Appalachian Dialect Sayings from Appalachia

Appalachian Sayings – Light a Rag

Appalachian saying light a rag

Junaluska Community – Cherokee Co. NC – July 2016

She said a storm was coming so she better light a rag for home and down the hill she went as fast as her legs could carry her.

light a rag = to leave or go; also called light a shuck


I’ve done no research, but I’d guess the old sayings light a rag or light a shuck originated in the days when folks did indeed light a torch made from rags or shucks to light their way.

I seldom hear either saying today, but heard light a rag often when I was a child.



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  • Reply
    Ray Presley
    September 9, 2021 at 11:26 am

    All of those are familiar to me. A few others we’ve used Hightail it outta here and he lit outta there like a bat outta hades.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 19, 2019 at 3:18 pm

    One I must have forgotten when this blog was originally written …is one I use quite often…”Well, we better “hit and git it” or we’ll never get there in time…LOL
    Love this post,

  • Reply
    Jack Burk
    April 23, 2017 at 2:42 pm

    I’ve heard and read many explanations about the origin of “light a shuck” as used by someone who needed to leave quickly such as “I gotta light a shuck out of here”. A common explanation eluded to leaving hurriedly because a lighted corn shuck would not burn very long in the dark. I think the best explanation I ever heard involved a balky mule or jackass which would not move. So a corn shuck would be placed under the animals’ tail and the shuck then lit. Therefore, “to light a shuck” came to move out quickly.

  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    December 10, 2016 at 4:21 pm

    Now that’s something I’ve never heard. The explanation for it sounds very likely though, doesn’t it.
    I wonder if the “shuck” they’re talking about is a corn shuck? That would readily light someone’s way through a dark path if on fire, though it might burn a bit quickly if you were going far.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 8, 2016 at 11:00 pm

    I bout forgot “gotta scoot.” And “gotta motorvate” after we got a car. And don’t forget “better run.”
    “Well I guess I better run.”
    “What’s your hurry? You jist got here.”
    “I’ve got milking to do before dark.”
    “Well, why don’t you come back when you can stay a while?”
    “I will. When are you going to come over?
    “One of these first days, I will!”
    “Yeah, I know! That’s what you told me the last time I was here.”

  • Reply
    Bobby Chester
    December 8, 2016 at 10:46 pm

    Tipper, I’ve never heard “light a rag” or “light a shuck”, but like many of the others, we use “light out” and “lit out”, as in “He lit out toward the house.” quite often.

  • Reply
    December 8, 2016 at 7:37 pm

    I believe I have heard that phrase, “light a shuck,” but I think I read it often in Louis L’More western books!

  • Reply
    Lee Mears
    December 8, 2016 at 6:35 pm

    I never heard “light a rag” but it makes sense. A lot depended on LIGHT back in the day!
    You may have covered this before I started reading your site, but my family would tell people who came by and left quickly, ‘what did you come for, a coal of fire?” If they had let their fire go out and didn’t have matches people actually would borrow a coal of fire. Before my time!
    After I married my family said, “get a hat” for leaving, going, but that is military..or at least Marines.

  • Reply
    Chuck Howell
    December 8, 2016 at 6:03 pm

    My Kansas Father-In-Law says. “Gotta head for the Barn” Is this Appalachian? Probably not. Gotta Skidaddle fer now.

  • Reply
    December 8, 2016 at 1:57 pm

    I got so many favorites by the Wilson Family that I had to call our Christian Radio Station and request “Until Then” by Paul and Jerry Wilson. I was fortunate to be at the Blairsville Courthouse when that was taped. …Ken

  • Reply
    December 8, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    Never heard of “light a rag” or anything, I bet we were more sophisticated. ha Actually, daddy always told folks “we live so far back in the hills, that the Saturday Night Grand ol Opery didn’t come in till Sunday morning.” …Ken

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 8, 2016 at 12:08 pm

    I have never heard either phrase. or “cut a choagie” I mostly heard “cut a trail” “get a move on” “got to git” and “got to scat”

  • Reply
    anita griffith
    December 8, 2016 at 11:28 am

    Never heard that one.I usually say I’ve got to go see a man about a horse,but this usually means you are going to the toilet.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 8, 2016 at 10:37 am

    I’ve heard “light a rag” never light a shuck! My Dad said, they would use kerosene soaked torches, when it was only absolutely necessary. Most of the time they depended on a good lantern to walk to the barn at night to investigate a noise making varmit!
    Only time we use a kerosene soaked torch nowadays is on a long pole when the better half is trying to smoke out a hornets nest. Thanks goodness for those long shot wasper sprays of today! We didn’t hear about them until a electric lineman several years ago had one in his tool belt. Was asked what that spray was for as he made his way up in the bucket to check out a transformer. He said, more than a few times he nearly got knocked out of the bucket by a nest of waspers that had built in a transformer! ha
    I gotta go, “lickity split” or I’ll be in a heap of trouble! I’ve also heard, “light out” or he “lit out” for home!
    Never heard, “light a rag” concerning dancing and fast banjer music! Daddy always said he could sure “cut a rug” when he was younger. Mom agreed and said, Dad could really dance to those fast tunes!
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    December 8, 2016 at 10:35 am

    I don’t believe that I’ve ever heard that expression. I have heard and use light out. As in light out for home. Or, he lit out of here like his tail was on fire.

  • Reply
    harry adams
    December 8, 2016 at 9:48 am

    “light a shuck” is a favorite saying in Louis Lamour Westerns, but I never heard anyone actually use it. Grew up too late maybe. I always wondered if anyone “lit a shuck” around a horse would it go crazy with fear.
    The amount of light given by a rag or shuck is so small that I think it would do more harm to your night eyes than it would do good. I find walking my dog at night is easier without a flashlight. Of course now there is more sky light pollution so that even in the country it is not normally truly dark.

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    December 8, 2016 at 9:41 am

    Never heard that one! We always said, “Better high-tail it for home.”

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    December 8, 2016 at 9:15 am

    I’ve only heard light a match or a fire under your feet.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    December 8, 2016 at 8:38 am

    “Light a rag,” to “hie oneself away as fast as possible” was a common saying in my dear Choestoe, “place where rabbits dance.” We also said, to break up conversation which we’d have like to linger and do more of, “Now I’ve got to light right out!” We were pretty task-oriented people, and if hoeing the garden, washing clothes, working in the fields (whatever the task), why, we’d “light a rag” and get right onto the job! Love, these old expressive sayings. And now with Christmas so near, why I’ve got to light a rag and get some things on my to-do list done! And yes, I’ve heard it in reference to mountain music, too. So as we enjoy the Christmas music, let’s “Light a rag!” and play and sing merrily! Merry Christmas to all of you!

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    December 8, 2016 at 8:35 am

    I’ve never heard” Light a Rag” or “Light a Shuck” but for as long as I can remember I’v heard and used “Cut a Shuck” which means to proceed in great haste just as “Light a Rag and Light a Shuck”. Another term I’ve heard and used is “Cut a Choagie” which means the same.

  • Reply
    marshall reagan
    December 8, 2016 at 8:33 am

    I remember hearing LIGHT A SHUCK which I think was meant as hurry home before the storm gat here.

  • Reply
    Julie Hughes Moreno
    December 8, 2016 at 8:18 am

    I have heard light out or he lit out for town, meaning to go fast but never light a rag.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 8, 2016 at 7:59 am

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard that one Tip, but I bet your correct about the origin.

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    December 8, 2016 at 7:59 am

    My great uncles (my grandma’s brothers) would say “light a rag” but use it only about playing music. They would come visit with their guitars and play and sing in her kitchen. Grandma would say “Play Foggy Mountain.” And Uncle Lester would say, “Ok, Let’s light a rag boys.”
    I always thought it meant to play with reckless abandon.
    I’ve said it before, Tipper, but I love this stuff.

  • Reply
    Ava Abbott
    December 8, 2016 at 7:54 am

    I have heard “light out for home” plenty of times, but never “light a rag.”

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    December 8, 2016 at 7:53 am

    Tipper–Your guess about the origin of “light a shuck” (I’ve heard that far more than “light a rag”) is spot on. Soaked in kerosene, these readily available materials were in effect primitive but effective flashlights, one of countless examples of the manner in which our forebears lived up to the adage, “make do with what you’ve got.”
    Jim Casada

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