Appalachian Dialect

Chunk the Fire

putting wood in stove

B verb
1 (also chunk up) To stoke or stir (a fire), feed with wood.
1939 Hall Coll. Cataloochee NC My brother, he was chunking the fire that day, blowed the cap off it. (Jim Sutton) 1941 Justus Kettle Creek 167 Matt got up to chunk the fire. c1945 Haun Hawk’s Done 249 I chunked up the fire and put another piece of wood on. 1963 Edwards Gravel 92 If you ain’t, I’ll chunk up the far a bit and we’ll roast a tater here in the ashes and eat it before we go to be, uh? 1989 Hannah Reflections 4 The boys chunked up the fire to thaw out his feet.
2 To throw, toss.
1974 Fink Bits Mt Speech 4 Chunk me the ball. 1992 David Jack Tales 74 All night long there would be old boys whistling from the yard, chunking little rocks on top of the house, even peeking in the windows, trying to get that girl to come out of the house so they could court her for a little while.

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English

We’ve had several cold days in the last week. I’m thankful we’ve had wood to chunk the fire and keep the house warm and toasty while the cold winds blow.


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  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    February 4, 2021 at 1:05 pm

    We would probably have said chunk–put a chunk on the fire. A wood fire is so wonderful, nothing feels so warm and cozy but bringing in the wood for it was awful in my case. The woodpile was uncovered out in the back yard. Looking back, I don’t know how it burned when it was soaking wet. I never emptied the ashes– thank heavens.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    February 4, 2021 at 9:25 am

    My Dad had a saying if somebody came but left hurriedly. “What’d ya come after, a chunk of fire?” (A holdover from before there were matches maybe when neighbors would borrow fire if their fire had gone out?) He would also say, meaning a long spell, “I ain’t seen you since who flung the chunk.” Thanks for reminding me. You are good at that. You have caused me to remember so many things he said and the way he said them.

    To me, ‘chunk up the fire’ can mean one of three things, depending on circumstances at the time;

    (1) add wood so as to hold the fire while one is gone away and won’t be tending it, [At night, before going to bed, this was called “banking” the fire so as to hold overnight]

    (2) in an outdoor fire, move the unburnt ends into the fire to burn, and

    (3) stir up a smouldering fire into flame by exposing embers to the air and adding new wood to get rapid heat to warm up oneself or to heat water.

  • Reply
    February 4, 2021 at 8:59 am

    The weather forecast is for below zero wind chill factors next week, making me more than thankful that I have a big pile of wood to chunk the fire. When I was growing up we never burned wood, it was always coal. Chunk was the word we used to describe the size of a piece of coal and never meant stir or feed the fire.

    • Reply
      Roger Brothers
      February 8, 2021 at 10:28 pm

      It’s always been a pet theory that we borrowed the word chunk (meaning to throw) from the native Americans. One of their most popular games was “Chunkee”. The game was played like this. One person would throw the “chunkee” stone (a special highly worked and polished round flat stone about the size and shape of a hockey puck) the competitors would throw their spears at the same time. The player whose spear stopped nearest where the stone stopped was the winner. The Indians gambled on the game and would sometimes wager all their worldly goods on it.

      The chunkee stones themselves were highly valued and passed from generation to generation

      BTW Who all removers Earnest T Bass and his favorite expression?

      BTW again there is a town in Mississippi named Chunkee

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    February 4, 2021 at 8:49 am

    I’ve always been confused by that word chunking. In wood for instance you take a log and cut it in chunks which should then be called chunking, right? But you immediately chuck it on the pile, right? Remember the little ditty “how much wood would a woodchuck chuck chuck? So, if he is chucking it, then who is chunking it? Are you not confused, too? Now, when being thrown the wood on the far is it being chucked or chunked. Remember when the woodchuck chucked it? Does it make a difference whether it is being thrown on the pile or in the far? Or is the difference in whether it’s you or the woodchuck doing the chunking …uh…chucking?

    Ever see smoking coming from a woodchuck hole? I always though someone was trying to smoke him out but after much thought I’ve concluded he is in there with his feet up next to the far. Oh wait, that’s a groundhog not a woodchuck! Groundhog! Woodchuck! What’s the difference? Now I’m even more confused! What were we talking about?

  • Reply
    Larry Paul Eddings
    February 4, 2021 at 8:45 am

    I’ve used that expression all my life. My grandparents always had a fireplace in the kitchen. They were from the Greenville, SC area and I can still hear my grandma say ” we need to chunk up the fire.”

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    February 4, 2021 at 8:41 am

    I know chunking rocks, putting a big chunk of butter on
    toast, and calling a plump child a “little chunk.”
    But the only other way I have known and used
    ‘chunk’ is when someone comes to visit and can’t stay as long
    as you wish they could, you say, “I sure do wish you could stay
    longer — you’ve just come for a chunk of fire.” When I was a
    little girl, I thought a lot about what that meant and decided
    that in the olden days, before gas and electricity, if anyone’s
    fire went out, they would run to a neighbor’s house, get a burning
    stick from their fire, and hurry back home.

  • Reply
    February 4, 2021 at 8:37 am

    We stoked the fire, and banked it at night. That was one of the things my Dad tried to teach me, and I balked growing up. I lived to regret it after I smoked up my living room once from my fireplace. Dad could not pass up the opportunity to remind me that I should have learned to build a proper fire. I turned out to be a “right good” fire starter after that disaster.

  • Reply
    Margie Goldstein
    February 4, 2021 at 8:28 am

    I like “ chunking” up the wood. It’s a good and solid term. Here, all I’ve heard is “ punkin chunkin’” referring to catapulting pumpkins to watch them explode. A pumpkin maze and pumpkin seller has this annual event. I’d rather chunk a fire ANY DAY. I do hope you’ve gotten another snow since you desire it for the garden and cutting down hopefully on bugs. It’s been very cold and colder than usual here in southern WV. Have a good day all!!!

  • Reply
    February 4, 2021 at 8:20 am

    My family would sometimes say chunk when referring to food, such as a chunk of cheese, ham or boloney. I know that is not the correct way to say bologna. We also used chunk instead of a piece such as chunk of wood or tore a chunk out of his leg when he fell and hit that rock. We would also use chunk instead of throw or pitch. I don’t know why, we just did.

    • Reply
      Ann Applegarth
      February 4, 2021 at 11:31 am

      Oh, yes! I used to chunk rocks in the lake!

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      February 4, 2021 at 8:25 pm

      I like the hot pepper cheese that Food Lion’s deli has. When I ask for it I tell them to give me about a pound and leave it in a chunk.
      “How much?”
      “About this much.” I say, using my fingers to show them.
      “The slicer won’t go that thick!”
      “I don’t want it sliced. I want it in a chunk.”
      Puzzled look.
      Me “Just take your big knife there and cut off a piece about this long.” Again indicating how much I want.
      “Oh, okay! But we can slice it for you!”
      “No, I don’t want it sliced. I’m not going to eat it all at once. Cheese keeps a lot longer it it is left in a chunk.”
      “Oh, okay! Are you going to make cheese dip? This makes good cheese dip!”
      “No, I’m going to eat some tonight and put the rest in the freezer. When I want some more I’ll take it out of the freezer and cut off me a chunk.”
      “Oh, okay! But I’d be glad to slice it if you want me to!”
      “No, thank you! Just cut it off in one big slice.”
      “Oh, okay!” Then, “Sorry I only got 15 ounces. Is that okay? I can try to cut you another ounce if want me to!”
      “No that’s perfect. Thank you very much!”

      One time there was a young guy at the counter. I asked for about a pound of cheese in a chunk. He knew what I meant and proceeded to cut off a chunk. I guess he thought it was too much so he started cutting off pieces and weighing it until he got it down to a pound. He wrapped it and printed off a sticker. Then he unwrapped it and put the part he had sliced off in with it and wrapped it explaining that he couldn’t sell it so I could have it. I guess the younger generation don’t know what “about a pound means” bless their hearts.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 4, 2021 at 7:34 am

    Tipper, that wood heater you have in the basement does a dandy job of heating your whole house. I can’t believe how warm it gets. You knew what you were doing when you put it in the basement instead of the house proper. Heat rises so it cones up through the floor to heat all of the house!

  • Reply
    February 4, 2021 at 6:16 am

    The wood stove is a welcomed site on a winter day. Nothing provides a more comforting feeling on a winter day than a warm fire.

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