Appalachia Appalachian Dialect Appalachian Medicine

Epizootic and Palpeetus of the Punk


Have you ever heard folks use nonsense words to describe their sickness?

I’ve heard folks in my area of Appalachia use the following nonsense words to describe their illness:

  • epizootic
  • epizooty
  • creeping crud
  • the crud
  • a bug
  • feeling puny

Although not as common, I’ve also heard folks say they had the:

  • tizic
  • heaves
  • miseries
  • ague
  • hydrophobie  (Pap used this one in a kidding way when he was sick-of course he knew he didn’t actually have hydrophobia but he sure felt like he might)

One of my friends loves our Appalachian language as much as I do. I told her I was planning a post about nonsense sickness words and she asked her mother and mother-n-law if they knew any. Both ladies live in the Shooting Creek area of Clay County NC. They had some really unique ones.

  • palpeetus of the punk
  • diabetes of the blow hole
  • membrens croup (this was an infant illness)

When I was young and someone had diabetes folks called it sugar. For example: “No honey she can’t have no candy she has sugar and that means she can’t eat any candy.

I’ve also heard folks who have arthritis say they had the arthur.

Here’s a few sickness related words from the Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English:

  • puny-turned
  • dauncy (sickly or frail)
  • the flux (diarrhea)
  • phthisic (asthma or a bad cold)
  • peaked
  • weak trembles

Hope you’ll leave a comment and add to my list of unusual words used for sickness.


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  • Reply
    May 4, 2021 at 2:15 pm

    From Taylor County Georgia: I got the epizootic and the tetter too. (General ill health.)
    From a native of South Philadelphia: I got a bad case of the punies. (Flu-like symptoms.)

  • Reply
    January 19, 2019 at 10:01 pm

    My Dad might suffer from a chest cold or the flu. . . He would say he had The Gripe (not the Grip or the Grippe)!

  • Reply
    April 25, 2018 at 10:43 pm

    Well….mamaw always warned us that if’n we went barefooted before May 1, we’d end up with the epizootie. Never knew what it was but I didn’t dare want to catch that kind of sickness.

    Course, she also told me that rolling down hills would make my liver turn over, and salt would dry my blood up. Ergo, I always ate bland food at her house….which kind of stunk, cause that woman loved burnt meat. Like gnawing on show leather…….Lord love her.

  • Reply
    Leon Estes
    February 24, 2018 at 8:33 pm

    My first wife was a City Gal, but she used “Creeping Crud” a lot to describe the Flu. I never did like that expression. Either you have the Flu or you don’t. Last month I got a sinus infection – – again. Tried over the counter medicines for a week, then went in to see the Doc. I described my symptoms and he said, “Ok. I will prescribe an antibiotic, and a decongestant’ Within 2 days I began feeling much better. Almost 20 years ago I went alone to my Family Reunion. While I was Gone, my wife had pneumonia. “Wal, Paula is on the mend now, but she’s not out of the woods yet!”

  • Reply
    February 24, 2018 at 12:36 pm

    Up in NE PA where I was raised my Grandma use to have a “spell” once in awhile… In hindsight…could’a been from my Pop going fishing and leaving his gear in the basement…???

    Also, was “Gunja”…just general nausea and not feeling well….

    …and finally, there was the general stomach / intestinal “issue” regionally known as “Hershey Squirts”…

  • Reply
    February 24, 2018 at 5:29 am

    Actually ‘epizootic’ is a real disease – for animals. It’s more commonly referred to as hemorrhagic disease and it seriously impacts deer populations. It does not affect humans. A fellow I worked with would use the term quite often, usually when he had a cold.

  • Reply
    Bobby C
    February 22, 2018 at 9:25 pm

    We say Creeping Epizooties! LOL And Many of the older folks in the family, still say Sugar.

  • Reply
    Eldonna Ashley
    February 22, 2018 at 4:04 am

    My family used lots of these, but I forgot about one that we used — eppizootic. We used peak-ed a lot too. Ague is sometimes used in crossword puzzle because of all the vowels.

  • Reply
    February 22, 2018 at 3:50 am

    Tell you what, having the heaves is bad; but to have the dry heaves is worst.

    Me and a few friends went out a night on the town. We ended up at a tittie bar when my friend Roger went to town sampling all the liquid refreshments he could lay his hands on. So I ended up driving him home in his car. When we arrived Roger got out and started walking toward his front door. He was about 3 feet from the front door when he got the heaves. Of course I stood back a few feet. Roger couldn’t find his house keys because they were in my hand, so he rang the door bell before I could open the door for him.

    Roger continued to have the heaves when his father answered the door. Roger fell to his knees and started crawling toward the bathroom. I was standing at the front door trying to explain to his father what we were doing that night. Suddenly, Roger started yelling, “I got the HEAVES, I got the Dry Heaves!” I took 4 steps to see what was going on only to see Roger laying on the floor with his arms embracing the porcelain god. Then Roger raised his head hovered the bowl and started to heave, dry heave. His father was standing over my shoulder and just said “Yeow man, Yeow.” I just started laugh my butt off. I said my good byes and left for home.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    February 21, 2018 at 10:25 pm

    Grandpa would get the consumption. Was never sure exactly what that was.
    I’ve heard people say they felt so bad they would have to get better to die.
    And Dad would say, “I was better but I got over it!”

  • Reply
    Charles E. Howell
    February 21, 2018 at 10:02 pm

    My Dad, a Smoky Mountain Logger, would comfort children with “You don’t feel so Pretty Good do you.” The Tijuana Two Step is a California term for loose stool.

    Chuck Howell

  • Reply
    February 21, 2018 at 7:17 pm

    I have ESP. It has been confirmed. If you don’t believe it I will tell you what tomorrow’s post is.
    “Talking Fire Out”
    Now do you believe?

    • Reply
      February 21, 2018 at 7:57 pm

      Ha! You might just have it : ) Or else you’re really good at catching my mistakes LOL!

      • Reply
        February 21, 2018 at 10:51 pm

        I have made the same mistake. You put the wrong release date in or something of that nature didn’t you?

  • Reply
    February 21, 2018 at 6:16 pm

    Dad used to blame all of his ills, which were few, on “Collywobbles of the neck-tie”…

  • Reply
    Jane Bolden
    February 21, 2018 at 5:49 pm

    Most people use to say Rheumatism instead of Arthritis. Some elderly people still say it.

  • Reply
    February 21, 2018 at 4:41 pm

    I remember well when I learned the word diarrhea. I missed a couple days of school. The teacher asked why. I said I had the back door trots. She didn’t understand so I said I had the scours. (That’s what dad called it when one of our calves had it.) She still didn’t understand. Another boy piped up and said, “He had the sh..s.” Then she understood what all those terms meant and taught us the word diarrhea.

    I’ve heard many of your list. Just a few were unfamiliar but I knew what they meant.

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    February 21, 2018 at 3:45 pm

    Hi Tipper, I have heard many of the strange words you mentioned in the blog. My mother-in-law used to say she “had the swimmy head.” I always took that to be dizzy. Once I saw a list of similar words on Vicki Lane’s blog. I know she is one of your readers and I think she said these were words used for sickness to a local physician. Here is the list she had:
    Draws — spasm or cramp, as in “My leg sure draws.”
    Arthur — arthritis (Arthuritis) ‘ Ol’ Arthur has done got holt of me.”
    Fireballs of the Eucharist — fibroids of the uterus “She was just full of fireballs of the Eucharist.”
    In movable health — doing okay, as in “I was in movable health till this here stroke got me.”
    Scowers (or scours) — diarrhea “He’s took the scours right bad.”
    Vomick — vomit ” Law, riding in the back seat on that twisty road makes me want to vomick.”
    Toucheous — painful to touch “Pa’s gout has made his big toe right toucheous.”
    And my personal favorite —
    Traveling fart — lots of migrating belly gas pain. “She had her a traveling fart but that Mylanta holp (helped) right much.”

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    February 21, 2018 at 1:29 pm

    I was doing pretty good until I hit the nes from Shooting Creek! Totally unfamiliar to me.

  • Reply
    February 21, 2018 at 12:20 pm

    I have heard and used many of those colorful terms!

  • Reply
    February 21, 2018 at 11:40 am

    I believe all the readers have about covered everything, and that includes your opening.

    Billy Graham died this morning at the age of 99. He gave Counsel to 12 Presidents and he preached to 215 million, leading many to Christ. The Angels in Heaven are Rejoicing. Billy Graham will be missed. …Ken

  • Reply
    February 21, 2018 at 11:07 am

    The runs, the trots, running offs, green apple get-a-longs are different names for the same condition.
    Biles and risins are sores.
    A fungus amongus.
    Thrash mouth

    Not a name for a disease but a neighbor lady was told by a doctor when she was very young that she had a leaky heart valve. She would put her hand on her chest and proclaim “it’s leaking again, I can feel it dripping!” and off to bed she would go. She died at the tender young age of 81. I don’t know if it was the leaky heart that finally took her or a blown head gasket. I’m not a doctor but I think it was her catalytic converter got stopped up.

  • Reply
    Bill Buntin
    February 21, 2018 at 11:00 am

    My Mom used to say she had the sciatic even though she may have just been puny or suffered from the misery.
    I have often suffered from the crud.
    There is one that is easy to recognize in others but hard to diagnose in ones self and that is “Diarrhea of the mouth”–LOL
    God Bless

  • Reply
    February 21, 2018 at 10:45 am

    Uncle Wayne often used the word rititis. He said some people had a tube that ran from their lower bowel to their face and caused them to have a sh**ty outlook.

  • Reply
    February 21, 2018 at 10:25 am

    After I sent a reply, I thought of similar complaints. When someone was recovering from any illness or injury and still felt weakened, he or she might complain, “I don’t have my ginger back yet.”

    They also might say they didn’t feel “up to snuff.”

  • Reply
    Amanda Burts
    February 21, 2018 at 10:24 am

    I find a humorous one “I’ve had the lick, ” or “I’ve hit the lick;” I think meaning, had enough, worn out, spent.

  • Reply
    February 21, 2018 at 10:18 am

    Many new ones in that list for me. I remember older Iowa relatives, especially the women, saying they felt “peaked.” “Peaked” was always said as two syllables, peak-ed. “Feelin’ mighty peak-ed today…”

  • Reply
    February 21, 2018 at 9:59 am

    There is nothing more Appalachian than somebody from these hills describing their sickness. Recently it is usually called simply “the crud.” My mother often would look at one of us and say we looked peaked or puny. We got a not so appropriate fit of giggling once when she looked at a sickly friend and said, “You look puky.” She had gotten her tongue twisted and combined puny and peaked. Puky was used also, but mostly to describe unappetizing food. Of course, we would never in a hundred years have used it to describe the food our mother or other family members worked so hard to prepare.

    It is not heard so much any more, but you could be admonished with, “You’re going to get Hydrophobia if you don’t quit that.” Totally off this subject, but my Dad used to have an expression for those who traveled and got lost. He would say they were going to end up in Naugatuck which he pronounced “Noggy Tuck.” After I got older I was pleasantly surprised to find there actually is a Naugatuck, Ky. I always loved the funny words that became part of our everyday life. When I think of an old descriptive words or expressions, I always wonder if Tipper has heard it.

    • Reply
      February 24, 2018 at 12:22 pm

      …BTW….there’s a Naugatuck, Ct also… Used to drive through it on my way to and from work each day…it is also known locally as the Great American Valley… Pretty area…

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    February 21, 2018 at 9:52 am

    I’ve heard and used several of these terms…some never heard before.

    Creeping Crud or Crud… is one of my favorites for hacking cough, etc.
    Montezuma’s Revenge…for the stomach flu…diarrhea, etc.
    Running Trots…same as of our favorite expressions
    I hate to be so sick with this virus that you don’t know whether to sit down or stand up…in other terms…
    which end it up…lol Thank goodness it seems to be a sickness of youth passed to parents from their school age children…sooo, I haven’t seen this one in years…thank you…feeling blessed…
    The Pip…for that monthly sickness of the ladies…this term was common in our family…I inquired to friends one time about this term…All my city friends had never heard the term other than slang called the Monthlies, so I thought it must be particular to the mountain folks.
    After inquiring about how the grandchildren were doing…he messaged me back and said they had the “plague” but was feeing better, no fevers and back to school…I guess that would about sum up the different strains of flu that have been affecting families…just get over one and another one hits and passes that one around…

    I know more but just can think of them now…can’t get my brain to spark this mornin’ ! Maybe afterwhile an another cup of coffee it’ll turnover…lol

    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…It’s going to be a warm one today on our side of the mountain…hope your day is “Springy” as well!

  • Reply
    February 21, 2018 at 9:22 am

    I’ve heard the bug, the crud, feeling puny, and looking peaked. I also heard sugar diabetes, and ole’ arthur’s awritin’ for arthritis.

  • Reply
    February 21, 2018 at 8:56 am

    We use blydoekey in a teasing way to describe about any ailment one might have. A case of the blahs is when someone is feeling blue. Heebie-jeebies is another one that describes everything a person might be suffering from.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    February 21, 2018 at 8:49 am

    I was told when I looked peaked and if I sat on the cold ground I would get piles (hemoroids).

    • Reply
      February 24, 2018 at 12:25 pm

      AKA… roids…or hammer-heads from back in my Army days…

  • Reply
    February 21, 2018 at 8:27 am

    My grandfather often asked us if we had “the tizic” when we weren’t feeling good, and I’m so glad to see it listed in your post because I sure never heard it anywhere else! Also, palpeetus of the punk rang a bell deep in my soul, but I can’t remember why — probably my grandfather said that too. My great-grandmother had “the sugar dibeetus” and unfortunately passed it down the line to her entire family. I love your posts on dialect because I always wondered where these words came from. Thanks!

  • Reply
    February 21, 2018 at 8:24 am

    Not a word exactly, but an expression: sick abed on two chairs.
    How’s that for a strange one?!

  • Reply
    aw griff
    February 21, 2018 at 8:21 am

    I’ve never heard but one person say this. He was an old friend, now gone on, He would say he felt like a big yellow dog borrowed his mouth and ate something nasty.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    February 21, 2018 at 7:42 am

    Tipper–I’ve heard several but by no means all of these. Grandpa often said he had the “miseries” and used it to describe anything from arthritis to being down in the dumps. One quite common “catch all” for feeling poorly you don’t list is “mullygrubs” or “mollygrubs.” That was most often used to describe a mental state but could also apply to a vague or general sense of being unwell.

    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    February 21, 2018 at 7:34 am

    Well let’s see. There is “the fantodds”. I had forgotten about the tizic. That was a common expression in my family, also the feeling puny. We would say we were feeling “draggy” when we felt too good to quit but not good enough to work.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 21, 2018 at 7:22 am

    I haven’t heard all these tip, but I’ve heard a lot of the. Heaves is for throwing up and ague I’ve heard for rheumatic type things. Puny, peaked, and weak trembles are just part of common language. Epizootic and puny are common. I’ve even heard diabetes of the blow hole, I believe that refers to diarrhea.
    Then there is galloping consumption, that very descriptive, don’t you think!

  • Reply
    Sheryl PaulI
    February 21, 2018 at 6:21 am

    The misery is what we called it. Then in school the creeping crud. I heard my gramma say fancy, but I never used it. My aunt had sugar diabetes. We always use sugar as part of the name.

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