Appalachia Appalachian Dialect



A few days ago Sanford, a Blind Pig reader sent me the following email:

“Have you ever heard anyone use the word flinderation? I used to hear it as in, “He wrecked his car and tore it all to flinderation.” My Mother had brothers that left home in East Tennessee years ago and became miners in West Virginia. After looking up the word, I am wondering if this word was something unique to my Mother’s family and actually referred to Flinderation West Virginia.”

I looked in all my Appalachian language books and didn’t see the word. Granny says “oh flitter” when something doesn’t go her way, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard flinderation. Have you?


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  • Reply
    Alan B.
    September 17, 2020 at 4:37 pm

    The cartoon character Yosemite Sam used to say “What in tarnation?” when he was surprised and confused by something. I think it is a mere contraction of “What in the entire nation?”. It means about the same as the expression “What in the world?” I suspect flinderation means about the same as smithereens, i.e., something that has been blown apart or smashed into many small pieces. The name of the allegedly haunted Flinderation, WV RR tunnel makes sense when you think that the RR had to blast a tunnel through the rock and the rock was blown to flinderation.

  • Reply
    November 25, 2018 at 6:52 pm

    Not “flinderation,” but close: I remember reading about something being tore “all to flinders” and I believe it was said by a character in a Louisa May Alcott book, possibly “An Old-Fashioned Girl.” Seems like sometime in the late 19th century, “flinders” may have been a common word in New England.

  • Reply
    November 23, 2018 at 8:04 pm

    Never heard of it myself… Found the following on a google search:

    For each chip, every shard, ‘Cause both Mabel and door are pre-war. flinderation: the condition of being reduced to fragments. That wonderful philological resource, the Dictionary of American Regional English, provides this definition as well as historical and/or regional context for this term.Sep 17, 2015
    flinderation – OEDILF – Word Lookup

    • Reply
      November 24, 2018 at 8:23 am

      Frank-thank you for the information!

  • Reply
    November 23, 2018 at 6:06 pm

    A new one on me.

  • Reply
    November 23, 2018 at 5:07 pm

    That’s a new one on me, though I have, on separate occasions, tore three trees, a bob-wire fence and another automobile all to flinders with my motor car…

  • Reply
    Liz Hart
    November 23, 2018 at 5:00 pm

    Heard ‘tore it to slinderation’ and ‘what in tarnation was that?’

    A neighbor once told us that his wife calls him ‘My Lord’. Said she says ‘my lord! Why did you do that?’

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    November 23, 2018 at 3:24 pm

    I never heard of flinderation, but when I was a little thing I remember Mama feedin’ the old wood
    cookstove and when things didn’t go right, she’d say “oh, flitterdick”. Those folks before our time
    really used “classic” words.

    I woke up just as my name was called on Aud Brown’s program and he was about to sing a song that I sung in churches all around. I’ll think of the name of it later on. Thank you for thinking of
    me. …Ken

  • Reply
    Sherry Whitaker
    November 23, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    My mother would exclaim, “I don’t give a flitter”

    or flat as a flitter. I used to wonder what in the flitter is a flitter?!

  • Reply
    November 23, 2018 at 11:17 am

    I’ve never heard the word before but someone wrote a limerack . . .

    • Reply
      November 24, 2018 at 8:23 am

      Nance-how cool it that! Thanks for the link 🙂

  • Reply
    aw griff
    November 23, 2018 at 10:47 am

    Never heard that one. I hear and use tore it all to smitterreans.

  • Reply
    Glenn Browning
    November 23, 2018 at 10:43 am

    Haven’t heard of Flinderation but have heard of “thunderation’ all my life.

  • Reply
    November 23, 2018 at 10:36 am

    Never heard flinderation. I have heard tarnation, smitheration, and I have used “Oh, flitter” quite a bit myself when things didn’t go just right, plus, “Ah, fiddle sticks.”

  • Reply
    November 23, 2018 at 9:25 am

    No, it is not familiar. I have heard what in thunderation is that? It has been so surprising how many of our expressions originate in the far off places our ancestors migrated from. I wish I had noticed this more in high school and college, as it would have been such a great subject for the many papers we had to turn in. Actually, I really did not give it a lot of thought because it just seemed to be something to overcome so city slickers would not poke fun. As they say we do get older and wiser, and I stand proud today for the unique customs and language of the Appalachian people.

    Off the subject, as I have a tendency to stray. Nothing in my Thanksgiving dinner was near as good as the fried potato cakes made from leftover mashed potatoes from yesterday’s dinner. Also, a little cream gravy spooned over them makes them makes a perfect country breakfast.

  • Reply
    November 23, 2018 at 9:13 am

    I have also heard “tore all to flinders” but not “flinderation”.

  • Reply
    November 23, 2018 at 9:13 am

    Never heard flinderation. Did have the expression of blowing something to smithereens. Something could be smashed and be “flat as a flitter”.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    November 23, 2018 at 9:11 am

    I’ve never heard flinderation before this morning.

  • Reply
    November 23, 2018 at 8:52 am

    I have never heard flinderation, but tarnation was the ugliest word to come out of the mouth of my non-cursing mom.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    November 23, 2018 at 8:50 am

    I’ve heard flitteration. Not flinderation but mite nigh toit.

  • Reply
    November 23, 2018 at 8:41 am

    Tarnation! That boy broke my sugar bowl all to smithereens! By thunder, you get back here and clean up this mess!

    • Reply
      Ann Applegarth
      November 23, 2018 at 12:03 pm

      Those are the two words we used. Especially: “What in tarnation are you doing? I told you an hour ago to take out the trash.”

  • Reply
    Dana WAll
    November 23, 2018 at 8:16 am

    My mother’s dad in Iowa had unique exclamations. This post reminded me of one Grandpa used, with variations. I never heard any one else ever say it . THUNDERATION.

    “THUNDERATION, those fellas back in WARSHington couldn’t find their nose in the mirror”

    He also often said, “by thunder.” “Thunder and mud,” was common. I wonder if his other “-ation” was a relative. He often said “tarnation.” “What in tarnation did he do that for?”

    But “thunderation” was the favorite for my cousins and me to mimic when we were kids.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    November 23, 2018 at 8:06 am

    I never heard that one but I kind of like it. Think I’ll start using it and see if it catches on around here.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    November 23, 2018 at 7:33 am

    Smitheration is the way I heard it. That big bomb is going to blow the whole world to smitheration. One of the things I love about our southern language is that we are never at a loss for words. If we don’t have a word to express what we want to say, well, we just make one up on the spot!

    • Reply
      Sanford McKinney Jr
      November 23, 2018 at 10:11 am

      I can also remember hearing “smithereens”. He lite a cherry bomb under mom’s crock and blew it into smithereens.

      smith·er·eens [ˌsmiT͟Həˈrēnz]
      plural noun:smithers
      1. small pieces.

      “a grenade blew him to smithereens”
      synonymspiece, bit, particle, speck, chip, shard, sliver, splinter, shaving, paring, snippet, scrap, offcut, flake, shred, tatter, wisp, morsel, shiver, spillikin, smithereens, skelf, spallpiece, bit, particle, speck, chip, shard, sliver, splinter, shaving, paring, snippet, scrap, offcut, flake, shred, tatter, wisp, morsel, shiver, spillikin, smithereens, skelf, spall
      early 19th century: probably from Irish smidirín.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    November 23, 2018 at 7:30 am

    Tipper–I’ve never heard that word but I’ve often heard “thunderation” used in a similar context.

    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    November 23, 2018 at 7:09 am

    Not quite but close. We said “flinders” as in “tore it all to flinders”. But I reckon a flinderation would be the state of being in flinders. Anyway, it is past fixing.

  • Reply
    November 23, 2018 at 7:02 am

    No, I have never heard the word flinderation.

  • Reply
    Betty Jo Eason
    November 23, 2018 at 6:53 am

    Hadn’t thought of it in years, but I seem to recall saying “tarnation” as in “tore it all to tarnation”……

    • Reply
      November 23, 2018 at 9:28 am

      Yes, tarnation was one of my dad’s favorite words. Never hear it anymore.

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