Appalachian Dialect

Appalachian Vocabulary Test 150

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. Shackledy: unsteady, in poor condition. “That shed is so shackledy it’s a wonder it didn’t come down in last night’s storm.”

2. Shagnasty: an unkempt, disorderly, disagreeable person. “There’s an old shagnasty lady that works there and I don’t know why in the world they don’t tell her she can’t be mean to the people who come there. I mean we pay for the place to be open!”

3. Shirt-tail boy: a small boy. “When The Deer Hunter was a little shirt-tail boy he liked to pretend he was a dog…and drink and eat from the dog’s bowls.”

4. Shiver: to fragment, crush. “He cut that tree and it went the wrong way and landed on the shed. I’m telling you it tore it to shivers.”

5. Singingest: person who sings a lot. “Pap was one of the singingest people I ever knew. He loved to sing and he loved good singing!”

So how did you do on the test? I’m familiar with all of this month’s words, but rarely hear shiver or shagnasty.


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  • Reply
    Ray Presley
    July 31, 2021 at 6:55 pm

    Tipper, I just finished a book, “Radio Girls” written by a woman who grew up in Los Angeles and lived in London, New York and other places. Somewhere she picked up the term “of an evening,” which we claim as our own in Appalachia. I wonder where she picked up the term, possibly through some other travels, maybe even Appalachia.

  • Reply
    Frances Jackson
    July 30, 2021 at 3:02 pm

    In the Ozarks I heard “shagnasty,” but never knew what it meant. Seems to me that “shirt-tail” was used to describe someone what was a relative, but not a very close one, such as a “shirt-tail cousin.”
    I too would have said “smithereens” in place of “shivers.”
    And I remember hearing someone use “flitter” to mean something really flat. As in, “It knocked him flatter’n a flitter.”I never knew what a flitter was, but I reckoned it must be about the flattest thing imaginable.
    And, speaking of ;flat,’ I heard it used a lot as an intensive, Something like the bottom line of something. Such as, “I’m gonna have to flat kill that pesky rooster.” Or, “I have to flat hog-tie that young’un to get him to wash his hands.”

    • Reply
      August 24, 2021 at 8:43 pm

      We say flat as a flitter in Mississippi too. I wonder what else we say the same?

      • Reply
        August 25, 2021 at 7:25 am

        Paula-I bet we say a lot of the same things 🙂

  • Reply
    July 30, 2021 at 12:43 pm

    All those are new to the west coast gal! I loved each one.

  • Reply
    July 30, 2021 at 12:40 pm

    I knew what shagnasty and shirttail meant but never heard the others used that way.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    July 30, 2021 at 11:42 am

    I believe we would have said smithereens or slivers instead of shivers.

    Heard all the others except shagnasty but I love it–it is so expressive of some I have unfortunately known. It made me recall an old memory. As a child there was an older lady we all called Aunt Idy. Don’t know if she was a blood aunt or a courtesy aunt. Anyway, her hygiene was really bad and I had heard the adults talking about it. So, guess who went up to her and said, ‘Aunt Idy, you stink!”. It made her cry and I have never forgotten it.

    Yall have got some of the prettiest girls ever!

  • Reply
    July 30, 2021 at 11:03 am

    Only heard singingest and shirt-tail. Also, leave out before daylight.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 30, 2021 at 10:55 am

    I’ve never heard shivers used that way. I’ve heard of something breaking into slivers or flying to flitters but never shivers.
    I only learned about shirt-tail boys on the Blind Pig.
    Singingest is among the many words I’ve heard or used that end in -ingest. Now ain’t that the beatingest thang?
    Shackledy becomes shacklety in my language.
    I heard shagnasty a lot when I was young. That’s because I looked like one, according to Daddy. I guess I did fit the description most of the time.

    • Reply
      July 30, 2021 at 2:31 pm

      Ed, I love flying to flitters!

  • Reply
    Ray Presley
    July 30, 2021 at 10:09 am

    What do folks in your part of the country call “cicadas?” I noticed one of your older articles calling them “cicadas,” but we’ve always called them “cicadees.” Do you recon there’s a difference, or could it be just the way we talk?
    By the way, I always enjoy your vocabulary tests. Most of the words and phrases you mentioned are familiar to me. Please keep it going.

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      July 30, 2021 at 1:55 pm

      We call them “Jar Flies”! We used to catch ’em, tie a piece of string around ’em and fly ’em around like an helicopter!

      • Reply
        Ed Ammons
        July 30, 2021 at 6:52 pm

        “an helicopter” Where did that come from?

    • Reply
      July 30, 2021 at 4:23 pm

      Ray, in my part of E.KY. we call the ones that show up on the seventeen yr. cycle locust. The ones that show up every yr. we call jar flies.

      • Reply
        Ray Presley
        July 31, 2021 at 6:34 pm

        Thanks. I’ve heard “jar flies” too. I just always thought it referred to any big kind of fly that makes noise when flying, like maybe a June bug with string tied to its leg.

  • Reply
    July 30, 2021 at 9:53 am

    I’ve heard a few of them but not all. I knew so many kids that act like a dog and drank from a bowl. How funny. I even think I tried that once or twice. Lol

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      July 30, 2021 at 6:50 pm

      I drink from a bowl all the time. Like, you know, when you finish with your cornbread and milk and there is still some of that flavored milk left in the bottom of the bowl. I pick it up and drink it. It’s a favor to whoever has to wash dishes. Same as with a bowl of greenbeans that you have crumbled cornbread into to soak up all that delectable juice but it don’t get it all and there ain’t no more cornbread and the spoon ain’t the right shape to fit corner of the bowl when you tip up. Of course you turn up the bowl being always careful not to let any dribble down your chin. After all we do have our image to protect.

    • Reply
      August 10, 2021 at 10:28 pm

      Our neighbors little girl ate dog food when she was a little girl. She said that she liked it.

  • Reply
    July 30, 2021 at 9:40 am

    Love that word “shagnasty”!

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    July 30, 2021 at 9:31 am

    Shagnasty is the only one I have heard, but not in many years.

  • Reply
    Don Byers
    July 30, 2021 at 9:17 am

    Heard them all but shivers…..

  • Reply
    July 30, 2021 at 9:06 am

    All the words, even shiver, were common when I was growing up. I don’t hear them much since my parents are gone. I called to check on an elderly lady friend who broke her wrist and she told it was very painful. I told her mom broke her wrist when she fell down the basement steps and she always said it was the hurtingest thing she ever had happen to her. I knew I needed to explain as soon as the old lady went silent.
    I learned to say shackedy without the L.

  • Reply
    July 30, 2021 at 9:00 am

    I don’t remember hearing shagnasty and for shevers, I would say it tore it to smithereens.

    • Reply
      July 30, 2021 at 9:18 am

      Smithereens is the word that came to mind for me.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    July 30, 2021 at 8:38 am

    I’ll say I have heard them all at one time or another. But just “shackeldy” to be common. Instead of “shivers” we said “flinders” to mean the same thing; that is, small pieces. I think the ‘shirt tail boy’ is a holdover from the time when boys wore a gown and didn’t get pants until they had some years. The adding “est” to some root to characterize a person sure is familiar.

  • Reply
    July 30, 2021 at 8:12 am

    Thanks for bringing back many of the old words I heard through the years. I heard shagnasty, but did not say it because I thought it meant something nasty 🙂 Now, it was very common to say somebody was the singingest, dancingest or any est woman. I was always knee deep in some new hair-brained project. I remember when I drug my poor sister down to help me put together a building. As we worked diligently she said, “I bet your neighbors think you are the projectingest womn they have ever seen.” We Appalachians have our own descriptive terms for just about everything. I heard my family use words I never hear anymore, Dad referred to a type of squirrel as a Boomer, and he never used the word Rutabagas but used another word entirely. I cannot think of the word, but will as soon as I post.

    • Reply
      July 30, 2021 at 8:20 am

      He called them Hanovers/Handovers

      • Reply
        July 30, 2021 at 3:53 pm

        8 minutes for your recollector to work… Not bad… 🙂

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 30, 2021 at 8:10 am

    I don’t think I’ve heard shiver used this way. I have some fondness for shagnasty, it’s just so expressive and I know all the remaing words well. I think our speech is really very expressive and I particularly love the way we don’t hesitate to make up a word to fit the situation when we don’t have a word to express what we are trying to say!

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    July 30, 2021 at 7:00 am

    The shirt tail boy brought back a memory of my brother who would not tuck his shirt tail in. My Grandmother would watch him walk by and say “little Dickie Dout with his shirttail out”. He hated that and would make a nasty face to her. She would laugh and do it again .

  • Reply
    July 30, 2021 at 6:50 am

    All but Singingest, have not heard that one.
    Shagnasty was one thats been decades since I’ve heard.

  • Reply
    joe chumlea
    July 30, 2021 at 6:13 am

    Did you ever hear folks say “leave out” ,as in he said he was going to leave out @ first light. I say that a lot.

    • Reply
      Ray Presley
      August 4, 2021 at 6:41 pm

      No, but I’ve heard “lit out” a lot. Like, “He lit out of there like his shirttail was on fire!”

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    July 30, 2021 at 6:10 am

    Other than shirt tail boy I habe never heard any of these words. Whay I love most about this vocabulary is that all the words with vrry few exceptions leave you with no doubt what they mean

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