Appalachian Dialect Sayings from Appalachia

Family Sayings


My family used “My foot.” a lot.  Best way to let someone know you doubted something they said. We also used the phrase, “…while I tap my foot.”, to mean, “You just keep on telling me that story, and I’m gonna let you know that  I’m just not buying it”.  That brings up another term that we used all the time. In my house, we weren’t allowed to use the words, “lie”, or “liar”. They were considered bad words. Instead, we used the word “story” to mean “lie”, and “story teller” to mean “liar”.  “Tell me the truth. Don’t tell me a story.” Or. “Mama, Billy told a story”.  That brings up the term, “tattletail” that we used when somebody told on somebody to a grown-up.  Once somebody had that reputation, it would follow him or her forever. Guess it’s the same as a “snitch”.

Vann Helms – February 2020

My family used the phrase “my foot’ when we were in disbelief of something the same as Vann’s family.

We also said “She’s telling a story” instead of “She’s lying,” I had forgotten about using story for lie until Vann mentioned it.

No one in my childhood circle wanted to be known as a tattletail.


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  • Reply
    Linda Krause
    January 22, 2022 at 6:44 pm

    Oh Ron Stephens there is so much written in your few words! If people grew up learning what you did (requires a little common sense and a little goodness within the person) then America would be in much better shape. Some people have gotten more lax with their tongues which leads them to say things in a rougher way either because they don’t know how to say it in a nicer way or because they don’t care what they say or how it sounds. Then others take offense at hardly anything at all except when they really should. Relationships are suffering and social skills are declining. Kindness, sincerity, loyalty, and honesty are traits that have always been needed, but it seems to me that good characterestics are needed more today than ever before. I am a person that still believes that those positive things begin in the home and are nurtured there, then they are displayed everywhere else. Oh I hope and pray children are once again taught by example. It would change everything!

  • Reply
    Terri Staines
    January 11, 2021 at 9:06 am

    I just discovered this blog and am so glad I did! I don’t know my family’s genealogy past my grandparents but I declare, some of them must have come to south Georgia from deep in Appalachia! So many of the words and phrases are familiar to me. I fondly remember my one of my grandparents calling us “younguns” or my Granny saying to visitors as they were leaving, “y’all be coming back.” Other words/phrases fondly remembered are “well, I swanee! (Expressing exasperation)” Or “might do” as in response to a comment about an action or opinion someone may take or have. Another example is “belong to,” as in stating a preferred action by someone else, “you belong to be minding your own business, or you belong to be keeping your room clean.” Reckon and fixin are two more. “I reckon I better start supper,” or “I’m fixin to run to the store.” When my paternal grandmother saw me for the first time in a maternity top, she called it a “hatchin jacket.” “Messin and gaumin” is another phrase commonly used to refer to anyone, but usually kids, making a mess of things. So, the list goes on….love this site, Tipper!

  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    September 1, 2020 at 5:44 pm

    Tipper Miss Julie wasn’t one for slang but I she did say not don’t story to me but Dad was full of saying . One was just listen to that dickens blow his horn. Maybe politicians needs to use that one.

  • Reply
    Delonda Anderson
    August 28, 2020 at 11:06 am

    One phrase I heard growing up and still do is “I swan,” instead of “I swear,” because the Bible says you shouldn’t swear. And I heard it in different ways, too: “I swan,” “I swanee,” or, “I swan to my goodness.” Thank you for this post. It brought such pleasant memories to mind.

  • Reply
    Don Byers
    August 27, 2020 at 3:28 pm

    My Granddad Nick Byers (1886-1955) used “I ginny” or “I ganny” for “by golly”////.

  • Reply
    August 27, 2020 at 1:35 pm

    Our chant was, “Tattletale, tattletale, Hang your britches on a nail.”
    My wife told our daughter it was easy to tell when she was lying. It was written across her forehead. Next day the daughter came in with her hand covering her forehead and began, “Mom I…” We both knew immediately she was beginning a false tale.

  • Reply
    Georgia Styer
    August 27, 2020 at 9:06 am

    Hello! I thoroughly enjoyed this issue and remember all of those “sayings,” even though I’m originally from Georgia. I’ve lived in West Virginia since 1972. I want to add something that makes me chuckle to think about after all these years. My mother would say, “Now, don’t be ugly!”, meaning don’t be mean or bratty! I loved my upbringing!

    • Reply
      Leonard Barnett
      August 27, 2020 at 4:35 pm

      I was born and raised in western Kentucky and so was my momma,she use to use words like Branch was a stream,bluff was a cliff,holler was a valley,a grass sack was a burlap sack,bless her heart was a common phrase and there were many more.

  • Reply
    Margie Goldstein ( and her hillbilly converts)
    August 27, 2020 at 9:00 am

    Mommy KNEW when I was lying. She would say “look at me!” I suppose my big brown eyes would get the size of a deer’s eyes caught in the light. Even to this day, I’m the WORST LIAR in modern times so I just don’t do it. (But I would lie if I had to in a life or death situation, etc.) I still say “my foot!” I think it’s funny from North Crackalacki (Carolina) to WV we say a lot of the same things. To this day I think a LIAR and a THIEF are the worst types of losers there are!!! Smh as I think about ALL these types of losers running rampant in our society today. Perhaps they will seek the LORD while HE may still be found… I pray so anyway.

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      August 27, 2020 at 4:48 pm

      Smh? I’m old, I am a hillbilly, I’m not up on modern terminology! What does it mean?

      • Reply
        Old Hillbilly Myself
        August 28, 2020 at 5:30 pm

        I’m an old hillbilly too.

        SMH is internet jargon meaning “Smack my head” as when someone smacks their own forehead with an open palm to express disbelief or incredulity.


  • Reply
    August 27, 2020 at 8:59 am

    Somehow Vann’s post mostly reminds me of the hoards of children present most of the time when I was a child. Mom and Dad both had very large families, and there was a lot of visiting. I cannot imagine why their heads weren’t rattling with all the kids accusing each other of telling not only a story, but saying they told a “big story.” I remember a lot of “oh, flitter” and “good gracious.”

    There were not many “tattletails” even when a child did something totally dangerous. There was one exception, as I had an Uncle my very same age, and we were a “mess” together. He just recently laughingly told me I was a tattletail when I was little. I must have gotten him in trouble at some time or other. He ruled Grandpa’s farm with an iron hand, and made certain we didn’t pick the apples, and only allowed us to pick up from the ground. I still call him the “supervisor” even today. But, I always liked to challenge his rules of “can’t pick the apples.” I once crawled up on top of a shed and managed to delicately eat an apple while it remained hanging. He would check all our stems as we came around the corner of the house from the orchard to see if they were browned from laying on the ground, or if they had a fresh stem from recently picking them. I learned to rub my stem in the dirt quickly fooling the “supervisor” into thinking I found the apple on the ground. Such were the antics of the hoards of children that invaded my grandfather’s farm.

  • Reply
    August 27, 2020 at 8:54 am

    “He’s a bald faced liar and the truth ain’t in him” expressed total disbelief. Tattletail may have described our childhood friends but if we heard grownups saying “that old long-tongued thang” we knew an adult tattletail had told something on somebody.
    I still say “my foot.”

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    August 27, 2020 at 8:42 am

    I think a theme in your post and in the comments thus far is that most of us were taught by example not to be provocative or coarse or crude in how we talked. Many of your past posts contain the same idea. We were taught to be conservative or moderate with our words. I don’t recall ever being told specifically that name calling was wrong but I grew up understanding it. Those ‘folksy’ ways of talking got the point across without hitting anybody with a club or pokin’ em with a stick. We’re seeing now what happens when folks go around with a big chip on their shoulder just daring anybody to look at them cross-eyed.

    I’m sure my life was full of family sayings but for the life of me I can’t think of a one that was in any way unique to us. Long-term readers will know I have often posted about sayings of my Dad though. Without Tipper’s help I would not have recalled many of them.

  • Reply
    gayle larson
    August 27, 2020 at 8:29 am

    I still use “my foot”. My Mother would also say “would you like to go out and come back in with the real story. Seems like she could always tell if we were not telling the truth.

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    August 27, 2020 at 7:49 am

    When I was in elementary school, if someone tattled, kids would chant, “Tattletale, tattletale, hangin’ on a bull’s tail!”

  • Reply
    aw griff
    August 27, 2020 at 7:46 am

    My family used my foot or my big toe. We didn’t use while I tap my foot but I’ve heard my Wife say yeah when pigs fly. We weren’t allowed to call anyone a liar, You could say they storied, were mistaken, fibbed, or call their story a bear tale. You know that in school there was always someone that wanted to be the teacher’s pet and would tell you for doing something wrong. We too called them tattletails.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    August 27, 2020 at 7:33 am

    My family had 2 variations of this. My daddy said my hind foot and my momma said my left foot.

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    August 27, 2020 at 7:04 am

    People in my family used many of the same terms as Vann tells us his family used. When I entered the Navy, I learned an entire new vocabulary. Well, to tell you the truth, I knew most of it already but didn’t to use it around anyone who could swat me with something. Sad to say, you can take the sailor out of the Navy but you can’y take the Navy out of the sailor.

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