Appalachian Dialect

Had Ought To

glass bottles on table

had ought to verb phrase Should.
1904-7 Kephart Notebooks: 2:399 A feller’d orter have a good crowin’ rooster. 1937 Hall Coll. Cades Cove TN You’d orter see them. Law! (Cora Myers) 1939 Walker Mtneer Looks 1 I guess hit’s a sin and I hadn’t ort to do it, because they don’t mean no harm. 1942 Hall Phonetics 47 Cades Cove TN I reckon we’d orter be a-gittin home. The clouds are bilin’ up there on them mountains. 1979 Carpenter Walton War 68 “Now you hadn’t ought to talk like that, Ellie, the man said as the doctor went through the door.

2019 Pressley Coll. My wife told me I had ought to get the dishes washed if I knew what was good for me. (Brasstown)


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  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    November 4, 2020 at 10:35 am

    The one Granny said that always got me was…You “ought or (ort) not” go near that old mean rooster!…for instance!…Why didn’t she just say, “Don’t go near that mean old rooster!” To me saying, “You ought (ort) not go near that old mean rooster would give one doubt that one could (just might), be able to “shimmy” right up to the old mean rooster without any harm! Why of course this leaves the decision plus any harm that might come your way your own fault! Because Granny warned you. in her way without commanding you, not to do it…LOL

  • Reply
    November 28, 2019 at 11:02 am

    “Hadn’t ye oughta get busy fixin’ up some Thanksgiving feast?”
    “Well, reckon I might could do that.”
    Words are like little stars, glimmering into the past.

  • Reply
    November 27, 2019 at 9:18 pm

    We had neighbors that said, “You belong to…” meaning you have a moral obligation. They also said, “You don’t belong to.” talk that or do whatever someone was doing, etc. belong was pronounced “BLONG”.

  • Reply
    November 27, 2019 at 6:12 pm

    I love em all. Gosh thats how us folk are. I remember all of them and still use em today. Yes , we sure are Mountain folk and you can tell by how we talk. Good one Tipper!

  • Reply
    Frank Vincent
    November 27, 2019 at 9:59 am

    Here….let me “fix” this for ya: “My wife….err….husband told me I had ought to get the dishes washed if I knew what was good for me. (Frank, West Chester, Pa)…Ha! “Fixed” it fer ya!!

  • Reply
    November 27, 2019 at 9:40 am

    A similar phrase we used was, “you ‘ont to” which translates as “do you want to”.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    November 27, 2019 at 9:30 am

    What kinda real man washes dishes anyhow? Where I come from, we either warsh or worsh ’em. And we drain ’em or dry ’em and we put ’em up too. Then we tell our buddies “thataway I know they’re done right!” Our buddies nod and say “It’s like that over at my house too! Yep, if you wont it done right you gotta do it yerself!” But we’re thinking “you better do it right er you’ll do it over!”

  • Reply
    November 27, 2019 at 9:29 am

    Well that word is one I still use at times without even thinking.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    November 27, 2019 at 9:07 am

    I often hear Had ought to (without the “R”) as well as shoulda have. Appalachia isn’t the only area that has it’s own colloquialisms. We had ought to be proud of our uniqueness and ignore anyone who tries to shame you. I hear so many “made up words” on TV usually during live interviews, many times it is the interviewer who “coins” a new word when they are trying to look so intelligent. If you’re lucky enough to be born and raised in our Appalachian Mountains stand proud for our ancestors were a hardy bunch to have been able to scratch a living out of these hillsides!

  • Reply
    Don Byers
    November 27, 2019 at 8:58 am

    It hain’t “ought”, it is “ort” or “orter”.

  • Reply
    November 27, 2019 at 8:51 am

    For years I said ort. When I moved to the big city, I wanted to improve my grammar and thought I had orter start saying it the correct way. That’s when I started saying oughta.

  • Reply
    November 27, 2019 at 8:41 am

    These words were so much a part of my life. and they are so familiar. I wonder when I quit saying ort to, or do I sometimes still say it? A reminder from my recent past, and I don’t generally forget a word that I have ever heard. I love sharing these words with my sis, because she seems to be the only one in my circle that appreciates all the wonderful gems from our Appalachian heritage.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    November 27, 2019 at 8:41 am

    Oet or orta commonly heard in E.KY. in my age group and older and some of the younger country people. Most of the young in Ashland speak (more proper) and so fast I have a hard time understanding what they said. More than a couple times I’ve told them they are talking faster than I can listen. I know I’ve said this before but our language is becoming more homogenized but not pasteurized.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    November 27, 2019 at 7:41 am

    Yep, she ort not to’a done that! She had ought to a minded her own business. These are common usage in the mountains.
    So common, in fact, that I don’t even notice them.

  • Reply
    sheryl paul
    November 27, 2019 at 7:06 am

    We always said outta the a = r wasn’t common in our neighborhood

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