Appalachian Dialect

Appalachian Vocabulary Test 134

water on gravel road

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. Fair to middling: fairly good, average. “How you doing today?” “Oh I’m fair to middling.”

2. Far piece: a great distance. “It’s a far piece out to where my oldest sister lives so I hardly ever get to go see her.”

 

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3. Fat pine: a fire starter created by the natural decay of pine trees. “Fat pine, rich pine, fat wood, lighterwood, light wood, or whatever you call is makes a dandy fire starter.”

 

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4. Fault: to blame. “I don’t fault him for going ahead and doing it, I just wish he’d a told me he was going to.”

 

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5. Fist and skull: bare-fisted fight. “Ever time that gang gets together you know there’ll be a fist and skull. They fight more than anybody I ever saw.”

I’m familiar with all of this month’s words except the last one. I’ve never heard nor read fist and skull, but once I noticed it in the Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English I knew I had to use it 🙂

Tipper

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21 Comments

  • Reply
    David
    May 29, 2020 at 12:56 am

    I have only heard “far piece” pronounced as “fur piece,” as in “They live a fur piece from here.”

  • Reply
    Mike MacKenzie
    April 27, 2020 at 6:30 pm

    I’m very familiar with three of these. I must have learned ‘fair to middlin” from from my mother because whenever I hear that phrase I hear it in my head in her voice. Never heard ‘fat pine’ or ‘knuckle and skull’ before. Guess I had a sheltered childhood.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    March 31, 2020 at 2:09 pm

    Knock down, drag out was often used to describe a fight. I’ve heard all the others, especially “fair to middlin”, and I really want to find some of the fat pine.

  • Reply
    Sue McIntyre
    March 31, 2020 at 12:12 pm

    I am familar with all these except the last one. Daddy used to say “I’ll be dog, you be the rabbit, down cross the cotton patch, me and you will have at it”. I still can’t say it correctly at times, but, I enjoy the chalange of sharing these sayings to my grandchildren. I mostly get eye rolls, but one of my grand daughters has an intrest in asking for, and retaining them. Keep em coming!

  • Reply
    Cynthia
    March 31, 2020 at 11:27 am

    I’ve never heard of the last one.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    March 31, 2020 at 10:51 am

    I am very familar with all except “fist and skull”.

  • Reply
    Dee
    March 31, 2020 at 10:49 am

    I have heard all of the those expressions except the last fist and skull, although, I think my family always said “Rich Pine” not fat pine.

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    March 31, 2020 at 10:35 am

    All but fist and skull, although I have only heard fat Apine on Blind Pig. And the only way I have ever heard far piece pronounced is fur piece!

  • Reply
    Chuck Howell
    March 31, 2020 at 10:35 am

    My Smokey Mountain Mother would say. “you long necked thing, you George Howell lookin thing. I’ll Maller yer head into Mincemeat.”

  • Reply
    Jackie
    March 31, 2020 at 10:13 am

    When I want to distract a kid’s attention I sometimes say, “I’ll jump down your throat, tap dance on your liver and dare your heart to beat.” or, “I’ll put a knot on your head so big you’ll have to climb a tree to scratch it.” I’ve also told some, “I’ll make your head look like a sack of walnuts.”

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    March 31, 2020 at 9:34 am

    “Tipper–Like you and a number of those who have commented, the first four are quite familiar. I’ve never heard the fifth and other than here and in Hall/Montgomery, I don’t think I’ve ever read it. for the others, there are familiar synonyms (if a synonym can be more than one word).
    1–Fair to middling. Also “so as to be about,” “so-so,” “tolerable,” “able to sit up and take nourishment,” and “on the right side of dirt.”
    2. Fair piece. Also “fur piece” and “way over yonder.”
    3. Fat pine. Also “rich pine,” “lighter wood,” and “prime kindling wood.”
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    PinnacleCreek
    March 31, 2020 at 9:19 am

    All are familiar except the last one. Instead of using a far piece for distance it seemed we got really wordy with expressions such as, “They live a good little piece up that holler.” I had to write directions to homes when I did admissions, so I spent lots of time translating Appalachian into explicit facts such as writing it as 1.1 mile up Carswell Holler. At times I loved my job so much I felt I should pay them to make visits to these dear people. I learned so very much from some of my people who had lived their entire lives on a remote mountain or in an isolated Holler. Once I was very amused to see a sign on the door before entering advising that I was to do no cursing and to take my shoes off. Many were keen on telling me old stories which I found fascinating. The best story was that the Yankees hid behind a big rock in the river nearby and shot at the rebels. I passed that huge rock often, and would often conjure up the image in my mind. Then there was the story where a ghost hung around in the house until they discarded a very old belt from the attic. We always called a fight just simply a “fist fight”, and whichever won was described sometimes as “puttin’ a hurtin’ on the victim.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    March 31, 2020 at 8:27 am

    4 of 5, never heard ‘fist and skull’. Like AW, I always heard ‘tooth and nail’. ‘Fat pine’ I easily recognize but we always say ‘rich pine’.

    It is a puzzle how expressions have their meaning in comparison to a ‘standard’ that is itself indefinite. Yet they work within a community of shared experience to do at least ‘getting by’, that is, adequate communication. They work, that is, until someone encounters them who has no understanding of the underlying indefinite standard. Then confusion results.

  • Reply
    gayle larson
    March 31, 2020 at 8:27 am

    Never heard the last one . The rest I probably use today. I will have to pay more attention or have someone monitor my speech. I probably use them and don’t realize it.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    March 31, 2020 at 8:22 am

    I haven’t heard fist and skull either, but like AW Griff, tooth and nail

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    March 31, 2020 at 8:09 am

    I heard ’em all but fist and skull. I’ve threatened to put knuckle bumps on somebody’s head. Does that count?

  • Reply
    Margie Herter
    March 31, 2020 at 7:47 am

    If you did a bad job or a sorry job, granny would say THAT DONT CUT THE MUSTARD! She said PURTY IS AS PURTY DOES! She said WHATCH WHAT YOU SAY SAY AND WATCH WHAT YOU DO DO! She said THEM THERE PUT ON THE THE BIG DOG! She said A FOOL’S NAME AND A FOOL’S FACE ARE ALWAYS SEEN IN A PUBLIC PLACE! She was the mother of 11, a cousin of President Wilson, a WYTHEVILLE, VA GAL who made sweet bread ( I always thought it was a scratch cake) and the biggest, softest tastiest molasses cookies you ever did eat! She claimed no one had to be hungry as long as there was taters, beans and cornbread! She made me work in the garden and my grandpa would stand with a belt watching you put in seed and sets to ensure you didn’t try to drop a bunch in one hole to be lazy. He said IF THE CORN AINT HIGH BY THE 4th OF JULY, IT WONT AMOUNT TO NOTHING! THERE FAMILIES BOTH CSME FROM STRABANE, NI in the county of TYRONE!!!!

  • Reply
    aw griff
    March 31, 2020 at 7:45 am

    I don’t ever remember hearing fist and skull but have heard they went after it tooth and nail.

  • Reply
    Del
    March 31, 2020 at 7:41 am

    I always heard fair to middlin was an old term they used grading cotton years ago.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    March 31, 2020 at 6:37 am

    I’m with you, tip, never heard of fist and skull but the rest are very familiar to me.

  • Reply
    Joe chumlea
    March 31, 2020 at 6:10 am

    When I was young we called it knuckle & skull. They was going at it knuckle & skull, was a term I heard in Knoxville as a boy.

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