Appalachia Appalachian Dialect

Appalachian Vocabulary Test – The Garden Edition

Appalachian Vocabulary Test - The Garden Edition

Since most folks are either itching to get their garden planted-or have already started-I thought it’d be a good time for a special edition vocabulary test. Take it and see how familiar you are with the words below.

  1. Boy dixie
  2. Chalk
  3. Dropper
  4. Hew out land
  5. Lay off

Appalachian Vocabulary Test - The Garden Edition 2


  1. Boy Dixie: a single plowshare. “My Grandpa said he had no use for today’s modern contraptions-give him his team of mules and boy dixie and he’d be just fine.”
  2. Chalk: to cut weeds from a crop. “After I caught them fighting I give both of them a hoe and told them to get out there and chalk the corn. That ought to keep them out of trouble for a while.”
  3. Dropper: machine that drops tobacco plants down the length of the field. “With my back out I could barely keep up with the dropper. Mommy had to come out and spell me a while after dinner.”
  4. Hew out land: to clear land for a field, garden, pasture, etc. “All those fields between Murphy and Andrews used to be a thick forest before the first settlers hew out the land.”
  5. Lay off: to mark off rows for planting with a plow or hoe. “I couldn’t lay off a straight row to save my life.”

I failed my own test. I had never heard of boy dixie, chalk, or dropper till I read the words in my Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English.

As for the other 2 words:

*I don’t know how you’d make a row without laying it off first. In other words-we all use lay off around here.

*Hew out land reminded me of an old song-Hewn Out Of The Mountainside-its going round and round in my head now. I tried to find a version of it on youtube so you could have it in your head-but couldn’t. If you’ve ever been to an old timey church-you might remember it-usually the people or person who sings it-acts it out as well.

So how did you do on the test?



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  • Reply
    April 5, 2012 at 10:05 pm

    Only one I’ve heard before is Hew out land.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Nancy M.
    April 3, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    I’ve never used any of those personally. The only one I’ve even heard of is hew out.

  • Reply
    April 1, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    Didn’t really recognize any of those but hewn…the song from Church…”Jesus is the Rock that was hewn outta the mountain, Jesus is the Rock that was hewn outta the mountain and repeat again….tearing down the kingdoms of this world.”

  • Reply
    March 31, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    I’ve heard lay off but that’s all. So you are doing better than I. LOL

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    March 31, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    The last two were the only ones I knew, too. There’s not too much tobacco farming where I live.

  • Reply
    March 31, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    I can’t believe it, I do think it is the first time this PNW girl has missed every single one. I knew and use hew but not in that phrase.

  • Reply
    B f
    March 31, 2012 at 7:22 am

    i always thought that to”spell you” for awhile meant someone was going to take your place and let you rest for a spell .

  • Reply
    March 31, 2012 at 3:03 am

    I usually tell you which words are used over here in the UK. As far as I know – none of em!

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    March 31, 2012 at 12:34 am

    This is nuts, I was right on 4 and was right on the first one too. I was guessing it. The rest of the terms I have heard many times. I bet I have more we could add.
    So I got all of them with guessing on the first one.
    WOOOE is me I am definitely country. :>)

  • Reply
    Bobby C
    March 30, 2012 at 11:16 pm

    Tipper, I was feeling pretty bad about this one until I read that you failed too. Like you, I only knew the last two.

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    March 30, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    No boy dixie & no chalk. I know what hewing is, but we call it making new ground. And is a baccer setter & dropper the same thing? I have one of those hanging on my front poroch-it’s a great place for mama birds to build their nests!

  • Reply
    Jeanna M
    March 30, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    I only knew laid off and hew. Of course I always heard it as hewn.

  • Reply
    susie swanson
    March 30, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    I only missed one and that was Boy Dixie, can’t say as I heard it but may have…As a kid you don’t pay much attention to things..I wish I had more than I did..

  • Reply
    March 30, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    I didn’t do so great on this test! The only one that I have heard is laying off rows.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    March 30, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    Tipper—First time I’ve ever been stumped by one of your tests, but in this case not one but two of the terms were new to me. Although I’m familiar with horse or mule plowing I never heard the term Boy Dixie. Similarly, I’m unfamiliar with chalk. The others I knew. I’m guessing, since you say you failed as well, that the first two terms have pretty well passed out of usage. Incidentally, the word dropper is used in various ways, and the ones I’m familiar with vary at least a little from the definition from that wonderful reference source, the Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English. The droppers I am familiar with are a chute-like tool for dispensing tobacco plants (also tomato plants) from a moving tractor or horsedrawn device, but it requires someone to feed the dropper as well as someone following on the ground to set dirt around the plants. Dropper can also refer to the individual placing the plants in the tool (or doing it by hand without the tool). I saw far more of this done in southside Virginia tobacco country when I taught there for a spell in the mid-60s before starting graduate school than I ever did in the mountains.
    Since you mention the Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English, which anyone with a deep, abiding interest in mountain talk should own, I’ll give your readers a heads up on another equally important book which is just about to enter the pipeline of the same publisher, the University of Tennessee Press. It is “Terra Incognita: Writings on the great Smoky Mountains, 1544-1934.” Written and compiled by Ken Wise and Anne Bridges, both of whom work in the library at the University of Tennessee, it will be invaluable to anyone who has deep interest in the history of the Smokies. I served as one of the readers for the manuscript is why I know it is in the works, at the folks at the press tell me the other reader’s reaction, like mine, was highly positive.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Richard Beauchamp
    March 30, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    I was only familiar with lay off. I have never heard any of the others used.

  • Reply
    March 30, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    Wow, I didn’t know a one but, it was interesting all the same.

  • Reply
    March 30, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    I’m afraid I didn’t do very well on this one; I only knew “lay off”. But, I always learn something when I get a wrong answer.

  • Reply
    Karen Larsen
    March 30, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    I get an “F”!

  • Reply
    Pat in east TN
    March 30, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    I’ve heard of 3 and 5, but none of the others.

  • Reply
    March 30, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    I knew the last 2.
    I have been around plows all my life in west TN but have never heard of a Boy Dixie. Is that a brand name?

  • Reply
    March 30, 2012 at 11:43 am

    I think “lay off” is the only one
    of these that I know. Didn’t know
    ‘dropper’ probably cause none of
    us ever raised any ‘baccer’. When
    my daddy was asked why his layed
    off rows was crooked as a dog’s
    hine leg, he just said you got more stuff in a crooked row. I use
    a string attached to steel posts
    and pulled tightly across my
    garden and use the corner of a
    hoe (not the ones from Chicago)
    to pull across underneath the
    string. Being straight and accurate with my rows is probably
    an ole toolmaker thing of mine.
    But I sure failed this test
    miserably this time…Ken

  • Reply
    March 30, 2012 at 10:57 am

    Tipper, I surely failed this one also, I have never heard of chalk, or dropper either. But laying off a row, well we are not good at that either, but Mother says we can get more in a crooked row than a straight one. hahahaha
    Thanks for the great post It always makes my day brighter!

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    March 30, 2012 at 10:24 am

    Boy Dixie I’ve heard but it was “Oh boy dixie”…maybe it was used differently….or I misunderstood the saying…possible..LOL
    Chalk…I’ve heard like chalk it straight or chalk that line before you cut…never as chalk the corn…
    The rest I’ve heard as the grandaughter of a baccer’ farmer…
    Thanks for a great post…Now then, what exactly did you mean by “Mommy having to spell you a while”?..I think I know but not quite sure, I’ve heard it that way!

  • Reply
    Tim Cuthbertson
    March 30, 2012 at 10:02 am

    I’m right there with you, Tipper. The only one I knew for sure was “hew out”, but I pretty much understood “lay off”. I would probably say “lay out”, though.

  • Reply
    March 30, 2012 at 9:58 am

    When we get to our cabin next week we are going to spend a lot of time hewing out the land:) I sure hope my husband will lay out straight rows, and I bet we’ll be buying us a dropper & boy dixie sooner than later!

  • Reply
    Lonnie Dockery
    March 30, 2012 at 9:46 am

    You got me on that one. Lay off is the only one I know.

  • Reply
    March 30, 2012 at 9:26 am

    Failed the test flat on my face. I don’t even know what it means that “Mommy had to come out and spell me a while after dinner”. Must be I really was gone from the mountains too long.

  • Reply
    March 30, 2012 at 8:50 am

    I’ve used and heard all except “Boy Dixie”. I guess I live a little too north for that one.:) We have always used the word dropper but wasn’t referring to a machine it was who ever got the job of spacing and dropping the plants by hand. We never grew tobacco.

  • Reply
    Granny Sue
    March 30, 2012 at 8:48 am

    Not well! I have never heard of boy dixie, chalk in that context, or dropper–although we had one; we just called it the setter or planter. Laying off rows is a term we use though, and instead of hewing out land, we say clearing new ground. My husband cuts “swarps” when clearing brush, and of course we hill up potatoes, tie up tomatoes, pick messes of greens, and I just rare when Larry cuts down my flowers with the weedeater.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    March 30, 2012 at 8:47 am

    Well, you got me on the first two, I wonder if boy dixie might have been a brand name for a plow at one time, I’ve never heard hoeing called chaulking and I’ve done my share of hoeing.

  • Reply
    Mary Shipman
    March 30, 2012 at 8:45 am

    Lay off was the only term listed that I had heard on a regular basis, Tipper. The others were interesting to add to my growing vocabulary.
    Boy Dixie is ‘boy howdy’ here. Hew out more likely ‘cut off’ the land
    I had never heard of chalk used in that context, or dropper, not much tobacco farming here in my part of Missouri.

  • Reply
    Canned Quilter
    March 30, 2012 at 8:39 am

    Sad to say I failed this one Tipper. I had not heard or used any of the 5.

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    March 30, 2012 at 8:34 am

    knew the last two! Hewn Out the Mountainside is actually “Looking for the Stone” and is on a CD by Tim & Mollie O’Brien — can’t remember which one exactly. I found a link by another group and I sent it via e-mail.

  • Reply
    Vera Guthrie
    March 30, 2012 at 8:34 am

    I didn’t know what a Boy Dixie was but the rest I did. I have worked at many a Dropper setting tobacco.

  • Reply
    March 30, 2012 at 8:32 am

    the only one i knew was lay off, the rest are all knew to me.

  • Reply
    March 30, 2012 at 8:27 am


  • Reply
    March 30, 2012 at 8:07 am

    Not well. Never heard any used that way. We “mark” our garden rows here.

  • Reply
    March 30, 2012 at 8:06 am

    Skunked! I’ve never heard even one of those expressions. Looking forward to seeing what other readers say.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    March 30, 2012 at 8:05 am

    I failed miserably. Didn’t know any of the terms!

  • Reply
    Bill Dotson
    March 30, 2012 at 8:04 am

    Dad used to use the horse and the lay off plow for our garden and our tobacco patch but I didn’t know the others.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    March 30, 2012 at 8:01 am

    Tipper, I did the same as you. Never heard of dixie boy, chalk, or dropper.
    Lay off a row I’ve heard plenty. Seems to me I’ve heard lay off used for other straight lines as well as well as gardening, like building a house or an out building.
    Hew out land I have heard. I associate it with clearing land by hand rather than using equipment.
    Good test Tipper, not many words come along that stump you and there was three in this test!

  • Reply
    March 30, 2012 at 7:52 am

    The only one I figured out was “hew out land”…but once I read your definition, it makes sense to “lay off” the rows. After all…I do scrapbook page “lay outs” all the time! 🙂 The others were totally foreign though, to this PA Dutchie girl. I enjoy these posts!

  • Reply
    Carol Killian
    March 30, 2012 at 7:47 am

    I missed 2. I had not heard boy dixie or chalk used.
    Have a fabulous Friday!

  • Reply
    Jessie : Improved
    March 30, 2012 at 7:42 am

    I did just as poorly on this test. With as colorful as my grandfather’s speech is (and being a former farmer and gardener to this day) I hadn’t heard #1, #2, and #3. The last two are pretty obvious though to this Southerner.

  • Reply
    March 30, 2012 at 7:34 am

    I sure failed this test! The only words I am familiar with are hew and lay off, though we’re more likely to say, “I couldn’t lay out (OR mark out) a straight row to save my life.” up here, with lay off being mostly another way to say “stop it”, “You better lay off snitching cookies or Mom will tan you!”

  • Reply
    March 30, 2012 at 7:21 am

    I’ve never heard of those 3 terms either.Just depends on the part of the country you are from. Am so looking forward to some fresh veggies

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    March 30, 2012 at 7:19 am

    Me too, the only one I’ve heard, but never used is Hewn out with the same meaning you gave.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    March 30, 2012 at 5:42 am

    I am a miserable failure today. But I learnt from it. I knew only lay off. We had a laying off plow that opened up a row but didn’t turn the soil over like a turning plow. Lay off is also putting aside ’til another day.
    I guess I am a dropper and a setter outer too. We always planted baccer by hand. Dropping, setting and watering in. I’ve seen the better people use the planters behind a tractor.
    Hew out land, I call clear a new ground.
    I found your song
    Chalk and Boy Dixie I never heard of but I’ll know next time.

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