Appalachian Dialect

Appalachian Vocabulary Test 135

learn words from appalachia

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.

1. Girdle: To remove a circular strip of bark around a tree in order to kill it. “Down the road the cows have girdled the trees till there’s hardly a tree left in the pasture.”


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2. Gladsome: tending to be glad, cheery. “He was a gladsome sort of feller. Everyone always wanted to be his friend.”


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3. Gnat-smoke: a smoky or smoldering fire built to ward off gnats. “Pap always built us a gnat-smoke if were sitting out in the yard of the evening.”


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4. Golly-whopper: something extraordinary of its kind. “One time when we were little Paul caught a golly-whopper of a fish out of the Hiwassee River. I got so excited while he was trying to reel it in that I picked him up and started running up the bank with him, trying to help him get it in by pulling him in :). I can still see Pap standing by the river laughing at me for getting so excited.”


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5. Grandsir: an older man, esp a grandfather (in third person reference and as a form of address). “When Pap would tell stories about days gone by he often referred to someone who was elderly when he was a boy as grandsir.”

All of this month’s words except grandsir are common in my area of Appalachia, although most folks just say it was a whopper instead of golly-whopper.

I’ve never heard anyone other than Pap use grandsir.

Hope you’ll leave me a comment and tell me how you did on the test.


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  • Reply
    Sarah Lutz
    April 30, 2020 at 7:50 pm

    I have heard “girdle” and “gladsome”, but I had not heard “gnat smoke”. I’ve read Grandsir and always like it. We always pronounced it “golly-whomper”.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    April 30, 2020 at 6:56 pm

    It is supposed that insects flee from smoke because they are instinctually programmed to run from forest fires. Using a smoker to handle honey bees is a similar example of this. For a gnat smoke to be really effective you must first get into the smoke and get it in your hair and clothes. The little critters will think you are a fire and go bother somebody else.

  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    April 30, 2020 at 1:06 pm

    Tipper what a good post. I knew two and others I learned . I have used Golly whopper and had a nat smoke this does work on most insects as well . Must burn their eyes ha ha

  • Reply
    April 30, 2020 at 12:43 pm

    Gnat-smoke has a completely different meaning for me. A cloud of gnats can look like “smoke” and, unfortunately, if you get tangled up in that kind of “gnat-smoke”, it’s hard to get out of – they just travel with you!
    Glad-some is familiar. Grandma used it. — and it seems to me I heard it in an old movie of two. Kind of a warm and comfortable word. The “old-folks” (yeah – folks my age 😉 ) around here use it too.
    Girdle is very familiar – kind of sad too – tree branches get girdled by swings put up incorrectly. One of my daughter’s friends child was killed by a branch which had been girdled by swing ropes. Child was swinging when the branch broke and it landed on her. Proper way to hang a swing from a branch is to long screw through it and hang the chains from that – a tree grows on the outside and girdling strangles the branch or tree. Girdles (and “spanks”) may be part of the reason women get more varicose veins and blood clots in the legs than men – tight jeans too.
    Golly-whopper – heard and used that though not near as often as I used to.
    Grandsir (Grancer) – that has such a familiar ring to it but can’t put my finger on where from – my Granny’s (great grandmother’s) image keeps popping into my head with it but that’s about it . . . .

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    April 30, 2020 at 11:38 am

    I’m not familiar with most of the words today, but I like the word Golly-Whopper. In 1980 I caught a big brown trout on the Nantahala above the Powerhouse a good ways. It was above The Camp Branch Falls about 1/4 mile, and getting close to dark. I was dragging up beside me when I saw something get my flies. I thought I had caught a mud puppy on a brown Hackle with a Red Body. I saw it was a big trout when it swam up the creek. It is 24 and 1/2″ and I got it mounted. It weighed almost 6 pounds. I landed that succer on a Sandbar several feet down the River and had some scratches I didn’t know I had. That’s the biggist fish I ever caught on the beautiful Nantahala. The Taxidermest at Elijay did a fine job mounting him. …Ken

  • Reply
    April 30, 2020 at 11:37 am

    I have heard “Girdle” and “whopper” but have not heard the other two words. Older adults of friends were called Aunt or Uncle so and so, even if they weren’t actually related. I have lit a gnat stick and held it in my teeth letting the smoke drift up around my head and keeping the gnats from flying in my eyes but I don’t remember it being called gnat-smoke:} I have also pushed it in over my ear and it works well that way too.

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    April 30, 2020 at 11:05 am

    Girdle was the only one I knew. My grandfather called his grandchildren “the grandies” but we didn’t call him
    Grandsir. I like that term, though! Maybe we should revive it. Are there Grandmaams, too?

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    April 30, 2020 at 10:32 am

    I got a bad grade today!! Girdle was the only word I’ve heard.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    April 30, 2020 at 10:04 am

    Grandsir I only know from your blog sometime back. I’ve always heard Uncle and Aunt to show respect to the elderly even though their are not blood related.

    Gladsome I did not know.

    I know full well about girdling. I haven’t been having much luck with the process. I girdled two pines and poplar. The pines turned a sickly yellow but didn’t die. The poplar paid me no mind. It’s healthy as it ever was.

    I build fires for Gnat smokes occasionally. It works great for repelling all manner of insects if you get in the smoke enough that you smell strongly of smoke yourself but then you smell like smoke and can’t go in the house.

    A gollywhopper is fish that was barely big enough to make the limit but continues to grow exponentially until all your buddies know about him. Or maybe the gollywhopper isn’t the fish at all but the lie you told about him.

  • Reply
    April 30, 2020 at 9:22 am

    I didn’t do very well on today’s test. The only word I am familiar with is gnat-smoke.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    April 30, 2020 at 9:22 am

    Just 2 & 1/2 this time. I know girdle and gnat smoke well and the “whopper” of golly-whooper. Do not recall ever hearing ‘gladsome’ unless it should be in a hymn. And I’m confident I’ve never heard ‘grandsir’. I suspect that it is one of those words that caused Appalachian speech to be labeled Elizabethan. I think that idea has been almost entirely discounted these days.

    And about the gnat smoke, my Grandma would say, “Smoke follows beauty.” I recall the way to have more smoke than fire was to put green stuff on the fire.

    Thanks to everyone for their kind comments yesterday. You all are a blessing in more ways than you know.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    April 30, 2020 at 8:34 am

    Both Delia Woodard Watkins, who recently died at the age of 92 on Good Friday, and Pearl Crisp Cable, who died in 2015 at the age of 95, told me about patriarchs in their family named Grancer – that’s the way they both pronounced it. I looked into their family trees, and couldn’t find anyone named Grancer. It finally occurred to me that both were saying Grand Sir in the way that they’d heard it – without the “d” – and so I asked them about it. Both had thought it was actually the given name.

    I did some looking, and found that it was an old title, used in England for the family patriarch. Knowing that Br’er Jim had specialized in English exploration in Africa in his scholarly pursuits, I think I asked him if he’d heard it used, and he had not.

    At the time, I was teaching week-long classes in England, and so asked the folks who were my hosts. A lady named Jeanne Page, who prepared an article for Tipper on putting beans up using salt several years ago. Jeanne wasn’t familiar with it, but asked around and one of her friends said that her family had used Grand Sir years back.

    In my attempt to preserve Appalachian – and old English – ways, I am now proudly called Grancer by my grandchildren.

  • Reply
    Carol Roy
    April 30, 2020 at 8:16 am

    Love all your posts…..doing a fine job.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    April 30, 2020 at 8:03 am

    Girdle is the only one I have heard used. Like you Tipper I have seen Grandsir in books. I always thought it a wonderful way to show respect for an elderly man

  • Reply
    aw griff
    April 30, 2020 at 7:46 am

    Took this vocabulary test with my Wife and we both use (1) girdle. Number (2) gladsome, neither one of us knew this one. We say he was a happysort. Number (3) gnat-smoke. I was surprised my Wife had never heard me say it and both my Parents said it for any small smoking fire. Number (4) golly-whopper we both knew and also use it for a big lie or bear tale. Number (5) grandsir, I never heard but my Wife said she had.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    April 30, 2020 at 7:25 am

    Tip, I don’t ever recall hearing grandsir, but I have heard the remainder of today’s words. I’ve always liked golly-whopper and also ginormous for something really big.

  • Reply
    April 30, 2020 at 6:59 am

    I am sitting out in a turkey blind in Western Wisconsin. Turkeys are hard to come by this year. This is the third season and gobbles are few with no shots fired in area. We had lots of turkeys on trail cams last fall, winter was mild and we left standing soybeans for deer and turkeys. Bobcats and coyotes have become more numerous in our area. Could they have wiped out our turkeys.
    Girdle is the only word that I hear around WI and that I am familiar with.

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