Appalachian Dialect

Appalachian Vocabulary Test 69

Appalachian Vocabulary Test 69
It’s time for this month’s Appalachian Vocabulary Test. Take it and see how you do!

  1. Main
  2. Mare’s tail
  3. Mend
  4. Miller
  5. Most times

Appalachian Vocabulary Test 69 2

  1. Main: Best; extremely. “All I know is that’s the main meanest woman I ever saw. She ain’t nothing but pure evil.”
  2. Mare’s tail: long thin clouds. “Seems like every bitter cold spell is followed by clear weather with a sky full of mare’s tails. It’s almost like the cold washes every thing new again.”
  3. Mend: to improve in health. “I think Oscar is finally on the mend after being sick for so many months.”
  4. Miller: a moth. “Don’t leave that porch light on all night, if you do there’ll be a blue million millers in the house before morning.”
  5. Most times: most often. “Most times if I’m going to be canning I go ahead and carry all the jars I think I’ll need up from the basement before I start.”

I’m familiar with all of this month’s words, except mare’s tail, not sure I ever heard that one. I still hear all the others on a regular basis in my area of Appalachia. How did you do on the test?


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  • Reply
    August 20, 2014 at 10:13 pm

    I know ’em all except for Mare’s Tail too.
    And Dad use to say there was a difference between a miller and a moth, but I can’t remember what he said that difference was.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    August 20, 2014 at 9:09 pm

    I did a lot better today. I only missed one – mare’s tail. I thought it was another term for pulling one’s long hair into a pony tail.

  • Reply
    Peggy R. Lambert
    August 20, 2014 at 8:54 pm

    Have heard all of these words except “Mare’s Tail”
    Peggy L.

  • Reply
    August 20, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    Ed,to get the weevils out, we just shook the flour through the tea strainer (more like a fine mesh colander – not the little bitty tea strainers you see in the stores today – – or maybe this was another “make do” I never realized . . . .) Even though weevils are almost rock hard, using the sifter of my childhood memory, we would have just had black smudges instead of black dots in the baked goods!!

  • Reply
    August 20, 2014 at 5:21 pm

    Mare’s tail and miller I’m not familiar with,, Main I’m familiar with and in a different since, and a different terminology ,, Like God created Main and Wah-man…Earnest T Bass language…

  • Reply
    August 20, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    Ed-I’ve never had one fly in my mouth-but I have heard of them flying up people’s noses LOL : ) One of The Deer Hunters best friends had a miller fly in his ear and he had to go to the doctor to get it out : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    August 20, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    Tamela-Here in Western NC we don’t have a problem with millers in our flour and meal. The weevils keep them chased out. You do know that when recipes call for sifting the ingredients together, it ain’t to help mix them evenly, it’s to get out all the little critters at one time.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    August 20, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    Most times I call the clouds horsetails. The mackerel skies Jim mentioned, my mother called buttermilk clouds.
    When I read mend I immediately thought of Aunt Pearl DeHart. She would sit for hours mending her grandkid’s socks. I guess it is called darning. She didn’t patch the hole, she rewove the fabric. She also had a set of lasts and could repair their shoes. Aunt Pearl had a mean streak about her sometimes. She always had a “walking stick” close by and would take it to a little kids legs for no apparent reason. Didn’t have to be her family either. Just any little legs would do.
    Did you ever have a miller fly in your mouth? They are covered with a fine dust. You can spit out the creature but that dust stays with you for a long time.

  • Reply
    Julie Hughes
    August 20, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    I too have never heard of mare’s tail in that context. My Granny used to say my hair looked like a mare’s tail!! Thank the Blind Pig Gang, I just heard Jessie Wincester’s Brand New Tennessee Waltz on the play list. It touched my heart today.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    August 20, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    I never heard of Mare’s tail. All
    the others I’m familiar with…Ken

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    August 20, 2014 at 12:41 pm


  • Reply
    jane bolden
    August 20, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    I know Millers, mend and most times.

  • Reply
    August 20, 2014 at 11:11 am

    This central Texas gal with Kansas and South Texas roots (and some Appalachian ties 5 or 6 generations back) is familiar with all of these. Mare’s tails (yes, cirro-stratus)show up here a day or two before a cold front which usually brings anything from showers to heavy rains as the colder air hits the warm moisture air masses from the Gulf of Mexico – that is, if there’s moisture in that warm air!
    I think there is a reference to mare’s tales early in Larry McMurtry’s All the Pretty Horses.
    I’m also familiar with the sailor’s verse since my husband’s and my son-in-law’s families were & are avid sailors.
    – – so many ways for words to work themselves into our common usage. I have no way of knowing which route led every term into my usage but they are all there.
    As a child, I recall asking about “millers” since I had read that a miller ground grain into flour and meal and puzzled over the connection with these bugs that so annoyed the womenfolk in their kitchens. I think it was my grandmother who told me these flying bugs were called millers for two reasons: 1) they were a constant feature around any miller’s grindstone floor and 2) their larvae create a little “flour” or “meal” as they burrow through grains (and sometimes, beans) stored in the kitchen or pantry.
    We would pick the larvae and their webbings out of the flours and meals before baking. (I still do – shh! don’t tell my husband 😉 – storing the dry goods in glass jars and plastic zip-locks helps but some of those bugs sneak in anyway – grrr! ) We’d also soak the rice so the larvae would float to the top for removal before cooking the rice. Waste not, want not! Just figured any we missed were a little extra protein!

  • Reply
    August 20, 2014 at 11:07 am

    Millers always familiar. Most time instead of most times, as our easy laid-back way of leaving of the out of most of the time.
    Not to change subject (one of my bad habits)–A friend recently said her Mom used to can “bean fixin’s” that you put in beans. She had no clue how to can them, but said they had peppers in them. I just wondered if anyone else had heard this, or if it was a local expression for area around Tazewell Virginia. Maybe it is another term for mixed pickles, chow chow, or some other delicious Appalachian dish.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    August 20, 2014 at 11:04 am

    I think I should explain what I meant by the “main” I have heard used around these parts.
    The word is used with a long a…like mane. Not with a long e like in the word mean that he/she is saying.
    That old blue ribbon bull is mane (mean) or main (mean), I don’t care if yore a-wearin’ red er not!
    I’m not an Anglish teacher, but hope this helps to explain the word Main as I hear it sometimes in East Tennessee.
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…However, I suppose that old prize winning bull is the main winningest source of my neighbors income!

  • Reply
    Ken Ryan
    August 20, 2014 at 10:54 am

    I’ve heard them all except calling moths “millers”. We referred to them all as candle bugs.

  • Reply
    Pamela Danner
    August 20, 2014 at 10:53 am

    The only one I am not familiar with is Mare’s tail. The rest I have used many times.

  • Reply
    August 20, 2014 at 10:35 am

    Dale-Thank you for the comment! Your main most example is better than mine-thats how I most often hear it too : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    Dale Anderson
    August 20, 2014 at 10:10 am

    Another one for the list, “main most”. Hear it used as “he took the main most road” or “it’s the main most part”.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    August 20, 2014 at 9:41 am

    Tipper–I’m familiar with all of them and am really surprised mare’s tail is new to you. Don is right in his assumption that most are used more widely than in our highland homeland.
    Indeed, there’s an old piece of weather wisdom connected with mare’s tails which, as is so often the case, comes in the form of a couplet:
    “Mackerel skies and mare’s tails
    Make wise sailors set short sails.”
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    August 20, 2014 at 9:26 am

    I use all of them except main. Never heard that. I always thought that millers were a particular kind of moth. Some folks call them “miller moths” but that seems like overkill. Mares tales are frequent in New Mexico.

  • Reply
    Teresa Atkinson
    August 20, 2014 at 9:19 am

    never heard mare’s tail either. but i am quite intrigued by what the deer hunter might be doing in that picture……did you show him the bear picture on bobby’s facebook wall?

  • Reply
    August 20, 2014 at 9:01 am

    Mend and most times, I know. The rest I’m not familiar with. Love these word tests!

  • Reply
    August 20, 2014 at 8:58 am

    I have never heard mare’s tail used to describe clouds. Also, never used main in a sentence like your example. Where I’m from main is used to describe the “top dog”, a go to person or someone who is responsible for starting something.

  • Reply
    Gina S
    August 20, 2014 at 8:26 am

    I’m acquainted with all the terms. Don’t use all of them regularly, though. Mare’s tail is my favorite for the term perfectly describes the appearance of those clouds. Mama wasn’t happy when I let a miller in the house. I loved them so was bad to do that. We are bound together by the words we know and the memories we share of life in the Appalachians.

  • Reply
    Barbara Gantt
    August 20, 2014 at 8:17 am

    I am familiar with all of them except mares tail. My Daddy always called the moths millers. Barbara

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    August 20, 2014 at 8:15 am

    I have heard these…Not so much “Mare’s tail” most times “wispy tails.”
    I thought “main” was a pronunciation problem, a dialect of mountain folks like me…Thet Karl has a main (mean) dog, I’m a sayin’ main (mean), he’d bite the tail offen’ a ‘painter for hit knew what got him!
    I’m on the mend, but those millers swirlin’ round are goin’ to make me dizzy-headed agin…So, shet that screen door!
    Love this post as usual,
    I met a guy with such a dialect on the trail. I wanted to talk to him longer, but he was a follering his wife and she was huntin’ treasures so he couldn’t tarry long!
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Judy Mincey
    August 20, 2014 at 8:03 am

    Know and use all of those. My grandfather, Norman Carter, taught me the names of the clouds. He was a farmer turned business man, but was always watching the sky. Mares tails always preceded a wet spell by at least 24 hours. I remember reading in school about cloud names and thinking, ” I know this stuff.” Don’t know where or when he learned the names, but he knew both the common, mares tails,and stratocirrus.

  • Reply
    Bob Aufdemberge
    August 20, 2014 at 7:42 am

    Yes, heard all of those out here west of the Mississippi.

  • Reply
    Carol Stuart
    August 20, 2014 at 7:32 am

    Have certainly heard “most times” and “mend” (still use mend) and “miller” is another word for moth; but I don’t think miller is used as often as it used to be. I seem to remember that my mother called the small moths “millers” but worried that moths would get into the woolens and make holes in them.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    August 20, 2014 at 7:17 am

    Never heard Mare’s Tail, Tip, but I know all the others.
    The blog arrives on my email about 7:15 every morning. This morning I just finished with exactly the same thing you were doing in the picture above. Now that I have the tomatoes cleaned I’ll can them. Just took a break in between to read this mornings familiar memories.

  • Reply
    eva nell wike, PhD
    August 20, 2014 at 7:14 am

    Well Tipper, most of those terms are new to me! The last one was expressed as MOST OF THE TIME when we used it. Thanks for the ‘new’ old expressions.
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    August 20, 2014 at 6:40 am

    Mare’s tails come a day or two before wet weather arrives. I’ve heard that since my youth and have seen it come to pass many times.
    I suspect that most of these are used well beyond Appalachia.

  • Reply
    August 20, 2014 at 5:59 am

    I haven’t thought of millers in ages. When I was little, I think my Granny called moths “miller bugs.” We kids (okay maybe it was just me) used to leave the porch light on to attract as many bugs as we could to the screen door at night, just to see what there was. Thanks for reminding me of Granny this morning.

  • Reply
    Eldonna Ashley
    August 20, 2014 at 4:14 am

    I grew up using all of these. I had almost forgotten “Marie’s tail.”

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