Appalachia Appalachian Dialect

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Off is Anywhere but Here

My life in Appalachia - Off is anywhere but here


off = away from here.

“Jane’s oldest son moved off and made a doctor. He never did come back.”

“Can’t believe you don’t remember when his store burnt down. I guess that was when you lived off.”


I believe the manner in which off is used in the sentences above is directly related to the sense of place native Appalachians often have. To quote Loyal Jones “We are oriented around place.” And “Our place is close on our minds.”

In other words, it doesn’t matter where ‘off’ is – it only matters that it’s not here.

Reminds me of my Mountain Folk interview with one of Pap’s life long best friends, LC Chastain. When I asked LC what he thought about being born and raised in Appalachia he said “If I didn’t live here, I’d be getting here as fast as I could”.

off = away from here.


Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.

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  • Reply
    Rosamary Christiansen
    July 25, 2018 at 10:46 am

    My mom used to say ‘off hand’…as in “off hand I don’t know.”

  • Reply
    Paulette Tonielli
    July 24, 2018 at 4:26 pm

    I’m from off, but now am here. When I wrote to friends back in the Midwest about Brasstown, one replied, ” It’s almost like it’s always been your home and you’re finally back, and everyone was waiting for you”. It is, and they were, and thank you Brasstown for being home.

  • Reply
    Donna Wilson King
    October 21, 2016 at 3:40 am

    We always said people who weren’t born and raised in our town were from Off.

  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    July 22, 2015 at 7:22 pm

    I understand.
    Our oldest brother lives in the Alleghany Mountains of NW PA, and it’s always seemed, no matter where he’s gone, he’s always wanted to be back there, and now he lives there.
    Now the place is beautiful and I love it, as our Dad and our Great-Grandparents before him did, but unlike him (and them), I’m always looking for the nearest mall to shop at, and there are none there. That’s for sure. LOL
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    July 22, 2015 at 1:26 am

    When I was younger I remember folks talking bout how many local boys went off to fight in WWII & Korea, then later heard the same of of those sent off to war in Vietnam.

  • Reply
    July 21, 2015 at 4:37 pm

    I was ‘off’ to Atlanta for a few
    years to work, learn a profession,
    and then to Asheville. What a thrill to finally come “home” to
    those beautiful Mountains. I’m
    more satisfied now than I ever was,
    and I got to share a few years
    before they went ‘away’…Ken

  • Reply
    July 21, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    Yup! I was born and raised ‘way off from here, up in the Yankee country, and lived there 30 years before I had the good sense to realize I didn’t belong there, to leave outta there and come down here.

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    July 21, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    heard it often… but I immediately noticed the rest of the sentence “made a doctor.” At a reunion heard a friend say, “yeah, he’s over at college fixing to make a lawyer”.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    July 21, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    “moved off” & “off his rocker”, this soup tastes “off” or has “gone off”.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    July 21, 2015 at 12:13 pm

    Mr. Jim–I remember Daddy using the term “Adam’s off ox” in a sentence like, “He didn’t know her from Adam’s off ox.” Anyway it fascinated me so I looked it up–the “off ox” is the one on the left & the “nigh ox” is the one on the right if I remember correctly.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 21, 2015 at 12:12 pm

    Tipper – So, when I am accused of being “off in the head,” it just means my mind has wandered away from its usual habitat?
    That happens to me a lot, you know. I think that’s what keeps me sane.
    I have studied the use of off vs over, up or down. Some of my people moved down to Charlotte. Some moved over to Tennessee. Some moved up into Virginia. Some moved out west.
    Some just moved off, meaning I don’t know where they went or can’t visualize the place.
    Off is a place you know exists but have no immediate intention or reason to go there.

  • Reply
    C. Ron Perry, Sr.
    July 21, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    He left off cutting the grass and went in the house for lunch.

  • Reply
    Pamela Danner
    July 21, 2015 at 10:35 am

    Another one I have heard all my life! How about this one, “He moved off and made a BIG doctor. My Dad still say’s my daughters husband is “pretty nice for a big Attorney”. I suppose Big means really important not exactly the friendliest of people.

  • Reply
    July 21, 2015 at 10:26 am

    Now, you’ve gone and planted an earworm! I keep hearing a line from a song my Dad wrote about an unsatisfactory job circumstance: “I’m gonna take me off, away from here, I’m gonna leave this town..”
    So, sometimes ‘off’ is good, I guess, and sometimes you wanna go back.

  • Reply
    Darlene Debty Kimsey
    July 21, 2015 at 10:23 am

    I usually use “from here” after off. “He moved off from here”.

  • Reply
    July 21, 2015 at 10:09 am

    I’m not certain what this says about my brain this morning, but I immediately thought of the most common usage around here. One can hear, “He is a little off.” Then again he may also be described as. “off his rocker.”
    I lived “off” from here for a time on flat land, and it took me years to feel at home. In other words, this was home, and any place that does not have mountains compares unfavorably.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    July 21, 2015 at 9:48 am

    I moved off came back and moved off again. I now live within 20 minutes from “home” but in another county.
    I guess that is about as close as I’ll get to going back.
    I had friends who moved way off and I never heard from them again.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    July 21, 2015 at 9:46 am

    Tipper–Interestingly, other common mountain usages of “off” also suggest strangeness, a sense of being misplaced, or some type of discomfort. For example, “Many readers have to reckon that Casada fellow is a bit off” (they would, of course, be referring to Br’er Don); I don’t know him from Adam’s off ox;” or “His mind’s off in the clouds somewhere.”
    Speaking of “off” being anywhere but familiar, comfortable environs, a year or two a lifelong friend of mine and I were discussing some issues in Swain County which troubled both of us. She noted that our voices on the matters might not be heard or heeded because both of us were what her father often described as “been aways.” That is to say, we had been away from the mountains and thereby somehow had been tainted a bit.
    I’ve encountered some folks who think along that line and to a degree I understand. They don’t want some uppity fellow who has “been away” telling them what is right or best.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Michael M. Cass
    July 21, 2015 at 9:26 am

    My grandfather moved off around 1894 and never came back to Madison County. Thanks to a connection made on this website, Sunday I attended a Cassada / Casada family reunion in Hayesville that made me feel re-connected to the mountains, after over a century of my family’s being “off.”

  • Reply
    July 21, 2015 at 9:09 am

    I find this an interesting use of ‘off.’ I learned to use it more to leave or remove from something or somewhere, which when I look at your use fits. You gave me something to consider about its use today. That is, when my brain has a chance to rest.

  • Reply
    July 21, 2015 at 9:00 am

    I think “place”, and also “people” are southern things. At one time, a common question when you met somebody was “where’re you from and who are your folks?”. That pretty well defined who they were and your connection with them.

  • Reply
    Steve in tn
    July 21, 2015 at 8:51 am

    I have heard “moved off” all my life. I lived “off” all of my working life so now I just “take off” and go somewhen when I can. It’s fun to take off and more fun to come home.

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, PhD
    July 21, 2015 at 8:08 am

    Tipper: This concept of HERE AND OFF SOME PLACE never seemed so obvious to me. Now I know! Thanks, Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 21, 2015 at 7:27 am

    Yep, off ranks right up with “he ain’t from around here” Seems that many of our expressions and references center around our place on the planet and they reflect how valuable our place on the planet is to us.

  • Reply
    Mike Tarnowsky
    July 21, 2015 at 7:25 am

    How does this work? I’m off to visit Blairsville, then off to Murphy, then return to my place.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    July 21, 2015 at 7:10 am

    Been off from the mountains for a long time. Very happy to be back.

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