Appalachian Dialect

B Vocabulary Words from Appalachian Language

collage of photos of a family

blow-down (n): area where the timber has been leveled by high wind. “There’s a terrible big blow-down on the far side of the mountain.”

The worst blow-down I remember was in the fall of 1995. I can’t recall the name of the hurricane but the trees were laid flat from here to The Roberson Cove as it’s remnant blew its way over Wilson Holler.

blowed (v): blew. “He blowed the whistle.”

I’m positive blowed is what comes out of my mouth instead of blew.

bodaciously  (adv): completely, totally. “I’m most bodaciously wore out.”

Pap’s the only person I’ve heard use bodaciously.

body (n): person. “Hit won’t do a body any good.”

bone tired (adj): very tired.

book-larnin’ (adj): education derived from books. “He’s short on book-larnin’.”

The only time I hear someone use book-larnin’ is in a teasing manner.

boughten (adj): purchased, as at a store. “She was wearing a boughten dress.”

Store bought is much more common than boughten in my area of Appalachia.

boundary (n): track of land. “They bought a big boundary of timber.”

The only track of land I’ve heard called boundary is the Qualla Boundary.

branch (n): small stream. “They are fishing down in the branch.”

bread (v): “He raised enough corn to bread his family.”

I’ve never heard nor read bread used in this manner, but it makes sense.

bresh (n): bushes or brush, as growing in an old clearing or woods.

I used to know someone who said bresh for brush. Their name is right on the tip of my tongue but I can’t get it to come out 🙂

brickle or brickley (adj): brittle. “That bread is awful brickley.”

Never heard this one either.

brigetty or briggedy (adj): same as biggety.

I still use brigetty and I hope because I do the girls will continue the word usage, because its fading fast in my neck of the woods.

broke (v): dismissed. “Has meeting broke yet?”

brought-on (adj): from another place. “They was eating brought-on vittles.”

budget (n): bundle or package. “His clothes was rolled in a budget.”

burying (n): funeral, particularly the interment. “Did you stay for the burying?”

I can’t imagine calling an interment anything but a burying.

burying ground: (n) cemetery or graveyard

—Paul Fink – “Bits of Mountain Speech”


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  • Reply
    Sarah J Lutz
    November 23, 2019 at 9:58 pm

    I live in Indiana, though both sides of my family are from Eastern Ky. I have heard “brickle” used. And also, my 89 year old grandpa says “browers” instead of briars.

  • Reply
    Julie Hughes Moreno
    November 23, 2019 at 9:43 am

    I have never heard brought on. I have heard store brought though.

  • Reply
    Patricia Small
    November 22, 2019 at 9:35 pm

    I remember my mother-in-law saying brickley.

  • Reply
    Jim Kennington
    November 22, 2019 at 8:43 pm

    The only blowdown I remember was from Hurricane Hazel in 1954. We lived in Robeson County then and it smacked down a forested area south of town (which ended at 18th Street). I still use bodacious and bodaciously, but I gotta explain them almost every time I do. These Southrn Californians don’t speak too well at all. At least I don’t have to explain bone tired. And whenever I say, “a body’s got too much to do,” I’m simply repeating what I heard my Mama say as I was growing up. I don’t get to hear much mountain speech out here, so I really enjoy the vocabulary reviews. It’s like a visit down home for me.

  • Reply
    November 22, 2019 at 6:02 pm

    I was born and raised in a city on the edge of the great Appalachian swath, to parents who were born in the ’20s on family farms. My weekends and parts of each summer were spent – gloriously – out in the country with cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. The older the kin, the more colourful the language, and I’m so grateful to remember their words and phrases. Also, the older I become, the more these words come to mind, and the more likely I am to use them. It’s interesting to find out who immediately understands, and who looks at me as if I have three heads. I’m partial to the former.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    November 22, 2019 at 3:57 pm

    Mama would say, “I’m Bushed”, meaning she was plum wore out. I’ve been working on Fish Knives for the Fish Plant and I’m tired. What I used to do in 3 days or so, now takes me 3 weeks.

    I was watching the Fox News Channel and Colorado has Schools Closed (40 plus) for Norovirus. I don’t even know what that is. …Ken

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    November 22, 2019 at 3:44 pm

    I’m familiar with most of these words but of course I’m country to the bone and working in Law Enforcement I’ve dealt with people from town the head of the hollers and one learns to communicate with people in their vernacular to obtain the best results in dealing with their problems. If many mountain folks think you are mocking them or talking above them they will shut down, This is also true if they think you’re “Gettin Above Your Raisin” so you consciously or unconsciously adapt to their vocabulary.

  • Reply
    November 22, 2019 at 1:54 pm

    I once used “GLOM” in a Scrabble game and was challenged. My defense was that Festus said it on Gunsmoke and it meant to take hold of something.

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      November 22, 2019 at 3:21 pm

      I use the word “glom” occasionally meaning to claim and take possession of something. “It’s mine and you ain’t takin it! “Not a lot of people know what I mean but I define the word for them. I don’t restate it! I define it, so they will know. I’m nice like that!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    November 22, 2019 at 1:51 pm

    I’ve been trying all day to remember where I heard “bodacious”. Found it! It is part of the hillbilly anthem forced on Appalachian people by newspaper, television and movie moguls.

    Uh-uh-oh! Great balls o’ fire, I’m bodacious!
    Uh-uh-oh! Great balls o’ fire, I’m a fright!
    Uh-uh-oh! Great balls o’ fire, goodness gracious!
    I’m chop-chop-chop-chop-choppin’ with all o’ my might—YEA!

    Snuffy Smith – our role model. Yeah, right!

  • Reply
    November 22, 2019 at 12:47 pm

    A few of these are common in my neck of the Massachusetts woods: blowdown, body, bone-tired, branch – but usually to identify a specific stream like “the west branch of the Green River,” and burying ground though that one is less commonly heard and may only be used when people are talking about local history because that’s how a cemetery is often identified on older maps or signs.

  • Reply
    November 22, 2019 at 12:33 pm

    I can’t recall ever hearing bread or budget being used that way. All the rest were familiar from years past – not so much now. Now church meetings are so programed that you know what time things will end. In bygone times the service ended when the Spirit said to – when it appeared no more were going to respond. Many older folks said they “broke up housekeeping” when they sold out and moved in with one of their children.

  • Reply
    November 22, 2019 at 10:16 am

    I am familiar with several of these, including bodaciously, my Dad still uses that word and so do some uncles. I agree with “store bought”—when I was a kid, Dad would get upset to see store-bought bread on the table when he wanted a good cake of corn bread or biscuits but saw light bread instead. I still use that and get odd looks—- husband also didn’t know what “light bread” was on my grocery list—-he tried to correct he saying it is “loaf” bread—-so I told him, “Fine, then get a loaf of light bread!”

    Several others are very common—a body, branch, broke, burying, burying ground, bone tired….

    I agree that “book-learning” is more used jokingly or teasingly. Same about “boundary” for a react of land —I am familiar with its use for “Qualla Boundary” and then just talking of the boundaries of land but not as a large tract of land otherwise.

    And I agree, it’s a shame our way of talking is thinning out and it is also viewed as uneducated or is corrected.

  • Reply
    November 22, 2019 at 9:13 am

    The folks in my hometown used to say brash instead of brush. I’m pretty sure I just said brickle a few weeks ago when a gentleman was hired to clean my vinyl siding. I told him I had used bleach to clean it for years and the chemicals had made it brickle in some areas. He never questioned the meaning of the word.

    • Reply
      aw griff
      November 22, 2019 at 10:34 am

      Shirl, brash is the word I used to hear for brush. Just couldn’t come up with it.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    November 22, 2019 at 9:08 am

    The ones I don’t hear: bodaciously, bread, bresh and budget. I used to hear bread for money but I think that was a slang term in high school. Brickle is common in my family, often used to describe a pickled cucumber that is firm and crunchy instead of soft. My Wife and I both use briggedy. Some times on each other or on our only Grandson.

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      November 22, 2019 at 2:07 pm

      I remember brickle from the baccer patch. You couldn’t get out in the tobacco to work early in the morning when it was cool because the leaves were “brickle” and would break off easily. We had to wait until the dew dried off and and the leaves wilted a little. Of course it was hot by then. You might die of a heat stroke but at least you didn’t damage your only cash crop.

  • Reply
    November 22, 2019 at 8:57 am

    I just love these glimpses into mountain life! It feels like sittin in a rocking chair on the porch relaxing and listening to stories about folklore from another time.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    November 22, 2019 at 8:52 am

    Hurricane Opal was probably the cause of the blowdown in 1995

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    November 22, 2019 at 8:50 am

    What’s funny to me is how some of these words were part of my life growing up and then sort of left me only to bubble up at weird times to surprise me.

    Last month, I said to a colleague “Has the meeting broke yet?” It just spilled out of my mouth. It amazes me how that way of speaking is my default language, the way I speak when I’m tired or not really conscious of putting words together.

    Having been away so long, it seems, I’m thankful all that is still in me waiting to get out.

  • Reply
    Barbie Brady
    November 22, 2019 at 8:50 am

    I just love these glimpses into mountain life! It feels like sittin in a rocking chair on the porch relaxing while listening to stories. ☺️

  • Reply
    November 22, 2019 at 8:17 am

    I have only heard a few of these: a body, boughton, broke up for ended, burying. I had forgotten about budget because I had not heard it in so long but my grandmother used that.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    November 22, 2019 at 7:53 am

    Congratulations to the Tommy and Patricia. I’m sure each of you will enjoy your prize.

    Nearly all of these B words are familiar to me, though as you say some of them are fading out of use. ‘Store bought’ (like you Tipper the way I always heard it) comes to mind as one because it makes best sense when homemade is the usual. But it is no longer. Three words I don’t recall ever hearing are ‘bread’ as a verb, ‘brigetty’ and ‘budget’. Regarding ‘brigetty’ we said either ‘too big for his britches’ or ‘got above his raising’.

    I think I’ve posted about this before but the computerised editor running behind the scenes flummoxes me when it underlines in red a word it doesn’t know (like flummox). And ‘blowdown’ is one of them. To me that is, as you say, ‘beyond common’. There is just something wrong with a dictionary that doesn’t have ‘our’ words. I wish I knew how to add the Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English as the default. Wouldn’t that be fun?

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      November 22, 2019 at 1:59 pm

      If you right click on the underlined word and choose “add to dictionary” it will then recognise your word the next time you need to us it. I do it all the time! It won’t add it to everybody’s dictionary but at least it won’t bother you any more.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    November 22, 2019 at 7:26 am

    I’ve heard most of these and used quite a few of them. Bodacious was a favorite of Forests. I don’t recall hearing bresh or bread the way it’s used here. Brick and brickley are words I’ve never heard. Briggity is new to me as is budget. The remainder were and are common.
    I love our colorful language! We are an inventive people, we can make up words to express our thoughts and build tools and sech to do whatever we need here in the United States of Appalachia!

  • Reply
    November 22, 2019 at 6:54 am

    You have outdone yourself with all these words today. Bodacious and book-larnin are familiar from the Beverly Hillbillies. It is sad that store bought is never used anymore, because at one time there was only two kinds of dresses and that was store bought and homemade. I took Home Ec and learned to sew, but quit making clothes when it became cheaper to buy them. The bone tires is interesting in that bone is used often. She is “ugly to the bone” or I am “tired to the bone.” ‘ Mean to the bone” or “mean as a striped snake” was often used by my uncle.
    I love the picture you feature, as it looks like an old cemetery of my ancestors we recently visited. Even if only marked by a rock they chose a large pointed rock in that particular cemetery. I find cemeteries to be peaceful, and a world of knowledge. They are generally the one thing that is left alone, and give us a chance to take a walk back into the past.

  • Reply
    Don Byers
    November 22, 2019 at 6:07 am

    When our friend Frances is confused she says, “I don’t know if I’m a’warshin’ or a’hangin’ out”.

    • Reply
      Wanda Devers
      November 22, 2019 at 12:07 pm

      I enjoy these so much. It’s sad that we don’t hear or use some of them anymore.

      I can hear my daddy talking about “bresh” needing cleared out. And memories shared about the “bresh arbor” services.

      I have heard most of these–not budget, bread, or boundary. but they make perfect sense. And we said store-bought instead of boughten.

    • Reply
      Wanda Devers
      November 22, 2019 at 12:08 pm

      Oh, I love this!

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