Appalachia Appalachian Dialect

Big In Appalachia

Usage of the word big in appalachia

A couple of weeks ago I received the email below from Blind Pig reader Shelia.

Hey there Tipper,

I enjoy your website so much. Being from Southeast Tennessee, so much of it is familiar to me.

Here’s a phrase for Appalachian Dialect, if you don’t already have it.  “Big in”…as “She’s big in the church.”  “He’s big in the bank.” I’m sure you’ve heard it, it means holding a high position, or being very active in a portion of the community.

Thanks for all you do on your website,

Shelia

Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee

————-

I wrote Shelia back and said “YES I have heard it all my life…but I never really thought about it being unique to Appalachia until you pointed it out.”

I’ve not only heard the usage-I’ve used it myself. I can hear myself recently saying “He’s big in that company down in Atlanta.” And “Who knows he may end up being something big if they hire him.”

I looked in my Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English to see what it had to say about the use of the word big. The Dictionary has over 20 entries for the word big. Wow! Who knew big was so…well big in Southern Appalachia.

I won’t go into all the entries today, but it seems the word big is a word I’ll need to revisit.

Tipper

 

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28 Comments

  • Reply
    Quinn
    June 9, 2015 at 1:51 pm

    Use “big in” exactly the same way in MA 🙂

  • Reply
    Pamela Danner
    June 7, 2015 at 6:24 pm

    Heard it all my life! My dad still says it. My son-in-law is an attorney and my dad will say ” he’s pretty nice for a big lawyer”. He IS pretty nice for a big lawyer and my soon be a big judge.
    Pam,
    scrap-n-sewgranny.blogspot.com

  • Reply
    Yecedrah Higman
    June 6, 2015 at 11:25 pm

    Well, Tipper, it was said all over Arkansas too, when I was Gettin’ to be a big girl!!!

  • Reply
    Jane Bolden
    June 6, 2015 at 8:19 pm

    I’ve used big that way and big into.

  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    June 6, 2015 at 8:03 pm

    Yeah, I’ve heard that before too, even up north.
    Guess if I was “big” in something, it would have to be in cats, not like in any fancy cat organization now, more like “big” around cat litters which I feel like I’m always cleaning out – cause I’m the “crazy cat lady” you’ve heard stories about (we have 6 now, along with a dog and a lonely rooster I keep trying to find gals for with no luck. LOL)
    God bless.
    RB
    <><

  • Reply
    Sam Ensley
    June 6, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    We had a neighbor when I was a youngster many years ago who had a big store and was big in our church. Because he was a deacon, all of the people called him, “Brother Hood.” I came home from school one day and told my grandmother that I knew Mr. Hood was a big man, that he was mentioned in a songbook we used at school. She laughed and asked hows that. I told her it said, “…and crown thy good with brotherhood.”

  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKiliip
    June 6, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    Tipper, A very well deserved comment. Your posts are great something for everyone who loves the Appalachians mountains and their mountains languages. thanks Miss Big.

  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKiliip
    June 6, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    Tipper, A very well deserved comment. Your posts are great something for everyone who loves the Appalachians mountains and their mountains languages. thanks Miss Big.

  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKiliip
    June 6, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    Tipper, A very well deserved comment. Your posts are great something for everyone who loves the Appalachians mountains and their mountains languages. thanks Miss Big.

  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKiliip
    June 6, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    Tipper, A very well deserved comment. Your posts are great something for everyone who loves the Appalachians mountains and their mountains languages. thanks Miss Big.

  • Reply
    Gina S
    June 6, 2015 at 3:35 pm

    Never thought I was speaking Appalachian when I used the word big. Makes sense, though. Thanks to Shelia. That was big of her to inform us.

  • Reply
    Ken
    June 6, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    Tipper,
    Wow! That’s a nice picture of one
    of them gorgeous Pressley Girls.
    It’s Chitter and I love the way she
    sings #8 on the Playlist. Both girls have already made me proud,
    and I ‘spect they’ll be “big”
    one day soon. Interesting post
    today…Ken

  • Reply
    Richard Moore
    June 6, 2015 at 2:18 pm

    As a kid whenever my mother was taking me to some place where she really wanted me to be quiet and behave (a church social or visiting an elderly relative) she last caution before we left the car: “Be Big, now.” The meaning was the opposite of “Act your age.” Instead, she wanted me to act like an older, more mature kid.
    Well, I tried my best but sometimes I slipped into my “young hellion” mode.

  • Reply
    Debbie Nobles
    June 6, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    I think its a southern thing because we are in NW Fla.and I heard it all my life too. But then again my grandparents were both from Western NC.

  • Reply
    Carol Stuart
    June 6, 2015 at 11:56 am

    Never even thought about it! I have used it that way all my life.

  • Reply
    PinnacleCreek
    June 6, 2015 at 11:35 am

    This one is still used frequently. I find many expressions have been lost to our young ones. But, I probably hear this more than any other Appalachian expression found on the Blind Pig. It is often associated with groups or denominations–example–“She is big in the local VFW.” Also used like this on occasion, “She is a big one to talk about gossips, and she is the worst of all.”

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 6, 2015 at 11:10 am

    Now that ain’t how I hear it. It’s “big into” meaning highly interested. Like he is big into making music. Or, she is is really big into crafting.

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    June 6, 2015 at 10:58 am

    It’s alive and well in New Mexico.

  • Reply
    Charline
    June 6, 2015 at 10:35 am

    I can just hear my Mother saying,”He’s ‘big to-do’in town, or one thing or another. In fact, I just heard myself saying it recently!This also makes me think of another phrase, ‘big fine home’- meaning a mansion, or something equivalent.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    June 6, 2015 at 9:48 am

    Tipper–The Statler Brothers, one of my favorite groups, used it in “John is big in cattle” and the rest of that line uses another phrase that is commonplace when it says “Ray is deep in debt.” I’ve often heard “deep in” spoken both to indicate keen interest but also to connote bad things such as “that fellow is deep in a mess of misery.”
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    June 6, 2015 at 9:46 am

    The Blind Pig Gang is gettin big in the area Blue Grass scene due to their wonderful pickin and great family harmony. Zat work?

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    June 6, 2015 at 9:36 am

    Tipper,
    I’ve used that word and heard that word used, in that way, all of my life. So interesting!

  • Reply
    Shirl
    June 6, 2015 at 8:25 am

    My daughter recently subscribed to The Blind Pig And The Acorn. All I can say is I hope she reads the comments I know the readers will leave today.

  • Reply
    Mark Selby
    June 6, 2015 at 8:19 am

    As Barney Fife said, “Big ain’t the word for it.”

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 6, 2015 at 8:10 am

    Heard it and used it all my life, never thought about it being Appalachian. I’m big on spinach and mashed potatoes. He got a big job in Asheville. She’s big on that board that runs the wellness center.
    I could go on and on.

  • Reply
    dolores
    June 6, 2015 at 7:46 am

    I think I have used that phrase many times myself. Hum! Maybe I’m learning more than I thought!

  • Reply
    Jackie
    June 6, 2015 at 7:45 am

    Along with ‘big’ is ‘good’ as in I don’t know why he quit that job, I heard he was making ‘good’ money there.

  • Reply
    Eldonna Ashley
    June 6, 2015 at 4:14 am

    This phrase is big in my life, especially when I was growing up.

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