Appalachian Dialect

Appalachian Vocabulary Test 148

corie and matt working in garden

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. Rench: rinse. “If you’ll warsh I’lll rench and we’ll be done in no time.”

2. Reach: hand. “Reach me that book and I’ll show you what I was talking about.”

3. Risin: a swelling, inflammation. “He had a little ole risin come up on his left shoulder and it got to hurting him so bad every time he changed his shirt that he finally had to to go to the doctor and let them cut it out.”

4. Rurnt: ruined. “I’m so mad at him I can hardly stand it. He took one of my best quilts out there to lay on and forgot it and the dogs got a hold of it and just rurnt it!”

5. Rusty-footed: having dirty feet. “When we were little we were always rusty-footed in the summer time from playing outside from daylight to dark thirty.”

All of this month’s words are common in my area of Appalachia or at least in my mountain holler 🙂

I hope you’ll leave a comment and let me know how you did on the test.


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  • Reply
    Pat Gordon
    June 21, 2021 at 1:51 pm

    Despite being five generations removed from my Tennessee ancestor, I still grew up learning to use many of those words from my mother. Even though I am in my 70’s, I still “slip” and say warsh for wash, rench for rinse, and fixin to do something. I learned from my mother that a small piece of bacon fat would draw out a sliver of glass or metal. I was an adult before I discovered an alcoholic wasn’t pronounced alkyholic. In fact many words had an “o” replaced by “y. ” My mother always called prairie verbena (small lilac-color wild flower) “Sweet William.” Before she died, I asked her about that name and she said that was what her mother called the flowers. Even though I had googled it years earlier, I had found nothing. About a year ago, I bought a book about North Carolina language, and one of the entries was “Sweet William” for the flower. Now when googled, I discover wild Blue Phlox is also called Sweet William in Missouri and even Dianthus have the Sweet William name.

  • Reply
    Terry Goff
    June 6, 2021 at 5:05 pm

    I was born and raised until my sophomore year of high school in Chicago but, my parents were both poor from Tennessee. As you can imagine I took a ribbin’ from the kids in school and the neighborhood from the way I talked. Using words such as rusty elbows/feet, I’m fixin’ knock you in the head, it’s comin’ a cloud I better get to the house. My grandmother was a hoot, both of them. I would hear some of the funniest saying I ever heard and being little I would pick up on it and go back to Chicago and get poked fun at.
    Enjoy reading your stories and love your recipes.

  • Reply
    Brenda Presley
    June 1, 2021 at 12:07 am

    Love this blog.
    I’m familiar all the terms, including those in the comments. Both my parents were raised in the mountains where VA, WV & KY converge. When they got married, they followed US 23 to another tri-state area—where KY, OH & WV meet at the Ohio River. Heard “rusty-footed” growing up from my SW VA parents & grandparents, but come to think of it, rarely from the Ohio Valley natives here in KY, even though similar Appalachian dialects are spoken in the two localities.
    As youngins, we called Granny’s holler “up home” in VA “the Rusty Road.” Back then it was a one-lane dirt road with grass growing up the middle, and if it ever had another name, I don’t know what it was.
    Among other terms common to SW VA but not NE KY are:
    “a snow-on” for a snowfall or snow covering. (“They was a big snow-on that mornin’.”)
    “spicket” for faucet (perhaps a mispronunciation of “spigot.”)
    And they often put the “ever” before the “who, what,” etc. (everwho, everwhat, everwhere, everwhich, everhow…”
    Our paternal grandparents used a lot of “funny” words (hither, thither, darksome, twain) that I now realize were Elizabethan English. Their primary reading material was the KJV Bible and works of Isaac Watts.

  • Reply
    Pat Everhart
    May 30, 2021 at 8:43 pm

    what about the word “gom” if that’s how it’s spelled. I was raised in southern Ohio and it was a word used often and got passed on to my children and g-children who have lived in CA. most of their life. My g-children like to tease me about my “accent” and I have been asked all my life where I’m from. I left Ohio in the ’60’s and will be 85 yrs. old next month.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    May 29, 2021 at 3:21 pm

    Ed, I keep trying to reply about the risin and the tater but it keeps disappearing. i remember as a child having fat back attached to my chin to “draw” the risin.

  • Reply
    May 29, 2021 at 2:38 pm

    I may have missed it but just said to myself, “I just ‘took a notion’ when I bought that strange thing.” I don’t recall reading that one here. It’s familiar here in SW Ohio.

    All were heard in my younger days except ‘Rusty Feet’

    You did another good job – reminding us of some words we don’t often hear anymore.


  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    May 29, 2021 at 12:45 pm

    Rusty doesn’t mean dirty exactly and does not apply only to feet. Rusty is a combination of callouses, scrapes, scabs and stains that accumulate on almost all of kids raised outdoors. It requires more than a weekly dip in a washtub. It’s required scrubbing until all signs of it are gone or until the first blood appears. Similar to removing rust from an old car it requires a lot of work. It appears on areas that are hard to reach. Feet, of course, but also the lower part of knees, the outside of elbows, knuckles on your dominant hand and the area of bare skin between the back of the ears and the hairline among other places.
    Rust removal is invariably a painful process. The pain increases exponentially if your mother has to show you how to do it properly. Most kids though, once the pain subsides, are right back out into what caused the condition in the first place.

    • Reply
      May 29, 2021 at 2:41 pm

      Your post conjured up a picture & brought a chuckle, Ed!

    • Reply
      Wanda Devers
      May 29, 2021 at 3:13 pm

      Yes, Ed, we didn’t say “rusty-footed” but rusty was used often and for the same reasons you mentioned.

  • Reply
    Mary Anne Johnson
    May 29, 2021 at 12:02 pm

    Both my grandparents & my dad used these words throughout their lives. I find myself using them in my head a lot. Thanks for reminding me of them.

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    May 29, 2021 at 11:45 am

    All of them are very familiar to me, but I don’t hear them as often as I used to.

  • Reply
    Julie Hughes Moreno
    May 29, 2021 at 11:20 am

    Use and heard them all but rusty footed! Made me homesick.

  • Reply
    Kat Swanson
    May 29, 2021 at 10:25 am

    Used all your words in coalfields of Va…..also used holp for help….clumb for climbed ….and lots of quare words….like QUARE…….ANOTHER FAVORITE WAS CYARNY meaning really nasty and dirty . In my many years of oral presentation as an Appalachian storyteller, kids loved my old words…especially FANGER, for finger, and WINDER for window.

  • Reply
    May 29, 2021 at 9:40 am

    Have heard all of them except rusty-footed, although I knew what it meant immediately.

  • Reply
    Frances Jackson
    May 29, 2021 at 9:27 am

    All these are familiar terms to me, except for “rusty-footed.” I heard “heathern” too, and in Arkansas I heard “ideal” for idea.
    I love the speech of the hills. Can anyone tell me if they have heard “gin’ in the sense of “by the time” or “when?”
    It’s a hard “g,” and it might be used in a sentence like, ” Gin we got back home it had started to rain.”

  • Reply
    Ray Presley
    May 29, 2021 at 8:55 am

    Well, folks. I almost failed that test. Never heard “rusty footed” or getting a “risin” All the same, I again very much enjoyed your little vocabulary lesson. Thank you!

  • Reply
    Edward Carden
    May 29, 2021 at 8:54 am

    I hoped him by renching out a warsh cloth in warm water and reached it to him to place on his risin to ease the pain. It rurnt the warsh cloth.
    My grandfather used hoped for helped.
    Not familiar with rusty footed.

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      May 29, 2021 at 12:00 pm

      If you want to help him, cut a tater in half and tape it to that risen. It’ll draw the corruption out. Don’t eat the tater afterwerds!

      • Reply
        Wanda Devers
        May 29, 2021 at 3:17 pm

        Ed, I remember having a piece of fat pork attached to my chin to “draw” a risin.

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    May 29, 2021 at 8:50 am

    All but rusty-footed.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    May 29, 2021 at 8:47 am

    Tipper–The first four are as common as pig tracks to me. However, I don’t know that I’ve heard rusty-footed used since I was a boy. Back then I spent a lot of time around a fascinating old river rat who had done time in the state pen for murder (I didn’t know that). He also happened to be an absolute wizard when it came to catching catfish. Old Al epitomized being rusty-footed since he seldom bathed (you didn’t want to be downwind of him) and wore no socks during the summer. I can still see his ankles, caked with enough dirt to get a start on a garden, sticking out from below his overalls as he sat on the banks of the Tuckaseigee waiting for a fish to bite.
    He was good to me and a bunch of other boys, willingly shared his accumulated catfishing lore, and none of us knew of his sordid past. I learned of it only after I was well into adulthood. He got religion late in life and also was a real “gift” to me, rusty-footed or not, because he’s given me fodder for at least half a dozen articles over the years.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    May 29, 2021 at 8:17 am

    All but ‘rusty footed’. However, I don’t say ‘rench’ or ‘ruint’ the Appalachian way. Ruint by school I expect.

    I do get ‘rusty footed’ digging though. And I seem fated to dig somehow. Got two digging jobs ahead now and before I get them done I’ll likely find some more.

  • Reply
    May 29, 2021 at 7:52 am

    The words are all familiar to me and my family. We use rusty to describe any body part that was dirty.

  • Reply
    Dennis M Morgan
    May 29, 2021 at 7:40 am

    I have heard and used all the expressions except “rusty footed” but I could catch the meaning that someone had dirty feet.

    I sure enjoy your website.

    Dennis Morgan

  • Reply
    Carol Stuart
    May 29, 2021 at 7:32 am

    All but rusty footed were common in WV back in my day.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    May 29, 2021 at 7:32 am

    Tipper, these are so common to me that I’m surprised to see them on the list. I mean I know they are country adaptations of regular words but they are our language and I like our language!

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    May 29, 2021 at 7:28 am

    Very familiar with each word. We also used rurnt to describe a spoiled child. “ Her momma has got her rurnt by holding her all the time.”

  • Reply
    Don Byers
    May 29, 2021 at 6:47 am

    Retch. Reach.
    Tollible. Am doing ok these days.

  • Reply
    Sanford McKinney Jr
    May 29, 2021 at 6:44 am

    When you mentioned elbow it reminded of an old saying when someone hit their elbow. They would say they hit their “crazy bone”. It would actually paralyze your arm for a moment.
    Another word used in the mountains of Upper East TN was “heathern” for heathen. Someone would say something like, “If them heatherns don’t get out of the road they’re goin get “kilt”!
    Another word that sometimes got used was ideal instead of idea as in, “He had a good ideal”.

    • Reply
      May 29, 2021 at 9:27 am

      Sandford-we say heathern too. One of my friends who is a college professor said she had to look in the dictionary before she actually believed it wasn’t heathern. And I say ideal too 🙂

      • Reply
        Ed Ammons
        May 29, 2021 at 11:56 am

        Well, I say idy.

        • Reply
          May 29, 2021 at 1:47 pm

          Thanks, Ed. Me too!

      • Reply
        Wanda Devers
        May 29, 2021 at 3:18 pm

        Heathern here, too!

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