Appalachia Appalachian Dialect

Fail Not

Fail not

“When I was helping clean out my great-aunt’s house after she died, we found an envelope with a lock of auburn hair in it. On the envelope, she had written, “my mother’s hair.” It was especially touching because her mother had died suddenly of the “apoplexy” when my aunt was 8 years old. There must have been something special about a lock or strand of hair.

I really loved the last two words in the letter…fail not. I’m sure their life was hard with all the back-breaking work of living in 1870. But, what encouraging words. Fail not.”

Donna Wilson King – January 2016


Since Donna left the comment above, I haven’t been able to get the simple phrase out of my mind.

Fail not.

When studying on the phrase the first thing that comes to mind is: don’t fail! You know like: “Don’t mess up.” or “Do it exactly like it’s supposed to be done and it will be right and if you don’t it will be wrong.”

The other thing that comes to mind, which is what I’ve been thinking about, is a hopefulness or a source of encouragement. Fail not: “I know you can do this and you will. or Fail not: “I know you will make it through to the other side and everything will be alright.”

How could so much meaning be conveyed in such two little words?



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  • Reply
    September 15, 2017 at 3:13 pm

    The only locks of hair I recall seeing are those saved from a child’s first haircut; and as that thought came to mind, so too did the words “Fail not dear child, the world awaits you.” I have sat at this keyboard for several minutes now and for the life of me, I cannot place those words. . . .

  • Reply
    September 15, 2017 at 1:00 pm

    I knew an Old Preacher when he’d read up on something like this he’d say ” now that’s rich ” and he’d with the Lords help deliver a message.

  • Reply
    Charles Ronald Perry, Sr.
    September 15, 2017 at 12:09 pm

    The phrase “Fail not and have you then and there this writ” is a phrase used often in court orders directing the serving official to produce a person, an item or a document before the court.

  • Reply
    larry griffith
    September 15, 2017 at 11:26 am

    Very touching. I like to think it means fail not to know the Savior and we will meet again.

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    September 15, 2017 at 10:45 am

    This was a meaningful post. I think one reason our ancestors (and sometimes us) save a lock of hair is because it’s so personal. You always have something you can touch, something physical from one you love. Even when their body is in the grave you can see and touch something that was a part of them. I have a hair brooch from one of my ancestors but I have no idea which one. It is important to keep the names with such heirlooms so succeeding generations know who it belonged to.
    It is not surprising that Christians have always tended to bury their dead loved ones. The body is precious to us. Of course, God can raise the dead from their ashes or any other form of burial, but it is a particular Christian practice to bury or plant the dead awaiting the resurrection. Often old graveyards are on top of hills with the graves facing the east so they will rise facing the Lord when He comes again.

  • Reply
    September 15, 2017 at 10:43 am

    What a nice thing to find! A keepsake for the Family with strong meaning. I love reading your opening and other’s comments. …Ken

  • Reply
    September 15, 2017 at 9:05 am

    What a find! With a deep interest in genealogy and history that discovery would totally make my day. In our extended family there was found a very old picture with a long braid of hair wound around the picture in the old frame. There as speculation as to the meaning, and it was decided it was mourning wreath.
    Fail not would be a great title for a song….. Love the way the old letters were written. This is a great subject for the morning.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    September 15, 2017 at 9:02 am

    You got me curious. So I went to see. There are four occurences of “fail not” in the KJV, one of which is:
    LAM3:22 It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
    As a friend of mine says, “That’ll preach!”
    If I mistake not, the phrase was – and maybe still is – in use in legal documents such as subpoenas, especially as a closing. That is an authoritative direction concluded by saying ‘in this fail not’ with the implication of ‘or else’.

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    September 15, 2017 at 8:14 am

    Those are two powerful words. In fact, if Appalachia was a state, that would be our motto.
    It reminds me a little of my own Grandma. My Grandpa died while my Mom was in junior high. My Grandma was left to raise 4 children, all under 15, in the early 60s. She refused to remarry because she didn’t want “some other man raising my husband’s children.” She was pretty tough. I’ll spare you the rest, but, she never failed. When I was growing up, if I complained that something was too hard and I couldn’t do it, she would say “you have to.”
    That’s the way it is. You have to and the price of failing is way too high. In our Appalachian way, the empty, feel good platitude of “you can do it and everyone’s a winner,” or the mocking “git ‘er done” becomes a challenge…fail not.
    I tell my kids this, in similar terms. We are only here because our family, going back generations, didn’t fail, they never gave up. They got us here and we owe the next generations the same.
    So, I’ll add this to my speech to them, not only do they have to, fail not.
    Sometimes, Tipper, reading your blog is like getting a good talking to on the front porch. I’m all fired up now.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    September 15, 2017 at 8:13 am

    A beautiful legacy

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    September 15, 2017 at 7:09 am

    I see the comment as encouraging, as you will not fail. Somewhere among my belongings there is an envelope with a lock of my hair when I was born. I think that in times past a lock of hair had great significance. My lock of hair was fine, black, and long for a newborn.

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