Appalachia Appalachian Dialect

Different Uses Of The Word Law

Today’s guest post was written by Keith Jones.

The word law in appalachia

For some reason I got to thinking about how many different ways we use the word ‘law’ in Appalachia…

“He’s a-gon’ to law Joe if’n he don’t pay back that money he owes.”

“They couldn’t agree on the land line, so they went to law.”

“Law, honey, I’ve got no idea.”

“Law-sa-mercy!” (Possibly a form of ‘Lord, have mercy!’)

“He was a-sellin’ shine when the Law come.”

“When he finished that fancy college, he went for a lawyer.” (Meaning not that he hired a lawyer, but that he became one.)

And after someone tells you something remarkable, gossipy, or controversial, but you don’t want to really comment one way or the other, you simply say, “Law!”

“They are my outlaw kin.” (Said about someone who has a family member married to your family member. A joke or reverse take on ‘in-laws.’)

“There oughta be a law!”

Did I leave any out?

Keith Jones
Blue Ridge, GA
www.mountainstoryteller.com

—-

I hear all the uses Keith mentioned in my area of Appalachia, with the most common being: referring to police officers as the law, warning someone they may get lawed for doing something wrong,
the exclamation Law!

Tipper

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31 Comments

  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    February 4, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    Tipper, here is a funny. Two old maid heard a knock on the door, one peek out the window and saw it was a handsome man at the door. One yelled out the Law she would call the law she said softly Law law come in or I’ll shoot.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    February 2, 2015 at 12:50 pm

    Tipper,
    and PinnacleCreek…Yes, most Tennesseans are very aware of our raccoons behavior! Why we just love those “little masked bandits”. They are our “state wild animal” symbol! Yes, sometimes they do cause us worry!
    The dreaded ‘Rabies’, for example, for they are known to be carriers of some nasty bacteria, like foxes…This lady might have been using her Tennessee Volunteer spirit, to help and protect the raccoon from someone that might think it rabid! To make sure or (not) she wanted it checked out! Was it a hot day, did she see it run into the bushes sideways, did it walk in on its “five little fingered-like” paws doing a handstand or was it’s face covered in “frothy soap bubbles”?
    That would be unusual behavior and I could see her concern! She knows that one should always use caution when sighting mid-daytime raccoons, unless they’re hunting food for their little ones…you know, sometimes a Mother has to do what a Mother has to do! Daylight or Dark!
    Remember that Davy Crockett “King of the Wild Frontier” loved the little fellers so much he made ‘coonskin’ caps from them! I’d say a Tennessee State Trooper would not mind at all being called out on a raccoon call, (that was in your bushes), better than having to scrape up those he sees squashed, a traffic hazard in the middle of the road!
    After all we Tennesseans know about these raccoon things!
    Thanks Tipper, and PinnacleCreek, you know my response was all in jest!

  • Reply
    RB
    February 1, 2015 at 10:03 pm

    Interesting uses of the word “law” here.
    For the times when “lawsa mercy” (sometimes even heard it said “lawsy mercy”) is said, I’m pretty sure the sayer means “Lord have mercy.”
    God bless.
    RB
    <><

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    February 1, 2015 at 12:08 pm

    Granny’s come to our house
    And ho! my lawsy-daisy!
    All the children around the place
    Ist a-runnin’ crazy.
    James Whitcomb Riley

  • Reply
    Rooney Floyd
    January 31, 2015 at 8:28 pm

    When it comes to different names for the law, I remember the old men referring to the game warden as “the rabbit sheriff”. I still get a chuckle out of that today.

  • Reply
    eva nell wike, PhD
    January 31, 2015 at 6:45 pm

    Laws-a-mercy: That Ethelene better tell us more bout that Keith and she better tell us more bout that thar Storytelling Festivill where that boy will be tokin. As my Daddy’ed say, “That boy is a gooden when hit comes to tokng!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    January 31, 2015 at 6:12 pm

    My grand father would say “aye law” when something bad happened. “Aye law, I knew that boy would end up in trouble”. Mom would say “they law”. As in, “they law, I can’t I can’t get a thing done around here”. Also, if you were doing something illegal you were apt to get the law called on you. I don’t hear it much anymore except from my oldest sister.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    January 31, 2015 at 5:55 pm

    Late on the draw, but….
    That boy was really misbehaving until his Daddy laid down the law.

  • Reply
    Tipper
    January 31, 2015 at 5:48 pm

    B. Thanks for the comments! Law is used here to describe the town-county-and state officers. Ive even heard law used to describe game wardens. I also hear trooper used for the State officers : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia
    http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    George Pettie
    January 31, 2015 at 5:36 pm

    Great Law! I think you done tetched on ever one of ’em, Keith.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    January 31, 2015 at 5:30 pm

    Early in my career as a Law Enforcement Officer I received a valuable education that helped me through more than three decades of trying to serve the public. I saw one of our local characters who had a bit of a speech impediment staggering along obviously “in his cups”. I pulled up and stopped beside him and got out to try to get him out of the road, he looked at me with bleary eyes and enquired “Who are you?” Being a young officer rather full of myself I answered “I’m the Law.” I was rapidly put my place when the old gentleman exclaimed “You ain’t the Raw, you jest stands fer the Raw”. Educated and humbled I took the gentleman home to sober up and from then on every time I started to get a little “Full of myself” I’d hear “You ain’t the Raw, you jest stands fer the Raw.” This education served me through my career by reminding me that I was the servant of the people and helped me stay humble. I have tried to pass this lesson on to many young officers through the years.

  • Reply
    PinnacleCreek
    January 31, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    The law seems to have fell by the wayside around here, as 911 has taken all the fun out of our dramas in these parts. I liked it much better when you could personally call the city police, State Troopers, or Sheriff’s office depending on your situation.
    I would feel a little sheepish if a State Trooper comes out to investigate that raccoon after a lady stopped her car to tell me it was acting strange (rabid) and that it scampered into my bushes. She advised it really shouldn’t be out in daylight. The lady was from Tennessee and said she knew about things such as that. I thought perhaps you tennesseans may not be aware that overtime you have developed skills not found in other parts of the Appalachians. Now I am just being silly, but did like it better when you simply called the law

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    January 31, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    I once had a new neighbor ask me- what is a “day law”? How is it different from a “night law”?

  • Reply
    eva nell wike, PhD
    January 31, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    Well Tipper:
    This LAW POST has reminded me of a frequent expression we used – jokingly – as kids in the Matheson Cove.
    When one of us told a ‘big’ story about somebody or some event, one of us would say, “LAW! LAW Frank!”
    This was expression that Frank’s wife would say EVERY TIME Frank would tell her a bit of news about something or somebody!
    Hope your day is good! Yesterday I sent a THANK YOU NOTE to Marion, VA because the owner of the distillery up there sold a copy of “Fiddler” for me. That Lincoln Theater up there is VERY IMPRESSIVE! Worth a long drive up!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Ken
    January 31, 2015 at 11:09 am

    Tipper,
    Keith really hit the spot with
    “Law”. I heard most of these over
    the years till I understood what
    each version meant. Nice job!
    I remember when I was young and
    the older Rockeyfeller died. A guy was standing there crying, saying he’s the richest man in the world. At that point, someone
    leaned over and asked “why are
    you crying? You’re not even
    related to him!” The guy said,
    “I know”…Ken

  • Reply
    Glynda Chambers
    January 31, 2015 at 10:54 am

    Law , law, where’s the law !

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    January 31, 2015 at 10:20 am

    Granny’s come to our house
    And ho! my lawsy-daisy!
    All the children around the place
    Is Ist a-runnin’ crazy.
    -James Whitcomb Riley

  • Reply
    Jane Bolden
    January 31, 2015 at 9:55 am

    I remember hearing my mother saying, “de law” in the place of a phrase like my goodness. Anther one was my goodness gracious.

  • Reply
    Patty hall
    January 31, 2015 at 9:53 am

    I’ve heard “day law!” as a exclamation. also, lay the law down.

  • Reply
    Howland
    January 31, 2015 at 9:44 am

    “Squirrel law is in next Monday.”

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    January 31, 2015 at 9:42 am

    Hi,
    I’m still pondering the term ‘law’!
    Most of the time I have heard the cops, police, hi-sheriff, TWRA (game wardens), sheriff, deputy etc…called ‘the law’.
    I rarely ever hear our (THP) Tennessee Highway Patrol called ‘the law’! It’s usually… “Watch out, slow down…there’s a ‘trooper’! or “Those ‘troopers’ always hide behind that large sign, careful!
    After a wreck in the country especially…one asked “Did you ‘call the troopers’!
    Just pondering?
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Jackie
    January 31, 2015 at 9:38 am

    When I first met my wife I asked, “What would you do if I tried to kiss you?” She replied, “I’d call the law.” I kissed her anyway and she very softly said, “Law, law.”

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    January 31, 2015 at 9:24 am

    Tipper,
    I once had a neighbor that every time a mouse squeaked…she ‘called the law’!
    She was teased behind her back as the “law caller”! Must be terrible to live in that much fear! Or was it attention she craved!
    My other neighbor told me one time, “Careful playing that loud music when you wash your car…the ‘law guard’ will get you!”
    Thanks Tipper, and Keith
    PS…Most city folks don’t call the law…they call the cops or ‘polease’ (police)….

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    January 31, 2015 at 9:02 am

    Thanks, Keith, good list. I can’t think of anything you’ve left out. There is one I don’t remember hearing before, that would be outlaw, with this definition.

  • Reply
    Charline
    January 31, 2015 at 8:34 am

    As an exclamation, I used to hear ‘they’ added, i.e.,’They law, you don’t mean it!’

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    January 31, 2015 at 8:22 am

    “Law! That guy a-writin’ today is my son, Keith!’ And more likely than not, I never know what ’tis he might be up to next. Not that he was ever a bad boy a-growin’ up. It’s just that he could think of more things to do than I, “laws-a-mercy!~” could think ahead to try to either discourage or encourage him! But I reckon he turned out awright. To my knowledge, he’s never run against the law! And I hope you’ll go to hear him at the Storytelling Festival. Law, he can weave some yarns that’ll make you wonder!

  • Reply
    dolores
    January 31, 2015 at 7:39 am

    I never thought about how many different ways we use the word ‘law’ so whether you left any out I’m not sure. However, it’s amazing how many times I have said – there oughta be a law! Good job!

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    January 31, 2015 at 7:26 am

    Around here we say law (Lord) in response to disturbing news
    When I was a child my family used the word this way and also “They will call the law if you keep making that racket.”

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    January 31, 2015 at 7:26 am

    Around here we say law (Lord) in response to disturbing news
    When I was a child my family used the word this way and also “They will call the law if you keep making that racket.”

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    January 31, 2015 at 7:26 am

    Around here we say law (Lord) in response to disturbing news
    When I was a child my family used the word this way and also “They will call the law if you keep making that racket.”

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    January 31, 2015 at 7:26 am

    Around here we say law (Lord) in response to disturbing news
    When I was a child my family used the word this way and also “They will call the law if you keep making that racket.”

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