Appalachian Dialect

Appalachian Vocabulary Test 25

old bridge

It’s Vocabulary Test time-take it and see how you do:

  1. Least
  2. Leastways
  3. Latch
  4. Lead
  5. Leatherbritches   


  1. Least- the smallest. “The least Taylor girl can sing like a bird but she’s mean as a striped snake.”
  2. Leastways- at least, at any rate. “Even though the trip got cancelled, leastways I’ll be ready when they go again.”
  3. Latch- lock, close. “Granny says “make sure all the doors are latched before you go to bed.” She’s always aworrying about me since I moved to town.”
  4. Lead-a long mountain ridge. “If he’d get on the Pinhook lead he could walk it all the way to the Roberson Cove and it’d be quicker than taking the trail.”
  5. Leatherbritches-dried greenbeans. “Mommy always liked to have enough leatherbritches to make it through the winter. She liked them better than canned beans.”

How did you do? I know, use, and hear all this month’s words on a regular basis.

I use #1 all the time-but I add the word littlest-like: “He was the least littlest baby I ever saw.” I believe there is a grammatical term for using 2 similar words for emphasis. There are more than a few odd grammar uses that are common in Appalachia-hmmm maybe I should start having an Appalachian Grammar test.



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  • Reply
    Nancy M.
    November 20, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    I have either heard or used them all except the last two. I don’t really know them.

  • Reply
    November 18, 2010 at 8:21 am

    Never heard lead used in that contex before. Here a lead is on a fishing line or a horse. Leatherbritches was a new one for me too. For some reason no one seems to raise green-beans down here in the Rio Grande Valley. I’ve used “take that dog-leg there” and gotten the weirdest look ever. Today I told my hubby something was ruin’t instead of ruined…and he laughed for fifteen minutes. I was raised in Oklahoma, so I don’t talk like folks down here. ;).

  • Reply
    November 17, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    Congratulations to Wanda!
    I’ve heard all of those words Tipper. And I use them quite regular, too.

  • Reply
    November 15, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    Judith-I’m not sure where lead came from. But I’d guess it would be-because a lead will ‘lead’ you all the way to the top of the mountain.
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at

  • Reply
    November 15, 2010 at 6:26 am

    I never heard that use for “lead”, it was totally new to me. But, I never saw a mountain until I was over 30 years old! I have heard the rest used, but have only used “latch” myself. We usually say “lock” for a door, and “latch” for a gate or hook.
    My mother would have said using two words which mean the same thing in once sentence was a redundancy. Here is a definition: . Some people do that purposely for emphasis, I think.
    Mom made a lifetime habit of correcting our grammar. Not sure why she did that, but I think it was because she grew up being corrected and learned it was a parent’s role. I am guilty of having done the same thing with my children, so that supports my idea that it was learned behavior.
    I really enjoy your vocabulary posts. Since the US has become so “vanilla”, with a McDonalds in very town, and a chain drugstore on every corner, it is good to explore what really makes us tick, our individuality! Vocabulary can be unique to geography, common experience, certain trades, occupations or industries; and probably in other groups I cannot think of. Some of the words you have presented are used in rural areas where I lived, but not here in the suburbs. I think some may be related to geography, and some to setting.

  • Reply
    November 14, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    I got all them! I do leatherbritches, myself, and they are good, you have to cook a long time. Thanks again, God Bless. Kay

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    November 14, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Tipper–Like brother Don, I knew all of them, and indeed they are common as pig tracks to me. I will note that Don missed a good bet when he referred to boiling leatherbritches up on some high lead when any son of the Smokies should have known they would be “biled.” Likewise, I was surprised my good buddy Larry Proffitt didn’t know the word. His lack of familiarity with lead speaks volumes about how there can be linguistic variations from one part of Appalachia to another, because Larry is assuredly country as cornbread and has mountain roots reaching deep indeed.
    One other lead which comes to mind in sh Hahoe (spelling?) Lead over in the Graham County area.
    As for leatherbritches, I wonder how many of your readers have actually prepared them (we did it by stringing the green beans, and then, leaving the pod whole, using a stout sewing need and thread to put them on long strings. They were then dried in the summer sun. The taste of leatherbritches is strikingly different than that of regular green beans, but when cooked in a big pot with plenty of streaked meat, then served with a pone of cracklin’ cornbread, it’s vittles which would make a five-star chef hit himself in the head in dismay as he recognized his shortcomings.
    Jim Casada

    • Reply
      Deborah Garland
      July 17, 2019 at 6:46 pm

      I’m from Graham County- you’re close. Haoe lead…lol

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    November 14, 2010 at 11:02 am

    I knew them all but lead too, and still use them. There is something in the back of my mind about the use of lead that way, maybe I read it somewhere long ago.
    B. Ruth, I’ve had the screen door latch on me many a time. I’ve also used latch as in “I’ll latch on to it.” Funny how these words seem to mean so many things.

  • Reply
    kat magendie
    November 14, 2010 at 11:00 am

    I did quite well – 😀 — and I had to laugh because a friend of mine who is also an editor and not familiar with Appalachia long time ago read a first draft of one of my novels and marked all these places – well, I had to tell her “um, this is an Appalachian girl speaking – you can’t mark the grammar like this -!” made me laugh —
    Needless to say, I didn’t change them! 😀

  • Reply
    November 14, 2010 at 10:17 am

    Hey Tipper, got 4 of them! I’ve never used lead. And my granny always used latch ” latch onto that bucket and don’t drop it” I really love these vocabulary tests!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    November 14, 2010 at 7:56 am

    I got 100 on this test. Know then all and use most of them.
    I think an Appalachian Grammar test would be fun It’s not just the words we use but the way we use them that makes our speech so interesting.
    I certainly agree with the Casada’s you are The Angel of Brasstown!

  • Reply
    November 14, 2010 at 5:37 am

    I love all your L words Tipper. I think that local colloquialisms and collocations reflect a nation’s character and heritage. Thanks for sharing yours.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    November 14, 2010 at 2:23 am

    Have used them all but lead…since I must’ve been too lazy to take the mountain lead…I just “scooted” down the pig trail to the bottom…
    and didn’t you just hate it when the screen door slamed and the latch flopped over and hooked itself while you were carrying out a load of “warsh” to the line….
    then having to hunt a tiny piece of wire to slide “inbetween” the door n’ frame and slide it up to “unlatchit”…LOL
    Boy oh boy…that latch would keep’um
    Love these testes!…LOL
    Have you ever heard that one used?
    Thanks Tipper such fun!

  • Reply
    November 13, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    I was the baby of the family & my dad always called me the leastun’.

  • Reply
    teresa atkinson
    November 13, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    Tipper, we use all of these except lead. I love the pictures on this post. If you guys are coming thus way with the deer hunter, I would love to take you to the smith mcgee bridge. It’s about 30 minutes from me.

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    November 13, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    Lead is new to me — I use all the others though.

  • Reply
    Eva M. Wike, Ph.D.
    November 13, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    Hey Tipper: I woud be afeard to say I didn’t know the meaning of LEAD! I did not know the word til I started hiking with the THURSDAY HIKERS in the Smokies!Of course that is in TENNESSEE not NC!!!
    I can recall those strings leather britches hanging on the back porch. Long about hog killing time – with all that ‘fatback’ my mama would start cooking them beans! My my they were delicious!
    Finally, Leastways is not in my vocabulary. Anyway that is ENOUGH!
    Cheers, Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Larry Proffitt
    November 13, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    Tipper , Lead is the only word that is foreign to me. Some of old men I hunted with ( now gone on to their reward) often referred to certain ridges and drainages named by the timber companies who logged this country from about 1913-1925 such as
    18 ridge , or 16 branch. I smiled this week when I heard one of my hunting buddies use one of our colloquialisms but did not comment for I well knew what he was talking about when he said that big lab was “woolin” that pup to death. Larry Proffitt

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    November 13, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    Since several folks weren’t familiar with the word “lead”, it might be useful to note that it is pronounced with a long “e”, as opposed to the way the soft metal is pronounced.
    In the Great Smokies park, I can think of three named leads on the TN side of the park: Parson (the least one in length and height), Pinnacle, and Chapman. But there’s not a one on the North Carolina side – leastways, one doesn’t come to mind.
    In addition to ridge, a couple of other names are commonly used for the same type of feature: divide and spur. Interestingly, smack dab in between Chapman Lead and Pinnacle Lead (and parallel to both) is the Guyot Spur.
    And there are any number of ridges/leads/spurs/divides that are just called “mountains.”
    Now if you were to carry along a mess of leatherbritches and try to prepare them up on one of those high leads, you better have some patience since the boiling temperature will be low and they’ll take a long time to cook up.
    Well, that’s enough; I better latch it up.

  • Reply
    kenneth o. hoffman
    November 13, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    tipper: i think i still use them all leastwise it seems so. we could not get through the winter with out leather britches. hope all is well in good ole tarheel. your friend k.o.h

  • Reply
    November 13, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    I was lucky today and have heard and used all of the words!!!! Another “L” word that I use is likely.
    As in “It’s likely he’ll be home tonight.”
    Also my dad used to call the muscles/tendons in the body leaders. He would say,”The leaders in my neck is painin’ me today.” Don’t know where that ever came from because I never heard anyone else use that word!!!! Guess I’ve had too much book learnin’!!!

  • Reply
    Judith Alef
    November 13, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    Hey there! I missed ‘least’; we use youngest. Didn’t know lead – wonder if it’s an old surveyors term? I learned leatherbritches from someone who corrected my family use of ‘leatherbeans’.

  • Reply
    Dale Anderson
    November 13, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    Haven’t heard lead used in that context before. Familiar with the others. My Dad grew up eating leatherbritches and always cooked green beans a long time. Guess that was because it took longer for the leatherbritches to get tender.

  • Reply
    Patty Hall
    November 13, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    I knew all but lead. Never heard it used like that.
    I use least as in ‘the least little thing just throws him into a fit’. I’ve used latch in this sense and also as in ‘that snake latched onto his leg’. John Dilbeck’s comment reminded me of the leather latch my dad made for an out building one time.
    Patty H,

  • Reply
    Uncle Dave
    November 13, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    Four out of five! Never heard “lead” in that context.
    Leatherbritches brought to mind a dishpan full of beans and a needle and thread and stings of beans hanging behind the cookstove! God Bless and thanks for the fond memories.
    Uncle Dave

  • Reply
    November 13, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    Like most, I’ve heard them all except ‘lead’.

  • Reply
    November 13, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    Congradulations to Wanda on her
    subscription win. That’ll be nice.
    Four of these words I use and can
    relate to about every day, but a
    mountain ridge being a lead might
    be something new to me. And as many green beans I grew this year,
    I didn’t dry any for leatherbritches. Will continue to
    pray for Pap’s well-being…Ken

  • Reply
    Uncle Al
    November 13, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    Hi Tipper,
    Got 4 out of 5. Had not heard of “lead” used for that before, but I guess it makes sense now. Latch was something we grew up with…primarily (I think) because we had screen doors in front of the regular door and it had a “latch”….no A/C bank in the day…

  • Reply
    Cathy ~ Tadpoles and Teacups
    November 13, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    I got 4 of 5 right!

  • Reply
    November 13, 2010 at 11:54 am

    this time i did not know 2 of them, the last 2, lead and leatherbritches. i still say leastways and get a lot of teasing about it. got that from kentucky and used to say latch the doors, but that was has disapeared from use. again due to teasing.

  • Reply
    Nancy Simpson
    November 13, 2010 at 11:02 am

    Hi Tipper, I got four out of five correct. I did not know and have never heard “lead” used that way. Thanks for turning my brain on this slow, lazy Saturday morning. I always enjoy your blog.

  • Reply
    Vera Guthrie
    November 13, 2010 at 10:50 am

    I passed 100%. I still use those words and luckily no one has ever had a problem understanding me.

  • Reply
    November 13, 2010 at 10:35 am

    Am familiar with these words but like you, I say littlest instead of least. Even tho we live in different states, it seems the way we talk is about the same. Guess it’s just being from the south.

  • Reply
    John Dilbeck
    November 13, 2010 at 10:20 am

    I’m four out of five on this one.
    I’ve never heard “lead” used like that. It’s brand new to me.
    A few months ago, my daughter and her husband were in Florida. When they told me they were on their way home, I went to their house and turned on the air conditioner so it would be comfortable when they got back from their long trip.
    I emailed her and said, “I left the lights on and the latch string out.”
    A couple of days later, she asked what I was talking about.
    I had to explain to her about cabins and door latches and using latch strings before door knobs were available.
    When I was a kid, my granny in Benton, TN lived in a two room cabin that had a latch string. Later, she replaced the door with one that had a lock and door knob and it was never the same again. Leastways, I don’t think it was.

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