Appalachia Appalachian Dialect

A Blind Pig Reader Has A Question

Using the word piece for snacking

A few months ago I received the following question from Blind Pig reader Eldonna Ashley. See if you can help her out.

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1.  I want to ask a question about the word piece. It might have come from piecemeal.

In our family, and I think the families of my classmates, the word piece was used to mean eat or snack. “Don’t you be piecin’ before supper.” Or “We had such a big Sunday dinner that we will just piece for supper.”

2. Come to think of it, dinner was always at noon, supper was the evening meal.

3.  And that reminds me that “evening” was the time between dinner and supper, AKA afternoon now.

Just some things I am wondering about. You may remember that I am trying to teach my heritage, especially the words and language, to my grandchildren.

There is a pocket of about six counties in southern Ohio that are linked to Appalachia. I was lucky enough to be born and grown in one of them.

Thanks for reading my post.

Eldonna Ashley

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Like Eldonna’s family we always had dinner during the middle of the day and supper after everyone was home from work and school-still do. And ditto for the evening description. However I’ve never heard piece used in the manner Eldonna describes-have you?

Tipper

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27 Comments

  • Reply
    June Woodward
    September 2, 2014 at 8:43 pm

    I am a Mainer and just stumbled upon your web-site. Very interesting and I spend a lot of time reading and learning. The recipes for fresh garden vegetables are just what I needed! Tried the raw beet pickles today and the cucumber salad. How do I get a history of the title: Blind Pig and the Acorn? Thanks!

  • Reply
    Luann
    August 25, 2014 at 11:31 am

    I’m familiar with ‘piece’ as a snack, as well as used to describe a distance (‘fer piece’). Grew up with both here in Oklahoma, and use them myself.
    I’d never really thought about piece always being used describing an amount of serving for pizza, pie, cornbread, etc.—but use it all the time!
    ‘Piece of work’ for reference about a person is common, too.
    Besides the factory explanation for ‘piece work’–I’ve heard it used for someone who does sewing jobs from their home for folks.
    Intrigued with the variety of explanations of ‘evening’—it’s the time after work (5 or 6 p.m) for us—till dark and that’s then ‘night.’
    Love reading these types of posts!

  • Reply
    Christy
    August 24, 2014 at 12:11 am

    My family did use the word piecing exactly in that way, as in “I’ve been piecing on this cake all afternoon and I’m not hungry now”. It meant snacking or nibbling on something. I grew up in southeastern Ohio.

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    August 23, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    In the Navy, the enlisted men’s mess menu called for Braekfast, Dinner and Supper while the officer’s Wardroom menu called for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.
    I remember my grandmother telling a neighbor that there was a blackberry patch “just over the hill, a piece.”

  • Reply
    Quinn
    August 23, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    I don’t think I’ve heard the word “piece” used to mean a snack or snacking.
    I grew up in New England, and we had supper as the evening meal. Don’t recall actually talking about “evening” though, that time of day was just called “after supper.” The noon meal was lunch except on Sunday, and then it was dinner! We only ate dinner on Sundays, I now realize.

  • Reply
    Jo
    August 23, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    Our piece was used as a noun-a small amount.— I’ll have just a piece of collards and biscuit.
    and a mess was a lot of something— He ate the whole mess of collards and biscuits.
    Obviously, a mess can be delicious!

  • Reply
    Wanda
    August 23, 2014 at 12:17 pm

    My aunt sent me a “little piece” of money when my son was born. Evening is after dinner which is in the middle of the day. It lasted till dark. We do get a piece of pie & in thinking about it we get a piece of several round foods–pizza & cake & cornbread but also a piece of loaf bread which isn’t.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    August 23, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    Tipper,
    The word “Piece” to me means distance. “We turned off the road
    and drove beside the river a fer
    piece.”
    Dinner and supper was at 12 and 5
    of the evening. I got off the
    school bus at 4 and was usually
    starving for supper…Ken

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    August 23, 2014 at 11:23 am

    Not at home but I’ve heard what Eldonna calls piecing, called grazing.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    August 23, 2014 at 11:21 am

    Tipper,
    I can hear my Grandmother say, “Please stay and eat, we’ll piece something together!” By the time the words were out of her mouth and Mom or Dad could decide, she would already have pulled this and that out of the refrigerator and was peeling potatoes. Piecing a meal together like one of her famous quilts and it was always delicious.
    We usually stayed until late evening before 8:00 PM, unless it was raining and that terrible mountain fog through the mountains proved hazardous.
    Thanks Tipper,
    I never get a slice, always a piece. Jim, I usually have two pieces of cornbread with beans or chili.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    August 23, 2014 at 11:18 am

    NO, YOU CAINT HAVE IT, IT’LL MESS UP YOUR DINNER!!
    This piece thing is a real puzzler.
    My mother used to piece a quilt. She made “squares” from smaller, sometimes irregularly, shaped scraps of cloth. Maybe that is what Eldonna’s people are doing with their meal. It’s leftovers. There might not be enough of everything for everyone to get some. But there is still plenty to eat. Those are the fun meals. When you fit over who gits what!!
    We never ate a meal at our home. Meal was what you made cornbread out of. When you eat was breakfast, dinner and supper. We had lunch too but it had to be “brought” or “packed” in a paper bag and had to be away from home. We never had noon. We had “around dinnertime.” Next came evening, then “around supper” or “around dark” depending on the season.
    GIT OUT OF THEM BISCUITS, I’M SAVING THEM FOR SUPPER!!

  • Reply
    Charline
    August 23, 2014 at 10:27 am

    Though I have never heard ‘piece’ used as described here, this discussion does remind me of a very common term in my family: ‘Let’s have us a bite to eat.’I’m also reminded of another use of piece, i.e., ‘Oh, he lives up the road a piece’. Dinner,supper, and evening were similar, also.

  • Reply
    Tamela
    August 23, 2014 at 9:57 am

    Eldonna – – Wondering if parts of Indiana use the terminology as well. Two of my family branches came from what is now West Virginia through Ohio and Indiana before heading to Kansas, then Texas. (My parents were still corresponding with these folks as recently as 10 years ago.) Through these branches everything you’ve described is as my family uses it except “evening”. Don’s description of evening is how my family uses the term which seems to have a connection with John’s reference to the U.K.
    A couple of more thoughts about “piece” – when quilting, we refer to the putting together of fabric shapes as “piecing” the quilt top. Referring to something as a “piece of cake” was something easy because making a common cake was one of the quickest and easiest things to put together for a dessert. As for calling someone a “piece of work” – well, that person does things so differently or strangely that they are considered to be “not all there”. On the other hand, when referring to a child or a young person, it could also mean “unfinished” but with the potential for high quality as “that child is a fine piece of work.”
    As a “final” note on the subject – if the mid-day meal is delayed, we often call it “lupper” and decide to “piece” for the evening meal. I always thought my kids originated that term in the late 70s/early 80s (a bit presumptious of me, wasn’t it 😉 ) but have heard others using it since then. They had heard and understood the term “brunch” and decided we needed a term for mid-afternoon meals which occurred on some of our all too often over-scheduled days. A lot of “piecin'” went on those days too!!

  • Reply
    Shirla
    August 23, 2014 at 9:47 am

    The only way we used piece in reference to food was to describe a chunk of something. Mom used to put a piece of cornbread in Daddy’s dinner box for him to crumble in his pint jar of milk. Supper was on the table when daddy came home from working in the coal mines. We also called the time after supper “night” even if it was only 5 or 6 o’clock.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    August 23, 2014 at 9:28 am

    I remember my Grandmother using the word fress. There will be no fressing before supper. If you fress you will not be able to eat your supper.
    It meant snacking.

  • Reply
    Bob Aufdemberge
    August 23, 2014 at 9:27 am

    My mother used to use “piece” as a verb exactly as Eldonna describes, that is to snack or have a light meal. She grew up in Kansas, was of German-Scottish ancestry. I haven’t heard the term used that way since she passed on a number of years ago. The “dinner and supper” terms were just as the rest of you use, and so do we, although our daughter thinks it’s mighty old fashioned of us.

  • Reply
    Tipper
    August 23, 2014 at 9:16 am

    Kimberly-now you’ve jogged my brain! Going to get a piece to eat is something I’ve heard-and that usage is the same as Eldonna is describing : )
    Tipper
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia
    http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com
    On Saturday, August 23, 2014 6:15 AM,

  • Reply
    eva nell wike, PhD
    August 23, 2014 at 8:54 am

    Eldonna & Tipper: In all our backwoods way of talking I never heard that way of expressing ‘piece’ in that manner. But I certainly can relate to those ‘mountain people’ who settled in Ohio. My daddy tried to get mama to leave the cove and MOVE ALL THE CHILDREN TO CANTON,OHIO.But thank goodness she held on to her roots and we all made it through those rough years!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    steve in Tn
    August 23, 2014 at 8:34 am

    Dinner for Lunch and Supper for Dinner are pretty common all over the south, but not so much in the north. Never heard the other on, either in north or south, so “piece” must be a localized saying. Working on a line in a factory turning out “pieces” is also called “piece work”.

  • Reply
    John
    August 23, 2014 at 8:34 am

    In the UK ‘piece’ was occasionally used to mean a snack. In the old folk song ‘We’re All Jolly Fellows That Follow The Plough’ the line occurs “With a piece in our pockets to the fields we do go” for example. Dinner also always meant a mid day meal, tea was eaten some time between 4 and 6, with supper eaten just before bed. Evening meant the time between tea and supper. But things are different in other parts of the country.

  • Reply
    dolores
    August 23, 2014 at 8:33 am

    Piece – a part of something
    piecemeal – doing something part by part; putting something together piece by piece
    A meal is something to eat/snack that might end for a short time
    Of course, there are more meanings and without looking in a dictionary, my thoughts are as I saw them growing up. Interesting thought – sure hope someone has a much better Applachian meaning. I’m just a city girl.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    August 23, 2014 at 8:27 am

    Tipper–I actually think you have, unknowingly, used piece in this context; namely, “I think I’ll have me a piece of pie.” I’ll bet that’s the way you, and most of your readers, put it, as opposed to “a slice of pie.” Similar verbiage holds true for a piece of cornbread.
    As for dinner and supper, that’s the way I’ve always known them, but to me evening meant post-supper time.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    August 23, 2014 at 8:13 am

    In the North Georgia section of Appalachia, we did not use piece to refer to a snack or a “piece of the meal” as Ms. Eldonna Ashley seemed to do in the Appalachian area of Ohio. However, my dictionary gives the history of “piecemeal” as from the 14th to the 16th century, meaning “in pieces,” “in fragments,” or gradually. We did, however, use “piece” to qualify other actions, as “I’ll give you a piece of my mind,” meaning you’ll really hear from me, my opinion, on this subject. Or “That’s a ‘piece-of-cake,” meaning easily done. We’d also describe a task as a “piece of work,” meaning it would be done in phases or increments. Or a person could be described as “a piece of work,” meaning he or she might be eccentric or a “bit different.” Bur we had no reference, to my knowledge, that piecemeal had to do with a portion of or an advance part of a meal.

  • Reply
    Barbara Gantt
    August 23, 2014 at 7:40 am

    Dinner was always noon and supper after work. I have never herd piece used that way. We always used the word piece when referring to a small amount of food. I can see the connection to call a snack a piece. At our house, evening always started when Daddy got home from work. Barbara

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    August 23, 2014 at 7:29 am

    I don’t recall ever hearing piece used in this manner either. We always called the midday meal lunch and the evening mean supper. Dinner was a fancy word for supper.
    There is a small nagging in the very back of my brain of another use for the word piece but I can’t raise it at the moment. If it surfaces, I’ll leave another comment.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    August 23, 2014 at 7:15 am

    Never heard piece used like this.
    I agree with both of you on dinner. It was and is at noon (in the past tense at our house, it was at about 12:03, since it took Daddy about three minutes to drive from the plant to the house to eat. Mama always had food ready when he got to the house, since he had to be back at work by 12:30.
    As to evening – my own view was that it was sometime from around mid-afternoon until full dark. The centerpiece of evening wasn’t in the middle of that period, however. It was in the gloaming, that part of the day equaled in splendor only by its morning counterpart.

  • Reply
    Kimberly Burnette
    August 23, 2014 at 6:15 am

    I have heard all of that. Evening was always between dinner and supper for us too and the time after supper was night.
    Now that I think about it, I tdo believe I remember grandma saying that she was going to get a piece to eat. I have never used it though.

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