Appalachian Dialect

Do You Need The Word Either?

word usage in Appalachia either one

Way back when I was in college taking an Appalachian Studies class I was amazed when the teacher discussed the way we use the word one in place of either or either one. I just couldn’t fathom that everyone in the US didn’t use the word one in the same way folks in Appalachia did. And all these years later I still think maybe they do?

As I said, it was many years ago that I took the class and I can’t remember exactly how the instructor discussed the matter. I figured if the usage really was common to Appalachia I’d find it in my Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English and I did.

Here is what the dictionary had to say about it.

18.1 Postposed one. To identify alternatives, Smokies speakers employ not only or or eitheror, but three forms that may be placed after the second of two alternative elements: either, either one, or simply one (the last is the most common) and that may coordinate different parts of speech or types of phrases, most often nouns. Despite formal similarity to the other usages, postposed one is most likely derived from the phrase one or the other. Related negative constructions that follow conjoined elements include neither and neither one.

You never had any trouble out of them people, from Big Catalooch or Little Catalooch either.

It was just about as steep as a yoke cattle could go up or come down either one.

She found out how to get moonshine without making it or buying it either one.

He was in Tennessee or Kentucky one.

[Boneset is] bitterer than quinine, and hit’ll kill ye or cure ye one.

I’m going home [and] see Emerts Cove or hell one before daylight.

They had [revival] meeting morning and evening or morning and night one all the time.

That hearing aid, it’s either too high or too low one.

The first settlers come in here in the eighteen thirties or the forties one.

I was taught to respect elderly people, and we were to refer to them as aunt or uncle one, if they were old.

They wouldn’t run far. They’d set down and climb a tree or pick a fight one.

Soon it all died down and they never made mention of Meady nor Burt neither.

I didn’t think about Eloyd nor Enzor neither one to be there.


Things haven’t changed since the dictionary was published, in my area of Appalachia one is still the most common usage.

I was going to come up with my own sentences like: “They went to Hayesville or Murphy one.” But I decided the sentence examples in the dictionary were better than any I could come up with.

The only problem is…I want to know the rest of the story that goes along with them.

I mean man he must have been gone from Emerts Cove for a long time to risk seeing hell to get there!

Pap said he was taught to call elderly people aunt and uncle when he was a boy too, I wish we still did that.

And what about those names! If I’d know about Eloyd or Enzor the girls might have have been walking around with those monikers today!



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  • Reply
    November 3, 2018 at 1:28 am

    Tipper, many of your Appalachian idioms, including this one, are familiar from my childhood in Atlanta. They were common with my parents (especially my mother) and grandparents, but seemed to disappear by the time they did.

  • Reply
    Sherry Whitaker
    October 12, 2017 at 8:48 pm

    On my goodness, I had never thought how much I use “one”. I am right out of
    those bills and I love it.

  • Reply
    October 12, 2017 at 8:39 pm

    I use all of those phrases that give emphasis to alternatives, except “one” hanging out there by itself; but my Dad still uses it. Dad’s lineage has a branch coming out the of the part of Virginia that became West Virginia so I’m wondering if that is how he came by using it.
    This post gave me a twang of grieving for my Mom; when Dad would hang that “one” on a couple of options, Mom used to finish it for him, quietly saying “or the other”. Don’t know that Dad ever heard her, his hearing loss has been with him a long time; but nowadays I always finish his “one” for her in my head.

  • Reply
    Rooney Floyd
    October 12, 2017 at 5:22 pm

    Mercer Scroggs, the “mayor” of unincorporated Brasstown, used to have a sign in his store that read, “We don’t care how you used to do it up north…and Florida neither!” I liked the sign.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    October 12, 2017 at 3:39 pm

    Tipper–I was delighted you touched on the use of “aunt” and “uncle” as honorifics. There was a wonderful old black lady who lived just down the road from us when I was a boy. She was universally known as Aunt Mag; indeed, it wasn’t until just a few years back that, thanks to some research by Br’er Don, I learned her last name.
    She’s the subject of a chapter in an upcoming book of mine on mountain characters, and when some anonymous highbrow academic reviewed the samples chapters I submitted prior to signing a contract, he (she?) lambasted me for belittling the person, being a racist, and in general standing as an offense to all that is right an decent, for calling Aunt Mag what everyone called her. She was Aunt Mag to one and all, black or white, young or old.
    My Scots-Irish dander got up a bit and I replied in no uncertain terms that the reviewer was clueless when it came to the mountain way of talking and then cited Aunt Jennie Cooper, the white proprietress of the Cooper House in Bryson City, as another example. The only way you got to be “aunt” to all and sundry was to be a beloved or respected person.
    Jim Casada
    P. S. As Don says, when I hear someone (always locally( pronounce our last name as Cas-dee, I know I’m among good mountain folks.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    October 12, 2017 at 2:02 pm

    Many years back or when I was being raised…either one! There was a feller just showed up about anywhere there was a gathering of any sort…picnic, parade, ballgame..etc. He seemed to love to introduce everyone to anyone or everyone who would pay attention…for like myself he was a’talkin’ all the time…I would listen and picked up on conversations and introductions…Yeah, I was a nosy youngn’ but back then you didn’t interrupt any adults and waited until they totally finished telling their yarn or introductions…Ha…This feller would introduce, Aunt Hattie or Uncle Todd…and I understood those introductions for I had heard he lived next to his Uncle Todd and Aunt Hattie….What always confused me was when he would yell, “Come here Brother Bill” or “There’s Brother Mac” and when in many peoples presence, besides Uncle Todd and Aunt Hattie…He would say, “Why my Sister Dot can make a cake that would, etc., etc.” Pert near as good as sister Pearls!” It seemed to me as a child that this man had a lot of sisters and brothers but just a few Aunts and Uncles….
    Some how I found out that from my parents that he was a Deacon in a church where near everyone was called Brother or Sister, even the local postman or service station attendant…
    Our church at the time didn’t ordinarily refer to each other in that way…it was usually Mr. or Mrs. or Miss so and so. So another growing up lesson…now I know that a lot of good ole country churches refer to all as brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles…Ha Which of course is more true than we realize…
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…Went to the Craftsman’s Fair in Gatlinburg yesterday…and on to Dollywood for the Harvest Festival/Gospel and the Pumpkin Luminaire Show…I am still wore out…The Yeller Jackets were loving those molasses makers demonstration….HA

  • Reply
    October 12, 2017 at 11:53 am

    Both my girls and I use “either one” when in conversation, but not in writing. I remember when the first time I met the Casada brothers, I introduced them to a friend and neighbor as Jim and Don Ca-sada. I knew better but it just came out that way. Hillbily, I recon. …Ken

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    October 12, 2017 at 11:27 am

    Referring to those older than you as “Uncle” or “Aunty” is a common practice here in Hawaii

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 12, 2017 at 11:20 am

    I might have told this’n before but the audience might have changed too. Uncle John Breedlove and Uncle Bob Breedlove lived over on Licklog only a little ways apart. Uncle John was married to Lela Cabe and Uncle Bob was married to Lela Bradley. Now womenfolk back in them days were no more apt to talk about one another then than presently but in the rare instance they were forced to, they faced a quandary. Both were Lela Breedlove and both lived up on Licklog. So, for the solution, Lela Cabe Breedlove became Lela John and Lela Bradley Breedlove became Lela Bob. Problem solved! Now the womenfolk could talk, if absolutely necessary mind you, about one without confusion with the other.
    Uncle John was actually my mother’s uncle. Uncle Bob was her great uncle. We called most of the older people in the community Uncle and Aunt because that’s what they were.

  • Reply
    George Pettie
    October 12, 2017 at 10:41 am

    Economy of words makes mountain talk so expressive.
    And I’m glad to learn that Don’s surname is Ca’ sah dah, not Ca sah’ dah, as I have been mentally saying it these several years.

  • Reply
    October 12, 2017 at 10:28 am

    I grew up in the north and my family used to say, “one or the tuther”. Obviously a perversion of the word other. Not sure where it came from though. I find the longer I live in the south the more my vernacular changes! I do find myself changing my wording according to whom I am speaking with and especially when I write.
    I recall hearing boyfriends of single ladies with children called uncle by the children, but only true aunts and uncles outside that.
    Funny how our heritage dictates so much about how are lives are lived 🙂
    Many blessings to all!

  • Reply
    October 12, 2017 at 10:02 am

    I tried to think of a time when I had used ‘one’ for either one and couldn’t. Then my wife asked me what to do about an issue for a class she teaches. I answered, “You need to ……. or ……. one.” I guess its ingrained in us.

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    October 12, 2017 at 9:36 am

    Dear Tipper, I use the word “one” in that way all the time. Any other usage sounds a little strange to me.
    When I first went to a country church in my community (almost fifty years ago), my friend was introducing me to different people like “Aunt Hilda,” “Uncle Clea,” “Aunt Bessie,” etc. I thought she was kin to every person in the congregation. Well, she probably was kin to all of them, but that was just the way they talked. Every older person was “uncle” or “aunt.” I always loved that and I still wish it was common around here. It’s so respectful and affectionate.

  • Reply
    October 12, 2017 at 9:34 am

    When I giggle and call my cousin out on some of the words she uses, she just stares at me while trying to figure out what is wrong. I’m sure I stared at the screen when I read your post today.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    October 12, 2017 at 9:04 am

    I’m like Ron Stephens – I certainly have used one this way, but don’t know if I do anymore. I definitely don’t use it when writing. And I agree with Ron that it is shorthand for “one or the other.”
    Something I’ve noticed is that in more than a few cases, mountain speech makes for efficient use of the jaw and tongue. A good example is my last name, Casada. The correct pronunciation is like Canada with an “s” instead of “n”. But during the time I was growing up, a lot of folks pronounced it Cas-dee – two syllables instead of three. Now a lot of people pronounce the name wrong (Ca-sah’-dah), like we came from Spain or Mexico one. And I usually don’t bother to correct them.
    But when I hear Cas-dee, I know I’m where I belong.
    Brian Blake – outsiders are often confused by us 😉 but we don’t mind one bit.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    October 12, 2017 at 8:19 am

    Your girls had a narrow escape 🙂
    Well, you did it again. That use of “one” is so very familiar to me. But once again I do not know if I continue to use it myself. Yet it feels like an echo. I had never paused to think that it was shorthand for “one or the other”. Nor had I had thought anyone might not understand it.
    And I remember that when I was a boy ‘aunt’ and ‘uncle’ were courtesy titles for the elderly. It was on its way out in the 1950’s in my neck of the woods. Like you, I wish it had not faded. We need civility restored in this country and that would make a good beginning.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    October 12, 2017 at 8:10 am

    When I was young adults were Aunt and Uncle if they were close to the family or neighbors otherwize Miz and Mr

  • Reply
    Brian P. Blake
    October 12, 2017 at 8:06 am

    Common as this usage is regionally, which means that those who employ it understand it, to me, as an outsider, it confuses the meaning of the juxtaposition which I think the speaker means to communicate.

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    October 12, 2017 at 7:22 am

    I’m with you, Tipper. Those usages, especially the single “one” are so common back home, I didn’t realize it is ours. I use all of those and so do my kids. They must have learned it from me or my parents, one.
    I vote for Enzor!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    October 12, 2017 at 6:57 am

    Now Tipper, I read through all those examples and the only thing I see wrong is those two names, Eloyd and Enzor. I’ve never heard neither one of them.

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