Appalachia Appalachian Dialect


Foundered on turkey

founder noun To become ill from overeating.
Same as flounder.
1942 Chase Jack Tales 5 Well, Jack eat about all the dinner he could hold, but the King’s old woman kept on pilin’ up his plate till he was foundered. 1975 GSMNP-59:10 He’d get in the corn or something like that and eat too much and founder him, make him sick and possible kill him . . . A mule, you can’t founder them by eating. 1990 Fisher Preacher Stories 25 An animal such as a cow or hog or horse is said to be foundered if it eats too much. At times the term is applied humorously to human beings.

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


A few weeks ago Ethelene Dyer left this comment:

Did any of you ever get “foundered” at dinner on the Grounds? Tipper that’s a word for your Appalachian vocabulary test!  I think instead of giving the definition, I will see who knows what  “foundered” means!

Like me, several of you know what the word foundered means. It’s a word I’ve heard my entire life and still hear on a regular basis. If there’s ever a time of the year to founder yourself its during Thanksgiving and Christmas.


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  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    November 17, 2016 at 6:08 pm

    Founder and flounder have many definitions.
    Having had horses many years back, so yeah – I know what “founder” means. Now some say horses are dumb, but at least one of ours (we never figured out which one) was as smart as a whip.
    We had an old lift latch on the feed room door; they figured it out, got in and foundered.
    We took that off and put on a regular door handle; they figured that out, got in and foundered.
    We took that off, drilled a hole in the door frame, put a rope through the door and frame and tied a knot in it; they figured that, got in and foundered.
    Finally we got a locking bicycle chain, looped that through the hole in the frame and the door and locked it, and that kept them out.
    You’d think as smart as they were, they would have learned by getting foundered not to eat so much. Lord, I don’t know how many nights we stayed up walking and walking and walking them to get them to eliminate to help ease the colic they’d gotten themselves into by foundering.
    Praying everyone’s having a great week.
    Praying also for the safety of the firefighters in the NC, SC & GA mountains and for all those living there too.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    November 17, 2016 at 9:14 am

    Hmm, according to the dictionary founder is when a boat or ship fills up with water. 🙂

  • Reply
    November 16, 2016 at 11:20 pm

    Hi Tipper, praying for y’all and the fires/smoke..I have people in Madison, Buncombe, and Jackson County, and it is so scary. My Dad is buried in the VA cemetery in Black Mountain, and it was really bad air quality and loads of smoke when I was up there last week for his birthday. Take care, and thanks for the heartwarming stories and chats on your blog. We appreciate you!

  • Reply
    Ronnie Seals
    November 16, 2016 at 2:42 pm

    The way my mother used it, (southern, Ky.) foundered meant that you ate so much of one thing that you loved that you never wanted to eat it again.

  • Reply
    November 16, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    I was in the bathroom when I heard Paul and Pap singing a Christian Song I hadn’t heard in years. Time went by before I got in here at the Computer and now I can’t remember Crap, but anything they sing is awfully good. …Ken

  • Reply
    November 16, 2016 at 2:21 pm

    I heard founder a lot at home and with older family members. My grandmother also told a story of a poor ole cow that had foundered and was so miserable. I greatly enjoyed b. ruth’s story about the rooster, but I must mention that I’ve never heard ‘dead as a door knob’, only ‘dead as a doornail !’

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    November 16, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    I read b.Ruth’s comment about “to slop” which I thought meant when you carried the slop in the slop bucket and poured it in the hog trough. Her hint, which speaks of ball pein hammers and and guns, suggests that a porcine creature will soon cease to consume and become consumable.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    November 16, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    I think the disease Ann is talking about is Laminitis. If it is, one of the causes is the makeup of the food the horses eat. They might not “overeat” but eat enough to gain weight which causes more pressure on their legs and hooves. Remember horses sleep standing up, so their hooves and legs are under constant pressure. Horses that are free range or in big enough pastures where they can eat a varied diet and run to burn off the excess weight do not contract the disease nearly as often.

  • Reply
    November 16, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    I had a friend from the Thumb part of Michigan who lived next door to my shop. We got along real good and although he was raised by a bunch of Catholic Teachers, he never lost that Yankee accent. He had 10 daughters and a dud. The last one was a boy. He was in my shop alot, and I listened to him, cause he was real smart. He worked on the Great Lakes in earlier years and one of his expressions was “I’ve come dead in the water,” meaning he was tired. At his funeral, I got to meet the rest of his family and they spoke stories of kindness he had mentioned to them. …Ken

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    November 16, 2016 at 12:18 pm

    I wonder if many of your readers know what, “to slop” means in Appalachian terminology?
    Thanks and you can use this question later if you want to! Especially, since it getting about that time of year and one of the things done during cold weather usually around if not on Thanksgiving day or close by it anyways! Remember even when Thanksgiving was sometimes a special meal, it too was a very busy work day, if the weather was just right. Not all the boys got to go huntin’ on Thanksgiving morning. I’ll give you a hint…Dad said his Dad used a ball pin hammer but later started using a direct shot with a gun! Ewwwww, I’m glad I don’t have to do it anymore!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    November 16, 2016 at 11:02 am

    Ships flounder on the rocks, not founder. I think that is because they look like the flounder fish which swim on its side. I suppose if you ate too much flounder, you might founder yourself. Especially if you had plenty of good hushpuppies, coleslaw and sweet tea alongside it.
    When cows get foundered they can die. Farmers and ranchers have to watch what the cattle are eating. If they are in a new pasture they might eat the fresh green grass to a point where their digestion processes get locked up. I have seen my Daddy stick a rubber hose down a cows throat and pour mineral oil down into her stomach. I have heard of farmers sticking a knife into a cow’s side to relieve the pressure in her stomach.
    In school they taught us to chew our food 15 times before we swallowed. I don’t count any more but I do chew my food longer than most people I am around. When I go out to eat, my companions are through and ready to go while I am still working on the salad.
    Such memories tend to make me watch how much I eat. I don’t remember ever being foundered but I know the word and have seen it happen to many other people.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    November 16, 2016 at 10:46 am

    I have heard and used the word ‘foundered’ all my life. I think any farmer or anyone that has raised horses, cattle, hogs, chickens, etc. know the word foundered, especially in Appalachia.
    My Dad got in deep trouble one time when picking ‘baccer worms off the tobacco. He said they were walking rows, with pails, pickin’ off worms. They were supposed to either step on them or put them in the bucket and “drown’em in the crick”! Dad said there was an old hateful rooster that would attack him and his brothers ever time they went to the barn to feed or milk.
    But, when he picked off ‘backer worms it followed him and he would throw that old mean rooster worms, which it gobbled up with delight. His Dad seen this and shouted from a row or two acrost, “Don’t feed Mammy’s rooster them worms, or you’re going to founder it!” Well, there was five boys, most pickin’ worms, most hated the rooster so they kept sneaking that rooster ‘baccer worms. Up and down the rows they went, rooster a’hoppin’ and a’skirtin’ and pickin’ up ‘baccer worms. My Dad said later up in the mornin’ that rooster was slowin’ down while a’follin’ them and pickin’ up the worms. Soon one of them said, “Lookee there!” Yep, that old rooster keeled over, died deader than a doorknob! “We’re in deep trouble now,” they said, “We’ve foundered Mammy’s rooster!” Dad said it didn’t eat too many worms, he said it was all that “nicotine” in the worms that probably killed it! The rooster mysteriously disappeared from the ‘baccer field? When asking if they had seen her rooster, they told Mammy the last they’d seen it, it was headed toward the barn fer Pappy told’em not to feed it ‘baccer worms! Dad would laugh about it and said, “Mammy had many good roosters, but that one she liked and took pride in the fact that it only liked her and mean to everybody else!” He said he could finally feed the hogs and milk without having to worry he was gonna get flogged by that hateful rooster again!
    And that’s the story of the “foundered” rooster on a Mars Hill ‘baccer farm!
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    November 16, 2016 at 10:40 am

    Yes, I have always heard and used “founder” to mean eating too much. Also,
    when I was a child, I heard about horses that were “foundered” and I thought it meant that they had eaten too much. Then I learned that “founder” in horses is a hoof disease and has nothing to do with overeating. Our English language is so complex — it also can mean the person who starts a company or an organization, or a sinking ship. Maybe the term was originally applied to horses with a hoof disease that made them fall down?

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    November 16, 2016 at 10:31 am

    I’ve heard, used and been foundered but I think Suzy was thinking of the ship floundering not foundering. I’ve also heard all my life that one of the advantages of having a mule rather than a horse is that a mule will only eat what it needs and will not founder itself like a horse will. This is only one of the advantages of owning a mule rather than a horse, another is that a mule’s eyes are set further back on the side of it’s head making it much more sure footed than a horse since the mule can see it’s front feet and where to place them. This is one reason they use mules for trail rides into and out of the Grand Canyon.

  • Reply
    November 16, 2016 at 10:30 am

    Jackie-thank you for the comments! Yes the smoke has been really bad up here. Yesterday and today have been better in my area of Cherokee County. Over the weekend the smoke was downright spooky. Im sure praying for rain and for the many brave firefighters who are working around the clock to stop the fires. 

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    November 16, 2016 at 10:28 am

    Good word, I’ve heard it all my life applied to animals and people. I’ll probably founder myself this Thanksgiving. Roy Pipes mentioned the scours. I thought I was about the only one that still used that word!

  • Reply
    November 16, 2016 at 9:27 am

    Foundered is one of my favorite old words. I learned it many years ago on 4th of July. My grandparents did not have electricity, so when we gathered at their house watermelons were place in the spring. Gallons of different flavors of ice cream was brought in on dry ice. It was a great day of celebration with cousins and uncles and aunts my same age or younger. They rarely got ice cream, so my uncle ate too much, and used the word “foundered” to describe his distaste for ice cream thereafter.
    Later in life I tended to eat apples all day because there was just so much adventure out there, and I didn’t want to take time to go home. Apples, berries, and nuts were my fast-food of yesteryear. I became foundered on apples and for many years could not eat unless in fried apple pies. There is hope for all, as later in life I regained my love for apples. I rarely hear the word except as referring to horses. But, foundered is a word that brings back feelings of nostalgia for a childhood filled with 4th of July celebrations and climbing apple trees. It also had the freedom to explore and learn with no food police to prevent children from becoming “foundered.”

  • Reply
    Marylou Sweat
    November 16, 2016 at 9:15 am

    I remember, back when I was about 14/15(1964/1965) or so, I was getting over a bad case of the flu…I was just starting to get my appetite back and my mom had a pot of collard greens on the stove. Oh they smelled so good and I wanted some! She warned me to only eat a little but I didn’t listen. They tasted sooo good! But I foundered on them as she said I would and was sick all over again, although not in the same way. I couldn’t eat collards for years after that. Marylou

  • Reply
    November 16, 2016 at 9:12 am

    I have only heard the word in a nautical sense, as a ship has foundered on the reef.
    Love learning new meaning to words. While a yankee by birth, I am a southerner at heart.

  • Reply
    Roy Pipes
    November 16, 2016 at 9:09 am

    When our cows got foundered they usually also got the Scours. An old Appalachian term.

  • Reply
    November 16, 2016 at 8:56 am

    I’ve heard “founder” as a reference to a sick or old animal that is down and can’t get up; or as a ship foundering (stuck on an obstacle and/or sinking). I guess those have the same connatation as over-eating and immobile.

  • Reply
    November 16, 2016 at 8:27 am

    Is the smoke not over whelming at Fontana and elsewhere up there? It is bad down here. Shelby, Cleveland, Gaston and Mecklenburg counties are red zones for breathing.

  • Reply
    November 16, 2016 at 8:26 am

    Haven’t heard “foundered” in a good while and don’t think I ever used it; but, as soon as I read it my brain’s eye filled with images of family dinners and church socials and someone saying (or being accused that) they were “foundered”. Two images in particular stand out: an uncle rocking back in his chair and patting his belly at what must have been a Sunday dinner saying, “Good thing I don’t have to get on the tractor today. I’m foundered!”; and a cousin tipping her chair back and saying “I can’t help with the dishes, I’m foundered!”

  • Reply
    anita griffith
    November 16, 2016 at 8:25 am

    Years age,my wife foundered on celery.Now she won’t eat celery period.
    I still hear when someone eats too much,that their eye was bigger than their belly.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    November 16, 2016 at 8:08 am

    Yep, heard foundered about all my life but it has been awhile since I last did. My father-in-law foundered on pumpkin when he was a boy. He thought if it was so good cooked it must be good raw. Tried it and made himself sick. Won’t have anything to do with pumpkin now.
    Guess foundering once upon a time was associated with gluttony or, as the KJV says it, “surfeiting”. It was physically risky but it was also about being immoderate and not recognizing reasonable limits thus having a moral dimension.
    Thanks for the reminder of a good old word, one of those we need to keep alive if we can.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    November 16, 2016 at 6:55 am

    I’ve heard that expression all my life. It means over full in a good way from good food!

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