Appalachia Appalachian Dialect Ghosts - Haints - Spooky

Appalachian Vocabulary Test – The Spooky October Edition

Witching for Water

It’s time for my monthly Appalachian Vocabulary Test. I thought it would be fun to use spooky words for October’s test. But when I started trying to come up with spooky sounding words-other than the most obvious boogers, haints, etc.-I drew a total blank.

I pulled out my Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English for some help-and these are the words I came up with-take the test and see how you do.

  1. Booger
  2. Devil’s brew
  3. Evil foot
  4. Hair ball
  5. Haunt


  1. Booger: ghost, demon, or a bad person. “Now that you’ve stayed till dark you better take my flashlight so you can see how to get home. You don’t want to run into any boogers.”
  2. Devil’s brew: moonshine, homemade liquor. “He’d been down the road with that gang of outlaws drinking the Devil’s brew. Thats why he came home ready to fight. He might as well be the Devil after he takes a few drinks of that stuff.”
  3. Evil foot: infection in a horses foot. “I’m afraid Ole Sam has the evil foot. I don’t know what in the world we’ll do if I can’t use him to plow. We’ll be ruint.”
  4. Hair ball: a ball made of hair used by witches. “Granny Beavers was 94 years old when she told me about the scariest thing she ever saw. She said when she was a little young girl her great grandmother took her over the mountain to check on a old lady who lived by herself. Everybody said the old lady was a witch. When Granny and her grandmother got to the house, the old woman came out and hollered some sort of jiberage and threw balls of hair at them. Granny Beavers said her grandmother died before day light the next morning of a awful terrible pain in her head.”
  5. Haunt (haint, hant): a ghost or spirit. “Theres a haunt down there at the river. It comes out every full moon. I know it does cause I seen it with my own two eyes.”

My thoughts on the words:

*I grew up hearing folks talk about boogers-especially telling children if they didn’t mind a booger would get them. I still hear booger on a regular basis and still use the word myself.

*I’ve heard folks call moonshine/alcohol the Devil’s Brew-also the Devil’s Water.

*I’ve never heard nor read #3.

*I’ve never heard hair ball used in this manner-I thought a hair ball was something cats spit up or you found rolling around under your bed.

*I’ve heard older folks use the words haunt and haint-both used in the same way-to describe a ghost.

I hope you’ll leave me a comment and tell me how you did on the test. If you drop back by tomorrow you can read Charles Fletcher’s take on the Haunts, Ghosts, and Boogers that roamed the woods of western NC when he was a boy.



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  • Reply
    October 22, 2011 at 9:52 am

    I’ve heard booger and haint both, but not the middle three. Everytime I hear the word hairball I think of ALF, you know, the alien that ate cats? LOL

  • Reply
    Lisa Bicknell
    October 21, 2011 at 8:52 am

    Hi! I love your blog–especially the title! I was raised on a hog farm. 🙂
    I’ve heard all about boogers,haints, etc., but the hair ball thing is new to me (except the kind my cat barfs up). Interesting post!

  • Reply
    October 19, 2011 at 11:06 am

    I’ve heard older people use 1 and 5 and I hear firewater/devil’s water used some too. Never heard of the others

  • Reply
    October 18, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    I guess booger was the only one I have heard used. There is a community close by to us called Booger Holler; I don’t know the origin of its name though.

  • Reply
    October 17, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    I’m familiar with all except ‘evil foot’ and that particular usage of ‘hairball’.
    Love the comments!

  • Reply
    teresa atkinson
    October 17, 2011 at 10:05 am

    never heard evil foot at all – also never used hairball in this way.
    Hope the fall weather is beautiful your way.

  • Reply
    SandyCarlson (USA)
    October 16, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    These have me ready to decorate for my favorite holiday and to get ready for the best holiday, Samhain!

  • Reply
    Madge @ The View From Right Here
    October 16, 2011 at 9:18 pm

    Wow… that one about the hair balls… freaky!

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    October 16, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    I believe Mark Twain talked about a hairball in TOM SAWYER or HUCKLEBERRY FINN. I’ve never heard of it any where else.
    Booger or boogey man are familiar/

  • Reply
    October 16, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    I guess the reason it is so “spooky” down by the graveyard is that so many “spooks” live there. For devil’s brew how about “shine” and “hooch?”

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    October 16, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    Well, I passed. I knew of 1,2,and 5.

  • Reply
    October 16, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    This was fun! I’ve never heard of devil’s foot, or hair ball used in that way.
    Up in the northernmost foothills, we do say ‘boogey man’, which I would guess is a variant of booger; they mean the same thing anyway.
    I don’t know anyone who says haint, but I’ve read it in books.
    I am intrigued by the hair balls, I’ve read before of the superstition of keeping your fallen hairs safe from witches. My mom and grandma always rolled their loose hairs in a ball around a finger and threw them out, I wonder if that’s why?
    Thanks for another great test, and thanks to those who included a haint story in their replies! Looking forward to another Spooky October day and Charles Fletcher’s scary story!

  • Reply
    October 16, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    Just got back from seeing the nice debut movie at the Henn
    theater in Murphy. I thought
    those 3 pretty gals from my
    area did an excellent job, made
    me proud!
    I’m not familiar with ‘evil foot’
    but the others are well known to

  • Reply
    October 16, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    Okay, I did manage to get a few right, but to me, like you, a hairball is from the kitty. Haunt I have always used as a verb as in to haunt someone or something haunts you. Devil’s claw was totatally new. Now a booger, well I think it might depend upon how you pronounce it. It was always something in your nose. I will now remember my new learned usage. Maybe the word boogyman comes from the meaning you described. Very interesting.

  • Reply
    October 16, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    My lovely and fun aunt used to tell us that the boogie man lived in the wall, and with her you just never knew, so it was sort of scary since my sister and I were young… must be the northern version of the booger.

  • Reply
    Rick Kratzke
    October 16, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    This was a good post, I heard of 3 out of the 5.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    October 16, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    The boogerman and booger I’ve heard all my life & haint too. Mama’s family seemed to be especially plagued with these–lived in a house where a noise travelled around under the floor. Her grandpa was very vulnerable–rode in one night on his poor wore out horse beating on the door yelling, “Let me in, the Devil’s chased me home.” Seems he often had these experiences.
    Mama says she & her sisters were walking down the road one night & a luminescent ball of some kind rolled across in front of them–like to have scared them to death. I wonder if it could have been some kind of lightening though there was no storm at the time.
    Mama also said she woke with a start to a horrible female figure leaning down over her–she yelled & the ghastly figure vanished. Sister in law claims to have seen figures walking in the distance in lots of weird places (cemetery especially)
    I’ve had some weird feelings at times but thank heavens, no sightings so far. Don’t want to see the boogerman or any haints either!!!

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    October 16, 2011 at 11:53 am

    Tipper (and Shirla)
    Wow, I thought your story of your cousin and you trying to “witch sit” was so funny…I can just imagine the feeling…
    The first time I stayed alone with my old grandma she let her hair down, took out her teeth and came in my bedroom to see if I had enough kever (covers)..It nearly scared me to death as I had never seen her very long hair hanging around the sides of her face or with her teeth out (her nose almost touched her chin!)…So I definitly empathize with you…
    My granny when cleaning off her vanity would take the hair out of the oval big hair brush, roll it around her fingers and place in the hole in the porcelain hair reciever that sat by her powder box and perfume bottle..
    We have sold many vanity sets and I still have one but do not save hair for funery jewelry…
    Thanks Tipper..just had to comment again…I also have a large jar of glass witch balls that I keep to ward off evil spirits…they came from an old womans estate way out in the country and I just couldn’t sell them…LOL

  • Reply
    October 16, 2011 at 11:44 am

    Never heard of the evil foot thing. Even tho i’v heard of a hairball just not in this way. As a kid, the grownups would tell us the old boogerman would get us if we didn’t behave.

  • Reply
    October 16, 2011 at 11:17 am

    I have heard and used all of those except for evil foot. I figure that might not be as familiar to us modern folks simply because we do not deal with horses on a daily basis that way people used to.
    I remember being told that the boogerman would get me if I did not behave myself. I had this image of what a boogerman must look like stuck in my head. Tall and skinny, wearing a black suit with tails. I have no clue where that image came from!
    Grandma used “haint” all of the time.

  • Reply
    October 16, 2011 at 10:29 am

    I have head them all but evil foot. Haint was the only word it took for a little barefoot girl to run like a cheetah.
    A man down the road from where I grew up was into politics that took him away from home quiet often. He had an elderly aunt living with him that everyone said was a witch. He always paid someone to stay with her while he was away. A dollar a day for a whole week?? Thought a cousin and I could get rich, so we took the job. The huge, old house was said to be hainted. It sure looked it! The first night (and last) we spent there, auntie showed us a box of hair she said she was saving…We knew all about hair balls! At about 2-3 AM, auntie apparently had a nightmare and let out a loud scream. I can’t remember if we closed the door on the way out…

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    October 16, 2011 at 9:45 am

    Back in the 19th century or so women made jewelry out of hair of a deceased or living loved one as a remebrance and to sell..I am sure some of it was wrapped in a ball to keep it from tangling. Now being that the story of the hair ball was a tale of a great grandmother, it leads me to think that the story was of that era…Do you think the old woman was going there to gather the long hair of the woman (witch) for her jewelry business?…I hope the hair was not of people the old (witch)woman had done in…or maybe she just threw the balls of hair at the great grandmother, not wanting to be disturbed with a visit from them knowing that all she wanted was her hair balls…Oooh, seems I’ve hear this trick before…((went something like a rabbit and a brair patch)..LOL
    We only had one piece of hair jewelry when we sold ‘tiques..I think it is creepy and was glad to get rid of it…
    I’ve heard and used them all except evil foot…Could that be also called a devils limp…
    Thanks Tipper….Scary memories

  • Reply
    Laura @ Laura Williams' Musings
    October 16, 2011 at 9:42 am

    I’ve heard the boogers and the haint but not the others.

  • Reply
    Karen Larsen
    October 16, 2011 at 9:23 am

    I just looked up “witches hair balls” (aren’t computers handy?)– here’s what I read: that in the Ozark Mountains witch balls were made from black hair rolled with beeswax into hard marble-sized pellets. A curse would be put on someone by throwing one of these hair balls at them. If you found a hair ball by a body you’d know the person was killed by a witch’s curse. Yikes!!

  • Reply
    Karen Larsen
    October 16, 2011 at 9:17 am

    I love your vocabulary tests! I never heard of #3 and like the others, thought a hair ball was from a cat. Your tale of the “witch” throwing hair balls at your granny and great-grandmother is scary indeed! I wonder where she got the hair balls? I will have to research that one…. Love your Spooky October– my favorite month!

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    October 16, 2011 at 8:59 am

    Evil foot is new to m, I have always heard that you burn or bury your hair so the witch won’t get it or use it against you, but not a hair ball. The rest were easy.

  • Reply
    Debby Brown
    October 16, 2011 at 8:50 am

    In my house growing up you could not say the word Devil or Satan, they were like cuss words. If you were talking about the Devil, you had to say The Booger Man. If you were talking about a creature that might get you outside, it was called a booger or booger bear. I have only met people from the south who say Booger Bear or Booger Man. I sorta think that these are people who have a Cherokee back in their lineage. I think this because the Cherokees made masks called Booger Masks. These represented something that they were afraid of. White men, wild animals, disease, other tribes, etc. Anything they were afraid of, it was a way of their dealing with their fears. I have never met a Yankee who used this word, they would say Boogedy Man. So I think it comes down through the years from some Cherokee grandmother that was in ones family. I have never read this anywhere, its just something I think myself.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    October 16, 2011 at 8:48 am

    Tipper, I remember booger and boogy man also haint. Never heard evil foot,but thin I was never around horses much.
    Short funny story….my grandpaw had a work horse he plowed with, Her name was Bonnie. My mother, his daughter in law, was also named Bonnie. Guess they didn’t have the same love for their daughter n law that I do for mine!!
    I have 4 cats, I absolutely know all about hair balls. LOL
    Last, but not least devils brew, I’ve heard moonshine called and one that Jim missed…stump water.

  • Reply
    October 16, 2011 at 8:16 am

    Hey there Tipper,
    I grew up with the term “boogy man”. Lets get home before dark so the boogy man dont get us or sometimes we’d look under our beds for one, just in case :/
    I’ve also heard devil’s brew, but more likely in movies. Like you, hair ball is what a cat hacks up.
    We always used, “haunted” to describe a place where ghosts reside.
    That was fun, thanks Tipper.

  • Reply
    October 16, 2011 at 8:07 am

    never heard of number 3 and hair ball to me is a cat with a hair ball choking and throwing up. that is pretty spooky, right?

  • Reply
    Debora Kerr
    October 16, 2011 at 7:59 am

    I’ve heard all but Evil Foot. Every year at Halloween I think of the stories my grandma told me about the “omens” she used to see – things like coffins floating into the windows of houses and men garbed in black appearing before someone would die. There was always a lot of talk about “headless horsemen” out in the woods, too.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    October 16, 2011 at 7:41 am

    Tipper–I think this is the first time one of your vocabulary tests containted a word or phrase which was unfamiliar to me. I’ve never heard evil foot used.
    Maybe I can assuage my feelings of vocabulary failure or get extra credit by offering a whole bunch of synonyms for devil’s brew. They include golden moonbeam, moonshine, peartin’ juice, tanglefoot, corn squeezin’s, white lightning, mountain dew, stumble water, brush whiskey, lquid corn, etc.
    Jim Casada

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