Appalachian Dialect

Appalachian Vocabulary Test 144

ax in the woods

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. Narrey: Narrow. “See that narrey little trail leading off into the woods? When I was a boy it was wide and well wore. Now the woods have almost took it over.”

2. New ground: a new area cleared for cultivation. “Spring planting will be here before we know it and we got to get that new ground ready.”

3. Nigh: near; nearly. “They came might nigh burning the whole place down when they left that fire going with no one watching it.”

4. Nigh on to: nearly; close to. “It going nigh on to twenty years since I first came to this place.”

5. Notion: inclination; mood. “Every once in a while they take a notion and get in that motorhome and just take off. Why they don’t even know where they’re going till they get there.”

All of this month’s words are fairly common around here—what about where you live?


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  • Reply
    Ami Hicks
    February 3, 2021 at 1:06 pm

    I grew up in Southwest Ohio – Dayton to be specific. My moms family were immigrants from Europe and my dads family were from Southeastern Kentycky – Harlen county. I currently live in Maine and when I use any of these expressions I tend to get the oddest looks, like I’m speaking some foregin language! Gives me a giggle every time! I am so proud of both branches of my family heritage! Never realized how ‘southern’ I was til I moved to New England. Love it!

  • Reply
    Jim Black
    February 3, 2021 at 11:48 am

    I think that notion to satisfy that hankering for an electric guitar is a good one. Do it.

  • Reply
    Charles M. Davis
    February 1, 2021 at 1:13 pm

    Grew up using all those words in NE rural Georgia in the 50s. Rode to town many a Saturday in wagon with Opa( learned that when we lived in Germany post WW2) taking corn to be ground and shopping.

  • Reply
    January 31, 2021 at 11:03 am

    I use notion, as she took a notion to bake a cake today. Narry, as in not one. It was so quiet, narry a dog was barking.

    • Reply
      Roger Brothers
      February 1, 2021 at 9:36 am

      Yep, Ain’t got nary a notion

      • Reply
        February 23, 2021 at 11:07 am

        That’s how my family use Narry. Like …”narry one of them boys ain’t got no sense.” When I started school my English teacher had her job cut out for her LOL which I guess in this area they were probably pretty used to it by then.

  • Reply
    Rosemary D Woods
    January 31, 2021 at 8:31 am

    I like hearing all the different ways of saying words. I have heard my family say several of them. One of my favorite to hear is the word nigh it is in the Bible (KJV). James 4:8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you….When family would talk about nigh they would be referring to time…It is getting nigh on to bedtime etc.

  • Reply
    Ron Bass
    January 30, 2021 at 1:16 pm

    Still use all these in eastern nc

  • Reply
    January 30, 2021 at 12:34 pm

    I think we use all except the narry path. We do use when nothing is left of something. I ponder how much we have so many common expressions and words even several states away. Occasionally there is a definite difference. My Dad always used “pite nigh” as in “That cake is pite nigh gone.” I have picked that up and still use it on occasion. I often heard others use pert nigh or near. I still take a notion for almost anything, and the sentence would go something like, “You know, I just took a notion for ice cream.”
    Oh yes, one of my favorite Spring time ventures when I was younger was plowing up new ground with a tiller. Now, I will wander totally out into left field, as I am sometimes inclined to do. That tiller would usually unearth centuries old dirt that made my eyes water until I was finished. I know this sounds like a fisherman’s tale, but I remember that new ground growing cucumbers as fast as I could pick them. That sounds like not such a venture for a lady, but I learned quickly to work with the tiller not against it. Oh, and I love Katie’s spontaneous laugh.

  • Reply
    Kenneth Ryan
    January 30, 2021 at 12:11 pm

    They are all very common here in east Texas too.

  • Reply
    William J. Boone
    January 30, 2021 at 12:00 pm

    Here in north central Maryland, I’ve heard all used by the old timers, my family included, except nerrey. I still use nary a one to mean none, but up hear we pronounce some words ending in -ow as a. Narrow = narra, window = winda, shadow = shada, etc.

    • Reply
      Roger Brothers
      February 1, 2021 at 9:33 am

      My sister’s name is Brenda. Never heard Momma and Daddy call her anything but Brender!

    • Reply
      Gerald Brinson
      April 19, 2021 at 11:31 am

      My dad had an Aunt Sarah Jane, but everybody in the family pronounced it as “Aint Surry Jane”.

  • Reply
    January 30, 2021 at 11:44 am

    I’ve heard all those words from my grandparents. and my aunts used them a lot when telling stories about their growing up years. Always brings a warm feeling when I hear them again.

  • Reply
    January 30, 2021 at 10:56 am

    Where I grew up the word narry would be used as a variation of none as in, “I been huntin rabbits all morning and I aint seen narry a one”. All the others were used frequently.

  • Reply
    Carl Collins
    January 30, 2021 at 10:55 am

    Growing up in Swain County I heard them all. I agree with Jim, narry depending on the use has two meanings although pronounced slightly different. Heard the none version more. I like the way you involve your whole family. Probably makes it easier to do it everyday. Glad that Jim and another family member that also grew up in “Ela”, let me know about the blog.

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    January 30, 2021 at 10:46 am

    I’ve used and heard all of these at home…except narry. Like Shirl, we use narry to mean “none.” Something like “Narry a one brought anything to the church carry-in.”

    For narrow, it “narra.” That’s one of the differences I’ve noticed in regional Appalachian words. I grew up saying “holla” for hollow. My cousins in West Virginia and Kentucky all said “holler,” which i though was cool.

    I look forward to these vocabulary tests!

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    January 30, 2021 at 9:26 am

    These are fairly common words here, especially among those of us who are older and live in the country.

  • Reply
    January 30, 2021 at 9:15 am

    I have heard and used all the words in today’s easy test. In my family, narrey also means not any and narrow is pronounced nar. Some of the roads were so nar in my hometown that if we came upon another vehicle one of us had to pull over or back up. (That’s the truth!)

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    January 30, 2021 at 9:12 am

    I’ve never heard narrey. To me the only word that sounds like the one Matt is saying is nary, meaning not any or none. “They eat all them cookies, didn’t leave me not nary one.” Nar or narr is what I’ve always heard used for narrow much like har or harr for harrow.

    I was a bit taken aback when Katie said nign on to 12:00 o’clock was lunchtime. That’s dinnertime!! I really saddens me that the dinner bucket became a lunch pail and the dinner poke became the Federally Subsidized School Lunch Program. Don’t get me wrong! I am for children getting the nourishment them need to grow and develop but it’s not the Federal Governments place to provide. Sorry!

    • Reply
      Ann Applegarth
      January 30, 2021 at 11:00 am

      Narrey is new to me, too, but nary is in my vocabulary.
      Re the noon meal, it was dinner in my childhood; now
      it is lunch.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    January 30, 2021 at 8:44 am

    All common with me except I grew up hearing “narrow” as “narrer”. In that cliffty country of the Cumberland Plateau in TN and KY there are lots of “narrows” where the clifftop is a hundred feet wide or less but connecting two areas of wide ridgetop. Each of those places are just called “The Narrers” and if any more location specificity is needed a phrase is added such as maybe “the narrers over on 92” .

    Off the subject but another name common in that area is “jump up rocks”. That is a place where erosion has exposed the underlying “humpy” rocks and vehicles ‘jump’ up each rock. High ground clearance and low gears are needed.

    That “nigh on to” phrase makes me smile. It would be understood just fine if one said “nigh twenty years” but somehow to say “getting nigh on to twenty years agone” just has a better sound and a better feeling to it. Can’t get any closer than that to what I mean. You either feel it or you don’t. I don’t know how it could be proven but I think we choose the way to say things depending on the mood of the talk. So “getting nigh on to” immediately makes me think of storytelling while just plan “nigh” to me is about giving information as factually correct as possible without any storytelling ‘flavor’.

    • Reply
      Gerald Brinson
      April 19, 2021 at 11:36 am

      Around here in this part of Kentucky, narrow or Narrows was (and is) pronounced more like “Nahrrahs”, as in the Nahrrahs of the Rockcastle River.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    January 30, 2021 at 8:16 am

    These certainly are all familiar, I hear them on a daily/regular basis. I’ve heard narrey used as “not narrey a one’ to mean none more than I hear it used to mean narrow.

    • Reply
      Gerald Brinson
      April 19, 2021 at 11:37 am

      Same here in Kentucky – “Nary a one” means none – not even one.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    January 30, 2021 at 7:52 am

    Tipper –All of these are word usages with which I’m intimately familiar. I would note that the word “nary,” meaning none or not a one, is pronounced the same way as “narrey.” As for the spelling, I don’t know one way or the other.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    January 30, 2021 at 7:42 am

    All familiar and still heard from the natives, except Narrey in that manner. Usually around this part of East TN you might hear it used as a negative, ” narry a one of them”.

  • Reply
    Janis M. Zeglen
    January 30, 2021 at 6:51 am

    “Nigh on” and “Notion” are phrases I still use!

  • Reply
    Eldonna Ashley
    January 30, 2021 at 6:41 am

    I grew up with every one of these. My first thought is always my maternal grandmother. She always used “took a notion.” Then I realized that my daddy and his family used all of these as well. I think the phrases are still common where I grew up, the southern part of the state. Now I am in the northern half, the only one I hear is nigh.

  • Reply
    Roger Greene
    January 30, 2021 at 6:38 am

    “Narry” is use differently down in the Uwharries, often along with “one” to denote ‘none” or “any” in a negative sense.

    “I hunted clear around Turkey Top and couldn’t find narry one.” “Eliza got in the cookie jar and didn’t leave narry one for her sisters.”

    • Reply
      Wil Ford
      January 31, 2021 at 9:41 pm

      Yes! My Daddy’s people are from West Virginia and that’s how he used it. Narry and Airy. For example: “Did you hear airy whip-poor-wills last season? “Nope, narry a one!” Daddy also said “alsway” instead of always. If you name ends in an “a”, Daddy would have pronounced it as a “y.” For example, Edna would be Edny, Loretta would be Loretty, and so on. My precious Daddy has been gone since 2007 and I’m proud of my heritage and unique vocabulary. Actually, linguists say that the Appalachian dialect is truer to Old English than the other American dialects. Thanks for sharing!

      • Reply
        Gerald Brinson
        April 19, 2021 at 11:41 am

        Yes, I had forgotten about airy meaning the same as nary – both meaning none.
        Same thing with many names ending in a – his Aunt Sarah Jane was referred to as Aint Surry Jane.

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