Appalachia Appalachian Dialect

Appalachian Vocabulary Test 143

snowy walk

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. Marry off: to get married and leave your parents. “The Deer Hunter is always teasing the girls about marrying them off so he can quit be responsible for them…but the truth is he hopes they stay around as long as possible.”

2. Medder: meadow. “There’s the prettiest medder you ever saw over on Hedden Road. I’ve always wanted to stop and walk out through it to see where it goes.”

3. Mean as a striped snake: mischievous; unpredictable. “Typically when someone is accused of being meaner than a striped snake its in a teasing manner. The Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English’s definition for the saying states the phrase is used to describe a truly mean person. In my life I’ve only heard it used to describe someone who is more mischievous than mean.”

4. Mullygrubs: despondency; depression. “I don’t know what’s wrong with her and her bad attitude. I reckon she’s got the mullygrubs.”

5. Mar up: to become stuck in mud. “Chitter is telling the truth. This time of the year you’re likely to mar up in our driveway.”

All of this month’s words and phrases except medder are common in my area of Appalachia. What about where you live?


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  • Reply
    January 3, 2021 at 10:52 pm

    In northeast Mississippi when somebody wanted to goof off they would “loafer”

  • Reply
    Gaye Blaine
    December 31, 2020 at 3:57 pm

    “Heered” all those words and more. I can converse with any mountain person and “read” them. Spoke one language and learned to spell the so called proper English taught in school. I can “ ax” questions with the best of mountaineers. Daddy used holp for help. Mother would get the doldrums instead of mollygrubs; same thing I speck. Looking forward to more pig and “akerns “ in 2021! Happy New Year

  • Reply
    December 31, 2020 at 12:09 pm

    I have heard all the words except Mollygrubs, although it might have been used by my grandmother. Even heard the words mentioned by others commenting – like Shan’t and Purdiest. And Lord have mercy, my Father didn’t want me to leave home and get married either. I must say though that when our sons came along he was delighted to teach them how to shoot, hunt birds and train bird dogs. My Daddy loved children and bird dog puppies – well he was a softy for any baby animal.

  • Reply
    Granny Sue
    December 31, 2020 at 11:55 am

    All except medder, like you. Marred up or burried up or hung up–all mean the same thing, lots of mud, LOL.

    Happy New Year to all of you at Brasstown!

  • Reply
    December 31, 2020 at 11:25 am

    I have heard them all except mollygrubs throughout my life, and adding the er to a word can still be heard from old timers. When melancholia set in the old time remedy was to get busy with some work that needed done. We often heard it referred to as “down in the dumps.”
    The time after Christmas is a grand time to get caught up on all the projects and chores put off all year. I try to get everything done before Spring, because I don’t want to waste one second of Spring dusting ceiling fans or painting closets. The seed books come out, and I love looking at them. I already have many seeds in case there is a shortage. Marryin’ off once involved more finality, but with the need for baby sitters it is different nowadays. That term is just really pure Appalachian.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 31, 2020 at 11:24 am

    I’ll bet minnows ain’t pronounced minners anymore either are they? Makes me want to cry!

  • Reply
    Donna W.
    December 31, 2020 at 10:24 am

    My family said “mired down” instead of marred up.

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      December 31, 2020 at 11:32 pm

      People who have tires on their cars mire down. We have tars on our cars they get marred up.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    December 31, 2020 at 10:17 am

    Tipper–They are all familiar to me although, like you, “medder” less so. In fact, while I heard it quite a bit as a boy, I can’t recall anyone using it in speech for many years.
    For me, mullygrubs has always been pronounced mollygrubs, and that’s the spelling I’ve used when offering it in print. It’s a wonderfully expressive word and one I’ve most often heard applied at this general time of the year. For Grandpa Joe, it was a near synonym for cabin fever, and another synonym for the word is “miseries.”

    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 31, 2020 at 9:52 am

    Do you mean to tell me meadow is not pronounced medder? So would that mean window is not pronounced winder? And that girl is wrong about me gettin mared up in your driveway. I’ve got me a brand new 2004 Ford Ranger Off Road lifted 4 wheel drive truck with only 220,000 mud slinging miles on it. They might not be no road left when I get up air but I ain’t gettin marred up nowheres.

    I only heard mullygrubs from you. My Daddy allwis called it melancholic. He knowed a lot of big fancy words like that. He read a lot. I wisht ida learnt to read.

    • Reply
      December 31, 2020 at 11:15 am

      Ed, I read your comment on the older blog below (eggs and onions) about how much you love chicken livers. Maybe this goes along better with the hog butchering, but I ate so much hog or pork liver that I made myself sick when I was around 6-8 years old. Grandmother tried to tell me but I would not listen. Even to this day, I will not touch liver of any kind. I won’t even use it for catfish bait! My stomach does a flip flop if I see it a grocery store meat counter.

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    December 31, 2020 at 9:30 am

    Marry off and mullygrubs are the only ones I have heard or used.

  • Reply
    Carl Collins
    December 31, 2020 at 9:06 am

    I have heard all, the “mean as…” was used to describe a very mean person. One set set of grandparents moved to hammer branch in the deep creek area about 1910. And moved to Ela after the park forced them to move. The other set came from West Virginia to Sumburst, then to Fontana, after that closed to Oak Ridge and then to Ela. Granddad was a locomotive engineer. I am certain I have heard some West Virginia mountain sayings also.

  • Reply
    December 31, 2020 at 8:32 am

    I have heard all of these words in the past but not so often now. Two words my wife’s parents would use at times were hope instead of help and et instead of eat or ate. I’m not sure of how to spell the last one, but I hope some of you know what I am trying to say. Another phrase I often hear is crooked as a black snake.

    • Reply
      Eldonns Ashley
      January 3, 2021 at 12:58 am

      We bought our big old round oak table at an auction. We were married but I was still in college. We have had the table nigh on to 60 years. This is what I was told by one of the family members, “We’ve et many a fine meal off that table.” We have too, and I cooked all of them. It is time to find that table another good home. I wish someone would hep my find a new owner.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    December 31, 2020 at 8:21 am

    3 1/2 of 5. Don’t recall ‘mullygrubs’ and the 1/2 is because we had “Meadows” families in the county I grew up in but it was pronounced “Medders” locally. I do not recall ever hearing ‘medder’ to refer to a grass-weed field but I may have a few times. As for “mared up” I had not heard that in a good many years but I well recall vehicles being mared up in the log woods and the deer woods. I learned from Dad how to “drum out” a mared up log truck using a pole between the dual wheels and a chain attached to the wheel hub and the front of the pole. Spinning tightens the chain and the truck pulls itself forward.

    I’m with the Deer Hunter. I did not want to give our one daughter away. I still miss her being at home and I reckon I will right along. I think maybe it is an Appalachian folkway to tease about something much more serious than you care to admit. But native sons and daughters know that is what is going on.

  • Reply
    December 31, 2020 at 7:51 am

    “Mean as a striped snake” in my family was used to describe a person who was vindictive, malicious, and delighted in another person’s suffering more often than just mischievous. I have no idea where the phrase comes from because most of the striped snakes I’ve seen were quite content to mind their own business and in a hurry to get somewhere else to conduct it.

  • Reply
    sheryl paul
    December 31, 2020 at 7:12 am

    Msred up is nrw nut the word sounds exactly hoe it means

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    December 31, 2020 at 6:56 am

    Mar up is new to me. The rest are common.

    • Reply
      Gene Smith
      December 31, 2020 at 7:33 am

      Gayle, “mar” is a variant of mire. Many times while driving on back roads I’ve mired up to the axle and had to be pulled out..

  • Reply
    Sanford McKinney Jr
    December 31, 2020 at 6:55 am

    Your post today brought to my mind a word that I never hear, anymore. Shan’t which is a contraction for shall not. I did see it used in an obit back a few years ago. Not sure this is an exact quote, “I shan’t forget you, ever.”
    All the words today were common to me. Ever farm seemed to have a medder and many times there was the “big” medder and the “little” medder (meadow).

  • Reply
    Roger Greene
    December 31, 2020 at 6:11 am

    Dad used to use the phrase “Meaner than a striped leg mule!” (striped was pronounced as two sylables -[ strip – ed ]

  • Reply
    Don Byers
    December 31, 2020 at 6:06 am

    My Grandpa Nick Byers would say, “Purdiest mare I ever seed over in yan medder.”

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