Appalachian Dialect

Appalachian Vocabulary Test 139

Appalachian Mountain View

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. Keen: eyes-sharp, piercing. “He had the keenest eyes you ever saw! I always felt like he was looking straight through me every time I was around him.

2. Keep your britches on: don’t get upset. “Keep your britches on! I’m coming as fast as I can!”

3. Kilt: kill. “When I fell off that ladder it liked to have kilt me. I was stove up so bad I couldn’t walk for two weeks.”

4. Kyarn: carrion; something that smells horrible. “He left that food in the frigerator without telling nobody. I’m telling you when we opened the door the whole house smelled like kyarn so bad we had to go get fans to blow it out the windows.”

5. Kill lettuce: salad wilted with grease. “One of the best thing about growing your own lettuce and onions is you can have kill lettuce anytime you want it!”

So how did you do on this month’s test? All of the words are familiar to me and fairly common in my area of Appalachia. I remember when I was in high school a boy told me about working on his truck he said “I was up in under there and before I knew it it fell out and hit me right betwixt the eyes and liked to have kilt me.”


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  • Reply
    August 30, 2020 at 8:50 am

    I’m not familiar with kill lettuce, does not sound very appetizing, but the rest I do hear quite often.

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    August 30, 2020 at 12:07 am

    Don’t forget
    “ fixin or fittin”

    I’m fixin to kill you”!
    I’m fittin to try these pants on.

    • Reply
      Sanford McKinney
      September 6, 2020 at 3:48 pm

      [email protected]
      I have heard fittin used in the following way. He was so mad that he was fittin to be tied up. That apple woudin fittin to be eat!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    August 28, 2020 at 8:06 pm

    I have heard and understand them all. Daddy said killed lettuce and Mommy called it kilt lettuce. I was torn between the two so I decide not use either. At the time I didn’t like it anyway.
    The one word today that fascinates me is kyarn. I think we talked about this before. I think it came into use from the Scottish word cairn. A cairn is a mound of stones used to bury a dead body. In places where the ground was to rocky and hard they would pile rocks on the body to keep animals from getting to it. Of course, in a few days natural processes would take place and an effervescence would be emitted from within since the rocks would provide no barrier to it.
    This is from the Encyclopedia Britannica “Burial mound, artificial hill of earth and stones built over the remains of the dead. In England the equivalent term is barrow; in Scotland, cairn; and in Europe and elsewhere, tumulus.”
    An open air burial site.
    I rest my case! (or maybe I Rest In Peace!)

  • Reply
    Julie Hughes Moreno
    August 28, 2020 at 12:59 pm

    Kyarn made me think of my Granny and smile.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    August 28, 2020 at 12:57 pm

    I’ve heard all of these! We called it ‘lettuce and onions” and we could all eat a “dog’s bate” of it!

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    August 28, 2020 at 11:00 am

    Heard and used them all…I think a few years ago I discussed the word Kyarn with you….LOL…My folks always referred to anything the least bit stinky as smelling like kyarn…I use it also…Several years ago I was doing some research on Appalachian words my family used…I called a local library to have a librarian look up a reference for me..(this was a dead winter, icy day) so she was happy for the patronage by phone! She finally called back later and laughed and said she could not find a thing about that word…We also came to the conclusion that it was Old English derivative from “carrion”….Love our speech and the way we speak…No other in the world is as colorful and when you hear it one can almost pick out the county where they are from…lol
    Thanks Tipper,
    I just about got my britches in a twist tryin’ to research that’n….lol
    Oh and I threatened to go for a “keen” little switch when my boys got really, really rowdy…
    I could hear them whisper, better stop or mamma’s going to the switch tree…LOL

  • Reply
    Kat Swanson
    August 28, 2020 at 10:40 am

    All those words and phrases common in the coalfields of Virginia. I always spelled it…QUARN…was always curious about that word and have asked people from Ireland and Scotland if they knew it, but they did not know it.
    Please add my Daddy’s oft used words to your list…..holp….for help …and clumb , as in he clumb that tree
    My mom used a phrase that I have listened for other places and have not heard…..HAS ANYONE EVER HEARD SOMEONE CALLED A
    ….” Blow George ” ? It meant someone who was very boasty..blowing hot air.
    I once found a explanation that it referred to King George …the THIRD…..I think it was….a known braggart of his times.
    Hey, we Appalachians always remember what a person gets know for!!!

    • Reply
      aw griff
      August 28, 2020 at 11:38 am

      That’s interesting about king George but we never said blow George but used blow hard.

    • Reply
      August 28, 2020 at 5:24 pm


      Thanks so much for bringing back fond memories of the world “holp”. My grandfather used this word often. When I was very young, I wondered if he might have a speech impediment. Then I noticed other older men in my community using it as well, and some of them pronounced it as “hope”. I would love to know the origin of this usage of the word help.

      Also, it is very interesting to read all the different ways the word keen is used. I use it to describe something I don’t like. For example, I’m not too keen on hominy.

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      August 28, 2020 at 10:17 pm

      Clumb is past tense. Clem is present tense. Climbed is somebody else talking, hit ain’t us!

  • Reply
    Don Byers
    August 28, 2020 at 10:27 am

    I remember “kyarn”….all the old folks, my Granddad Byers’ generation, used that word…as well as “seed” for “seen”….”I seed ‘at ‘air buzzard eatin’ kyarn”.

  • Reply
    August 28, 2020 at 10:24 am

    Love your Appalachian Vocabulary Test every few weeks. All these are familiar and I still use. Every year I have to explain “kilt lettuce” to someone when I talk about it as a meal in the spring.
    Keep them coming !!!


  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    August 28, 2020 at 10:22 am

    All are familiar to me, though none are part of my usual vocabulary.

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    August 28, 2020 at 9:27 am

    All but kill lettuce — we called that wilted lettuce.

  • Reply
    August 28, 2020 at 9:03 am

    I passed with flying colors! Those little keen switches got my attention more than once when I was growing up. I always thought kyarn was a word my mom made up that was spelled with a Q instead of K.

  • Reply
    sheryl paul
    August 28, 2020 at 8:49 am

    I know and have used all but kyron. That is a new one

  • Reply
    Margie Goldstein
    August 28, 2020 at 8:04 am

    Never heard KYARN or KILL LETTUCE but all the others are familiar. “I mowed yesterday and it about kilt me! I was up under that mower early. I about got hit betwixt the eyes with a rock which almost my britches fall off cause I wasn’t expecting it.” Lol. You beautiful dolls have a humdinger of a day in Crackalacki!

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    August 28, 2020 at 8:01 am

    Mama always kept a container of bacon greece near the back of the stove to have kilt Lettuce and Onions. She’d pour that over the greens and there was nothing Better. …Ken

  • Reply
    aw griff
    August 28, 2020 at 7:51 am

    1. I’m familiar with keen eyes but haven’t heard it recently. That made me think of my Wife’s Uncle who was so keen eyed on spotting squirrels and rabbits without a dog. 2. Keep your britches on is also familiar but haven’t heard for a while. It reminds me of a similar saying I often say to my impatient Grandson. Hold your tater. 3. Kilt I have heard but don’t use. 4. Kyarn I’ve heard all my life and still use. I must have been almost 30 years old before learning it was carrion. I remember asking when I was a boy what is kyarn and was told it was something dead and stinky. 5. Kill or kilt lettuce I think somebody in the extended family said but don’t remember who. My wife and I just say wilted lettuce.

  • Reply
    Janis Zeglen
    August 28, 2020 at 7:51 am

    Sixty years ago my friend used the word kyarn. I never knew what it meant, but I always remembered her saying it. Thanks for the heads up!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    August 28, 2020 at 7:40 am

    All 5 in some form of use. As best I recall “keen” was used of a bitter wind that ‘would blow right through you’ or a slender switch that would really sting. Heard “keep your shirt on” instead of ‘britches’. I know I have heard ‘kilt’ but also ‘killed’. My sense is that killed had edged out ‘kilt’ pretty much. I always heard ‘kyarn’ for ‘carrion’ growing up. It has been a long time since I heard it though. My Mom liked the killed lettuce but I think she always called it ‘wilted lettuce’. We never had garden salad, wilted was the only kind.

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