 26, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    I use all of those words except for, “bait”. Don’t think I have heard that used before.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    March 26, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    Miss Cindy’s comment reminded me of the story my mom used to tell about my granddad in Alabama and the time he came home, walked in the kitchen to check out what was for dinner and opened the lid on a pressurized pressure cooker. I don’t know why he wasn’t killed or at least scalded! Mom’s family got a laugh out of that one for many years…

  • Reply
    Larry Proffitt
    March 26, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    Nothing “quair” about those expressions here in far east tennessee. All common here and as Jim said for some reason in these parts too ” God-awful ” is common
    as well as ” a bait of fried trout or horney heads” yummmmm. Larry Proffitt

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    March 26, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    Tipper, this is a awful good post. It was good of you to put it down. You are bad to find them words we all use that is the worst English ever.
    I know them all and use them all except bait and mess, as Jim pointed out.
    I can remember my grandmother using mess…in the culinary
    I can tell you exactly where the Deer Hunter picked up a bait. It was from his Grandmother Lura. She spoke fluent Appalachian!
    Speaking of Lura, she was known to frequently explode the pressure cooker. In her house it was called a blow up pot. All her 9 kids called it the blow up pot. She had a permanent chicken stain on her ceiling!

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    March 26, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    All of the above except bait. I also say, “I need to go see Jen in the worst way”.

  • Reply
    March 26, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    Just got back from saying ‘goodby’
    to one of the best friends I ever
    All the words in the Appalachian
    Vocabulary test I use almost daily. And like Jim, I’m grateful
    to you for all the mountain talking points and your dedication
    to share the Blind Pig and the Acorn…Ken

  • Reply
    Sherry Whitaker
    March 26, 2011 at 11:10 am

    All of the above are familiar…especially “bait”. My mother always uses that expression! My folks use seen instead of saw, come instead of came and my kids tease me about saying over yonder, in yonder or just yonder when trying to describe just where something or someone is located!

  • Reply
    March 26, 2011 at 11:01 am

    My own story — when we moved to Texas back in the ’60s, I was used to saying “50+50 equals one hundred.” I was quickly admonished and advised the correct way to say this was “50+50 equals a hunerd.”

  • Reply
    Wayne Newton
    March 26, 2011 at 10:56 am

    Tipper, I listen to your music in the background while working at my laptop.
    One of the songs is “Stuck Up Blues”. I recall that one from long ago.
    Do folks still use that expression when talking about someone?

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    March 26, 2011 at 10:44 am

    Tipper–I’ve heard (and used) these words all my life. I would add some thoughts:
    (1) I’ve frequently heard God used with awful, such as “Poor thing, he is God-awful ugly, although he can’t help it.”
    (2) Awful is frequently used in a positive sense,as is the case with the example you give. As I read and listen, it occurs to me that Pap and Paul are awful good singers.
    (3) Somehow there’s a bit of deprivation in your expression and elocution if you never use the word bait (almost always connected with food). Right now it’s the season for a big bait of ramps and trout. I view bait and mess as being synonyms.
    (4) I knew a fellow whose obituary concluded with these words: “He was bad to fish.” To me, as someone who is awful bad to fish in my own right, that was a real testament to the man’s life. Incidentally, awful bad as used in the previous sentence takes two words normally having a negative connotation to make a double positive in terms of emphasis.
    The interesting thing about these words and Appalachian grammar in general is that those of us raised in the hills and hollows use countless words and expressions without ever thinking they are “quair” to others. That’s the beauty of this post–you remind us of the uniqueness of mountain talk.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    March 26, 2011 at 10:40 am

    Tipper – I have heard all those words used to describe things. One of my uncles was telling how things were when he was little and he said that they were bad to have a lot of mad-dogs running around back then.
    One that wasn’t mentioned that used to knock me out was one this old lady in our neighborhood used to say. For instance, instead of saying that someone wouldn’t reveal what had happened she would say…..” I don’t know what happened to them that made them mad, they never did name it.” “The onlyiest thing I knowed was something made them fuzz up at each other.”
    I love this vocabulary thing !

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    March 26, 2011 at 10:30 am

    This Monday past, like Janice’s critter, my computer box just up and died! My kids were always good to help me to “flunky and tinker” with it to get it goin’ again! This was the worst fit it had pitched since I bought it in ’07. It was always bad to send up signs and red flags to let me know when it was getting bad sick. Not this time, like the toad on the walking path, it four-legged up and croaked! The Geek folks took it in and waved mountain magic to the tune of 200 bucks, but refunded 80 of it, which was awful good of them! I think they took pity on this old worman.
    One good thang, it didn’t have the flu virus, worms or other malady ware! I had a file that went corrupted and threw up on the others and made ’em all sick, you know kinda like the bad apple!…The tonic for it was high but worth it…
    Thanks Tipper, I missed you’all!

  • Reply
    Debra Elliott
    March 26, 2011 at 9:56 am

    Thanks for the grammer lesson. Just what I needed to add to Rain’s voice in Kentucky Rain.
    I had her saying “I ran plum into Fynn.”

  • Reply
    Mary Jane Plemons
    March 26, 2011 at 9:37 am

    While I have heard “bait”, I’ve more often heard a “mess” of fish or poke salad or greens or whatever. “Worst” around here would often be used to say something like, “He was the worst on his shoes of any kid you ever saw,” or, “She was the worst to play hookey of any girl I ever saw.” Your examples sound like we talked in East Texas…but not “Deep East Texas”…LOL…a different area! Deep East Texas is in the piney woods; I grew up just at the edge, but not quite in Central Texas.
    Mary Sunshine

  • Reply
    Debby Brown
    March 26, 2011 at 9:35 am

    Those of us having been raised around a “perticular way of talkin'” do not realize how strange we sound to others or that we are even saying anything that turns out awful wrong. or awful right, or pert near to anything awful atoll! It was not until I became friends with folks from Canada that I found that though I had no idea why they say, x y and zed.., the things I said far outnumbered those that they said that I didn’t understand. I found out that there just wasn’t any way to explain to them what in tarnation I was even saying mainly because I didn’t even know. I just used what I was supposed to use where I was supposed to use it at!

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    March 26, 2011 at 9:16 am

    don’t forget cooking up a “mess of greens” and I can remember my grandmother saying that someone was crazy as a bessie bug!

  • Reply
    March 26, 2011 at 9:09 am

    Janice-as soon as I read your comment-I recalled something I said in the last few days “he just up and left-I don’t know what happened to him” so I still use that one too : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at

  • Reply
    Donna W
    March 26, 2011 at 9:04 am

    Yes, except for “bait”, as you said.

  • Reply
    March 26, 2011 at 9:02 am

    I would say and did say when my suv rolled over, that was the worst wreck I was ever in.
    and i say awful good about the dogs, food, times, and say she/he is awful good or awful bad. the only one i don’t use but have heard all my life is the bad to drink one. i love these grammar lessons

  • Reply
    Janice MacDaniels
    March 26, 2011 at 8:58 am

    This is a bit off topic, but when I was first married and moved from the South to NY (where I now live) and my South was bit more pronounced back then… I once made the remark that “the critter just up and died”. Which set my NY friends to laughing and for the rest of my life they ask me, “Tell us again…what did that critter do?” so as to, yet again, bust a gut!

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