Appalachian Dialect

Clean in Appalachia

washing jars

clean adverb All the way, completely. Cf clear B, plumb.
1935 Sheppard Cabins in Laurel 51 She just took the baby and set her chin and tied’em tight and she grabbed my sister’s hand and run for the Hoppas cabin that stood clean over the mountain in what’s the Jase Burelson orchard now. c1940 Padelford Notes Clean to the cove I’ve rid today. 1975 Chalmers Better 66 One who is discouraged is clean out of heart, his nerves may be all tore up, or he is merely tired and whupped out. 1975 Gainer Speech Mtneer 8 = entirely, completely. “The bullet went clean through his leg.” “The horses pulled the wagon clean to the top of the hill.”

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English

I ran clean around the house screaming the other day. I don’t mind snakes and I don’t mind bugs, bees, and spiders…but I can’t stand rats and mice.

We’ve had chickens for going on ten years and we’ve never had a problem with rats or mice until this summer. A big rat is what made me run clean around the house.

I’ve really used my compost pile this summer and I believe that has been more of a draw for the rats and mice than the chicken feed in the run. We have started putting the food up with the chickens at night and I hope that, along with some other things we’re doing, encourages the rodents to move along to someplace else.

Are you familiar with the word clean used in the manner the dictionary entry describes?

*Ken Roper update: Ken has been moved to a rehabilitation center to recover from his fall before undergoing by-pass surgery. While he’s there his daughters are unable to visit him due to Covid-19 restrictions. Please keep Ken in your prayers and if you’d like to give him a call to cheer him up let me know and I’ll send you the number.


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  • Reply
    Gaye Blaine
    September 23, 2020 at 10:01 pm

    I’m clean out of soap grease! He cleans up purty good, don’t he? Josie clean out run t’other girl in the race! He jumped clean over the fence when old Beller charged. Always heard clean used in a lot of ways and understood them all.

  • Reply
    Janis Sullivan
    September 23, 2020 at 6:57 pm

    Tipper, I would like to send Ken a card. He does not know me, but I feel I know him through the Blind Pig and the Acorn.

  • Reply
    Jane Bolden
    September 23, 2020 at 6:02 pm

    I’m clean out of dog food.

  • Reply
    Sherry Dobbs
    September 23, 2020 at 12:45 pm

    Mom, is there any more of that potato salad left? No we are clean slap out of that! Have you heard that one?

    Prayers for Ken. And I’ve a dear Aunt who gave my mom a kidney in 1994 undergoing triple by-pass tommorow folks

  • Reply
    aw griff
    September 23, 2020 at 10:31 am

    I reckon I’ve heard clean used that way all my life and as Jim mentioned sometimes klur (clear) used also.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    September 23, 2020 at 10:17 am

    I would like Ken’s phone number, please!

  • Reply
    Don Byers
    September 23, 2020 at 9:59 am

    That little airplane done gone clean outta sight!

  • Reply
    September 23, 2020 at 9:15 am

    The rats and mice will draw the snakes. One of my great grandmothers swept her yard “clean” every day to keep the snakes away. If there were no debris or vegetation for mice to hide in there was no food to attract the snakes.

  • Reply
    Margie Goldstein ( and the cleaners)
    September 23, 2020 at 9:13 am

    I’m clean out of postage stamps so I reckon I got to “shlep” to the post “awful.” I’m clean sick of mundane chores too (and cleaning too since we are on the subject.) I’m cleaning out of this hog pen called home today! Clean is a very useful Appalachian word in my humble opinion and a favorite of mine! Won’t you join us in using “clean” today, fellow BP & A readers? It’ll be clean good speak for all to hear!

  • Reply
    September 23, 2020 at 9:02 am

    Oh my goodness, some of your posts just make me smile when I see some of those words so familiar. If we lose any more of our heritage we are going to have to have interpreters when we speak to children. Some of the time they just have no idea what I am talking about. When I go to the grocery store I have to tell them if it is kale or mustard, and they never know what a turnip is. The cutest one was when I bought a little sack of tiny onion sets, and the young lady raised them high above her head and loudly asked another employee what they were.

    I love seeing these words, and think of their uses. Most of all I am saddened that they are leaving our language. I can relate to your rat story, but my most dreaded is any snake. I never stop to see if it has slanted eyes or candy kisses shapes on its side. I would probably fall on top of it if I saw one now and tried to run. I embarrass myself often, because I poke around so much in weeds and have a tendency to squeal out when startled. Yesterday was a frog I raked out of the weeds, and the day before a crumpled leaf that scooted along like a critter when the wind caught it. I can’t run clean around the house anymore, so I just have to settle for shrieking loudly and startling any neighbors outside.

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    September 23, 2020 at 8:59 am

    Yes, I have always heard clean used to mean both clear (He ran that ball clean down to the 5-yard line.) and completely (She read clean through that book in an hour.). The two meanings are almost interchangeable.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    September 23, 2020 at 8:26 am

    Always heard and used “clean” to include meaning “completely”. No glitch between my ear and my mind there. I take it that is the meaning also in the verse below since “all” precedes “clean”. Guess the agreement between the 1611 King James and Appalachian speech is one example people have used to say we spoke Elizabethan english.

    JOSHUA 3:17 And the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan.

    I also grew up hearing and using “clean as a whistle”. No idea how those two came to be related. Am I the only BP&A reader who heard that expression?

    • Reply
      aw griff
      September 23, 2020 at 10:21 am

      Ron, I too hear clean as a whistle and clean as a hound’s tooth.

    • Reply
      September 23, 2020 at 10:49 am

      ‘Slick as a whistle’ , too… Maybe because a willow stick was peeled clean & slick to make a whistle?

    • Reply
      September 23, 2020 at 12:32 pm

      I grew up hearing “clean as a whistle.” I have no idea what it means.

  • Reply
    gayle larson
    September 23, 2020 at 8:01 am

    Could we send Ken cards??

    • Reply
      September 23, 2020 at 8:51 am

      Gayle-great idea! I’ll find out 🙂

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    September 23, 2020 at 7:55 am

    Tipper–I’ve heard and used clean in this manner throughout m life. I’ve probably heard it in the phrase “clean out of sight” more than any other way. Also, I’ve regularly heard the word “clear” used as a synonym for clean in this context.

    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    September 23, 2020 at 7:32 am

    We’ve had problems with rats this year in Texas also. Explanation – it is the Chinese ‘year of the rat’!!!

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