Appalachian Dialect

Appalachian Vocabulary Test 126

cushaw growing in garden

It’s time for this month’s Appalachian Vocabulary Test.

I’m sharing a few videos to let you hear the words and phrases. To start the videos click on them.


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1. Back sass: to talk back; reply impertinently. “I said “No!” And I don’t need no back sass about it either!”


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2. Bad man: the devil, a demon or hobgoblin used to threaten children. “You know what happens to little children who don’t obey their parents? The bad man gets them.”


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3. Barefooted: bare foot. “I used to go barefooted all summer long.”


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4. Bark: to scrape or knock the skin off (especially the shins). “I keep barking my shin on that table. I wish she’d move it somewhere else!”


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5. Barlow knife: a type of single or double bladed pocket knife that opens at one end. “Grandpa always did like a barlow knife.”

All of this month’s words are beyond common in my area of Appalachia. Be sure to leave a comment and let me know how you did on the test.


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  • Reply
    July 26, 2019 at 11:17 pm

    All are very familiar. I told my daughter many times when she rejected my instructions, “The concrete is hard and I can drop you on your head on it.”

    • Reply
      Mary Anne
      July 28, 2019 at 5:00 pm

      Remember all of them. Brings back

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 26, 2019 at 10:36 pm

    Nowthen there’s a Case and there’s a case when yer talkin about knives. A case knife is on the table to the right of the dinner plate next to the teaspoon. It’s what you use to cut yer food if the side of your fork just can’t cut it.
    A Case knife will likely be found in yer front pants pocket (right or left depended on yer handedness). A Case (or similar type) knife is an essential part of any Appalachian citizen’s wardrobe (yes, ladies are included. In fact, encouraged)!
    A case knife has its place too. It makes a decent screwdriver in a pinch. It is good for fishing small items out of sink drains. Other that those none comes to mind but I’m sure there more. Oh Yeah, if they are strong enough they are excellent substitutes for motorcycle tire irons. Unfortunately most are not. Real silver bends too easy and stainless steel breaks. Oh well I’ll keep thinking.
    Now the uses for a case knife;
    Skinning a deer,
    picking out splinters,
    shaving kindling from rich pine to start a fire,
    trimming your fingernails,
    peeling an apple, peach, potato, plum, pear and/or any other fruit or vegetable,
    carving your and your lovers initials into a tree or into your school desk (the latter is not recommended),
    playing mumbledy peg,
    a slide for your guitar
    and of course whittling children’s toys. That’s only the beginning!

    I have before me a Case 6202½, a Boker Tree Brand, a Buck 301, a Barlow Imperial Ireland and a Bear & Sons Little Trapper, all made in the USA (I’m not sure about the Barlow). I also have an assortment of foreign made knives which have their places but none have a place in my heart like the Case, the Buck and the Barlow (the Barlow may have been made in Ireland but Ireland is not foreign to me!)

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    July 26, 2019 at 9:40 pm

    Tipper–Evidently May 1, in bygone generations, was the “official” opening day of barefoot season. It was for Momma and I was surprised that several others mentioned the same date.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    July 26, 2019 at 5:59 pm

    I’m familiar with them all but heard Back Talk more than Back Sass but I never did either, the fact I survived i proof of this. Most boys first knives were Barlow since they were generally cheaper than pre 64 Solingen Steel Cases, this high carbon steel held an edge better than cheaper steel. Case Knives moved their production to the USA in 1964. This is why most Case fans prefer the pre-64 knives and will pay higher prices for them. As for Bare footed we were allowed to shed our shoes at school if parents agreed, we were forbidden by Mom to go Bare Footed until May 1 but I could convince most of my teachers Mom approved earlier than May first but the fact that our lawn at Almond was mostly Clover which drew Honey Bees and many days I’d go home with swollen feet which brought pain in other parts of my body since I hadn’t been exactly truthful about our earliest dates approved by our parents to go Sans-Shoes.

  • Reply
    Trent Wren
    July 26, 2019 at 4:41 pm

    In squirrel hunting with muzzleloading rifles, “Barking” a squirrel means killing it with the concussion passed to it by shooting the limb just under it. Thus the squirrel isn’t so torn up from the shot as to be practically inedible. Your use of “barking your shin” is remarkably close in effect, if not in fashion.

  • Reply
    Ann H Applegarth
    July 26, 2019 at 2:29 pm

    All are familiar! I, too, loved going barefooted from the day school ended until it began again.

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    July 26, 2019 at 1:07 pm

    All of these words are very familiar. I had forgotten about the “Bad Man” until I read the post. I am so glad to be reminded.

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    July 26, 2019 at 11:28 am

    As I sit here barefooted, I recognize them all. A wonderfully loving woman worked for my grandparents and she scared the life out of me (that’s an old saying) by telling me that if I didn’t behave “raw head and bloody bones” would get me.

  • Reply
    July 26, 2019 at 10:08 am

    Familiar with all but “bark” described that way. Ive heard it used to describe as a way of back talking or an angry gesture.

  • Reply
    Janis Sullivan
    July 26, 2019 at 9:45 am

    Missed barlow knife. Have only missed 3 since I started taking the word quiz. Love them. Thanks for all you do!

  • Reply
    Grandma Cate
    July 26, 2019 at 9:34 am

    Oh, I got 100%!
    I don’t use them all anymore, but I sure grew up hearing them. I bark my shins right regularly & I still go barefooted most of the time. And I have a Barlow knife – says “Barlow” right there on the handle.

  • Reply
    July 26, 2019 at 9:30 am

    Familiar with them all except bark. While working with a group at church putting together donated clothing to take to a
    Honduras mission trip, my sister asked if we should send shoes. The pastor said another church would be taking shoes. My sister said, “I think they go barefooted most of the time anyway.” We all had a good laugh when I teased her about saying that.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    July 26, 2019 at 9:08 am

    All but Barlow Knife. Often told the “Booger Man” would get us if we didn’t behave. I think I enjoy the vocabularies best of all!

  • Reply
    July 26, 2019 at 8:51 am

    All so sweetly familiar. Just loved that nice young lady trying to demonstrate how she will straighten out her children one day. Tipper, the one about going barefooted just “takes the cake.” Loved the days of sunshine running with abandon over the fields and hollers, chasing cows down for Grandpa, and just living life. I cannot count the nails I ran into my feet, and once my second toe almost cut in half wading a creek. Stepping on honeybees was a constant hazard for children, but it gave us satisfaction knowing the bee would die as we removed the stinger from our young feet. Hard to believe I could once run on gravel, but gravel was a rarity back then. Most small roadways or driveways covered with something we called “red dog.” The red dog would cut right through the hard tough skin that formed on the bottom of our feet. Seems somebody wrote a book about a red dog road. I googled, and sure “nuf they did write a book called “Red Dog Road.”
    Living in a coal camp until the age of 10 offered a bit more of a challenge. The coal trucks drove back and forth all day, and thank goodness no casualties up Northfork Hollow, because children learned young to be alert and pay attention. The women had to use a lot of bleach on the clothes that hung all down the long rows of houses, and it took a good amount of scrubbing to clean small feet in the evening. We always started school with our little patent leather black shoes and white anklets, but starting sometimes as early as Easter the shoes were forgotten except for school.
    Oh yes, I cannot forget the knives carried by men and even young boys. Every man I know from that era still pulls out that ole Case knife to cut everything from a stray twig to a slice of apple. It seemed like such a good idea that I now carry a small one on my key chain just in case.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    July 26, 2019 at 8:29 am

    I’ll say 4 of 5. Can’t recall ever hearing ‘ back sass’, just ‘sass’ and that only a few times when I was a child (not directed at me!). I heard ‘booger man’ more than ‘bad man’ but it was part of our moral training that bad things happened to those who strayed from the straight and narrow. Heard ‘barefoot’ as often as ‘barefooted’ and they were considered interchangeable. I still bark my shins. I think “Barlow” was a brand name that got applied to all pocketknives and it has gradually faded in use but is still understood, in Appalachia anyway, as a generic name for pocketknife.

  • Reply
    Larry Proffitt
    July 26, 2019 at 8:22 am

    After May first we were allowed to go barefooted until school started after Labor Day. I well remember the day I stepped on a nail sticking up through a board.
    All of today’s are common use to me.I appreciate your blog Tipper.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    July 26, 2019 at 8:20 am

    I’ve heard all of these but the most common ones are barefooted, bark., and barlow knife. I haven’t heard back sass or sass back in a long time but it was common while growing up. As far as the bad man getting us kids it was more likely the devil or boogie man. I was also told the rag man or soap man would get me. The rag man when my clothes were worn out or raggedy and soap man when I was dirty.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    July 26, 2019 at 8:02 am

    Remember them all and use most of them. The exception is the barlow knife.

  • Reply
    Don Byers
    July 26, 2019 at 7:58 am

    I can still hear Granddad Byers or Pop Mauney saying, “Much Obliged” for “Thank you”.

  • Reply
    Vann Helms
    July 26, 2019 at 7:57 am

    We were allowed to go “barefooted” after May 1st. I still go “barefooted” today. “Don’t sass me… I’ll get a switch.” For us it was always the “Boogie Man”.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    July 26, 2019 at 7:32 am

    Tipper–All are quite common in my lexicon, and some of the fondest memories of my boyhood are associated with barefooting it and Barlow knives. I was always pushing Momma to let me go barefooted well before the weather was warm enough, although she’d’hold out, saying “you’ll catch your death of a cold,” until sometime in May. By this time of year my feet would be tough as leather.

    As for Barlow knives, I’ve since written quite a bit about pocket knives in general. The brand originated in England but their were American Barlows as well. The word is also used to described a type of pocket knife (folding) with a strong bolster, particular shape, and either one or two blades. Grandpa swore by them although Daddy liked other brands, such as Case, better. The old men on the town square in Bryson City, which was known as Loafer’s Glory or more frequently and crudely Dead Pecker Corner, constantly traded Barlows and other knives. When they were trading they were whittling or arguing about the merits of various brands.

    Thanks for reviving some delightful days and wonderful ways.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 26, 2019 at 7:30 am

    Oh yes, I know all these. I’m especially fond of barefooted. I loved going barefooted as a kid, my feet were tough too but that’s certainly not the case now. My grandmother wanted me to wear shoes as long as the dew was on the ground. She said if I had any cuts or scrapes on my feet I’d get dew poisoning.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    July 26, 2019 at 6:50 am

    Again familisr with all, but don’t hear much of them any more. It is sad to think of these words disappearing from my area.

    • Reply
      July 26, 2019 at 8:56 am

      Correction–Book was called “Running on Red Dog Road”

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