Appalachia Appalachian Dialect

Green Up

Greenup in the spring

A few months ago I received the following email:

Dear Ms. Pressley –

I have enjoyed browsing your blog because language means so much and because, sadly, our many variations of language are becoming overly homogenized.

My family has deep roots in Southern Appalachia. We trace to the North Carolina coast in the late 1600s and were in the hills by the 1700s. So, even though I live in Wyoming, now, I come by it naturally.

I would like to ask you about the word “greenup”. Yes, I am aware that there is the town in Kentucky. And I am also aware that it is a surname. But I know the expression as a season – when the grass begins to green – not spring, yet – but soon coming.

Are you familiar with this term? Is it an old English or Scots usage? I am curious because I used it with some young people and then discovered that there is practically nothing online.

Thanks, again, for your wonderful blog.

John Egan
Buffalo, WY

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I have heard the phrase green up used to describe the greening of spring my whole life. The Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English has this entry for green up:

green up, green-up time noun Springtime.
1976 Dwyer Southern Sayin’s 23 = springtime. “It’s comin’ green up.” 1991 Haynes Haywood Home 56 Springtime, just at green-up time, was the time for making popguns and willow whistles….It’s the time when buds come on the willows and elders along the branches and creeks and their bark gets loose.

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Every Spring I wish that I could put my finger on the exact moment green up magically occurs. I know it’s not an instantaneous thing, instead it happens in small increments until finally it arrives.

Green up happened last week in Brasstown. It took place sometime while I slept on Monday night. As I drove to work on Tuesday morning I was almost blinded by the green glory of Spring.

Tipper

 

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23 Comments

  • Reply
    Tamela
    April 24, 2015 at 12:12 pm

    Wonder in Don Casada will grace us with some progression of fall pictures when it comes time. – I hope so !

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    April 23, 2015 at 8:55 am

    Sheryl said ‘leaf out’ and made me think. I’ve used both ‘greenup’ and ‘leaf out’ and never focused on whether I was saying the same thing or two different things. I think leaf out is a liitle bit later than greenup but I suspect I’ve used them interchangeably.

  • Reply
    barbara Gantt
    April 22, 2015 at 8:23 pm

    I used to hear that when we lived in Lenoir. Here is Vt. the first Sat. in May is always Green Up Day. Green bags are given out for people to clean up the sides of the roads and parks. Dont know if other places do this too. Barbara

  • Reply
    TimMc
    April 22, 2015 at 6:55 pm

    I’m reminded every spring of the song that Johnny Cash wrote 40 shades of green.. And we’ve seen that the last few weeks, with all the rain, everything is just glowing green seems more that usual…love that song.. Hey,, that would be a good one for Paul and Pap…

  • Reply
    Ken
    April 22, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    Tipper,
    “Greenup” is not a word that I did not hear growing up, but I know exactly what it means.
    Those pictures by Don are breath-
    taking. I knew if anyone had any
    pictures of the coming of Spring,
    my friend would share them.
    There’s a lot of grass-mowin’
    going on today after all the rain
    we’ve had…Ken

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    April 22, 2015 at 2:06 pm

    It has greened up around here too. It seems it happened over night. Before it greened up it started putting out. ” Boy, the trees sure are putting out now!” Shoot, it’s green as a gourd around here.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    April 22, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    The other morning when I went out I noticed how everything had greened up. There was a layer of pollen all over everything. Since all the rain recently a lot of tree leaves have popped out but it has been so windy of late that many of them have blown off. Especially off the poplars.

  • Reply
    Kate
    April 22, 2015 at 12:35 pm

    That was me just the other day! It was winter, winter, winter, BAM! And now the grass is green and trees all pretty looking 🙂 Its great 🙂

  • Reply
    Tamela
    April 22, 2015 at 11:59 am

    Green-up always happens with a flourish around here. There is a pinkish-greenish haze for a while which lingers as long as the spring warming spells are brief and not to warm. Then, one day you see that a few trees have new frocks and before you know it the entire woods are decked out in new finery; this usually occurs near a windy time so the trees seem to be swirling their skirts and shawls as they dance in the wind.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    April 22, 2015 at 11:42 am

    Tipper–I’ve always heard it used as “greening-up” and invariably as an adjective with time; i. e., turkeys really take to gobbling in greening-up time.” In truth, they haven’t done all that much gobbling this spring, at least not when I’ve been in the woods. I’ve killed three but hunted hard and had lots of days when I didn’t hear a peep. Normally I’m limited out (five birds) here in S. C. by this time. Maybe the wet weather has got their gobbling mechanism shut down just as it has my gardening plans on hiatus.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, PhD
    April 22, 2015 at 10:38 am

    Tipper: Mr. John Egan’s ‘history’ through NC kind of follows mine – from East to West of the state. But we settled for good in Clay County. Sometimes I think I am the only child of ELEVEN who crossed over the mountains (Smokies!) to live in TN. But I am headed back every chance I get. In fact we will be at High Hampton Inn for a wonderful BOOK EVENT soon. Can’t wait.
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, PhD
    p.s. I hope to tell the BIG TIME AUTHORS about “Fiddler of the
    Mountains” as I am sure they have never been so lucky to read your blog and know about my book! THANKS!

  • Reply
    Carol Stuart
    April 22, 2015 at 10:36 am

    I have heard “greening up” my whole life. “Look how things are greening up! Spring is here for sure.” Have heard this in both WV and in VA.

  • Reply
    PinnacleCreek
    April 22, 2015 at 9:48 am

    Green up used to sneak up on me when I traveled daily. I would get caught up in the “cares of the world”and not notice– would want to kick myself. Actually the time that got me excited was early spring when the mountains would take on a slight smoky rose color from the kazillion of new buds. Probably only exciting to me, but I knew Green up was close. I have lived where there were no seasons, and I will now be grateful even for a harsh winter that promises relief come Spring.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    April 22, 2015 at 9:27 am

    I had to smile at your post for two reasons. One, I’ve used and heard ‘greenup’ all my life without one time thinking of whether everybody used it or not. Two, I have been trying for decades to catch Spring in the act of arriving and I never have because I keep finding earlier and earlier indicators. The one I tend to rely on most is the red maple twigs turning brighter red.
    Over on the west side of the mountains, in the Great Appalachian Valley, greenup climbs the mountain side in stages. First stage is up to around 1600-1890 feet. Then it stalls for about 10 days or so before it makes a sudden jump up another 1500 feet or so.
    I like all the seasons. But if I had to pick a favorite, it would be spring.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    April 22, 2015 at 8:47 am

    “Have you noticed? It’s greening up!” That was a common expression among my Scots-Irish folks in the mountains of Choestoe Community, Union County, Georgia I like the time of early spring, even maybe seeing some green-up happen when frosts and/or snow still threaten. One year in May, my father had his fields of corn planted and the rows looked lush with green-up growth, the plants abundant, an inch or two high. Then a hard freeze–frost and maybe even snow–came to obliterate the green. The whole field had to be planted again after the cold snap passed. That’s part of the unpredictability of spring weather in our beloved mountain area. Green up can occur early; and then have to burst forth again.

  • Reply
    Henry Horton
    April 22, 2015 at 8:21 am

    Wow! Love the term. Was away in the Mo. Ozarks from 4/10 to 4/20 and was blown away by what had happened here in Macon Co. whilst i was gone. And the beauty of the many greens creeping up the mountains makes up for the vanishing ridge lines! BTW did see the phenomenon in Mo. and it does seem to happen in the night!

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    April 22, 2015 at 8:09 am

    One of the many fine things about the mountains is that you can watch the greening up proceed UP the mountains. Here’s a photo taken on April 29 of 2011 from the Shuckstack fire tower, looking towards Gregory Bald:
    http://home.comcast.net/~doncasada/Pictures/SGB.jpg
    The tower is at around 4000 ft elevation and Gregory Bald is a little under 1000 ft higher. Then another photo, taken on the same day, same location, back towards Fontana Dam – which is a bit over 1700 ft elevation is here:
    http://home.comcast.net/~doncasada/Pictures/SF.jpg
    Within a handful of miles range, the vegetation ranges from its dark summer coat through the various shades of green to nary a bit of green.
    Then in the fall, the colors march down in reverse course.
    How could a body find a better place to be?

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    April 22, 2015 at 7:57 am

    Tip, I don’t recall the expression “greenup” but I sure know what it’s about. I love this time of year when everything is greening up. It is happening very subtly then suddenly one day it’s here and I think, when did it happen.
    One of the many thinks I love about where I live is the distinct changes in our four seasons and, of course, greenup is the most spectacular.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    April 22, 2015 at 7:38 am

    John, I have always heard green up in relation to spring, but have.Also heard it in relation to plants at other times. Some people say leaf out, my family always said green up

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    April 22, 2015 at 7:38 am

    John, I have always heard green up in relation to spring, but have.Also heard it in relation to plants at other times. Some people say leaf out, my family always said green up

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    April 22, 2015 at 7:38 am

    John, I have always heard green up in relation to spring, but have.Also heard it in relation to plants at other times. Some people say leaf out, my family always said green up

  • Reply
    Barb Wright
    April 22, 2015 at 7:36 am

    We also use the term green up. I also wonder about it being a Scottish one..because my grandma was of Scottish descent and it more than likely came from her. By the way,it has started to green up here in the north..no leaves yet,but the grass is greener and some daffodils are about. Today..guess what..it is snowing! Tomorrow,too. Green up with white frosting?

  • Reply
    dolores
    April 22, 2015 at 7:33 am

    I like that term, although it is new to me. I can appreciate the magical green appearing one morning and wonder how it happens at one time. Another great word to add to one’s vocabulary

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