Appalachia Appalachian Dialect

Hearing Appalachian Language

mountains across a cow pasture

“There is much to be said for simply being oneself while not using it as an excuse not to get better. Somehow when I travel around and hear Appalachian spoken I feel like I’m among friends-to-be. I hope that is what they hear on their side to.”

—Ron Stephens 2018


When I’m in strange surroundings and happen to hear a voice that sounds like mine I immediately feel comforted. I might be visiting a store while on vacation and hear a voice an aisle over that sounds like home or in a strange hospital far from home. Just as Ron said those voices sound like if I’m not among friends I’m certainly around friends-to-be.

Last Night’s Video: Dorie Woman of the Mountains 5.

Tipper

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17 Comments

  • Reply
    kathy patterson
    March 6, 2022 at 2:48 pm

    Hi,
    I love my dialect. Yes, I’m educated and try to speak correct grammar all the time. We must never forget our dialects because that keeps us close to the people that made us and instilled our values. As with all dialects each part of the Appalachian Mountains the dialects are just a tiny bit different. Over the years I had to struggle to keep my dialect. A few of the words I have forgot over the years. We still make our cornbread in the cast iron frying pan greased with fat back meat.

  • Reply
    Walter Sloan
    March 1, 2022 at 4:48 pm

    The late Lewis Grizzard of Newnan, GA, said, “God talk like we do”. That is my feeling also when I hear a Mountain or Southern drawl.

  • Reply
    Shelia Nelson
    February 27, 2022 at 1:25 pm

    It happens to me too. I can identify Tennessee Twang in a heartbeat. The young folks have almost lost the dialect and speech pattern, but you can still spot a dab of it if you listen closely.

  • Reply
    Robert
    February 26, 2022 at 6:33 pm

    Well, Tipper, when you started Dorie’s biography, I thought I wouldn’t much like it. Because it’s you reading it, I stayed long enough to learn that it is an interesting story. I’m glad I did.

    Dorie was the age of my parents and stories of families going to the cotton mills to work are exactly what some of my aunts and uncles did; some in SC and some down to Winston-Salem. While my Pa was born in Swain, he left at the age of 4 and never went back except for a year he spent in Copper Hill in his mid teens. He then relocated to Raleigh where I was born and spent the first half century of my life. The account of Dorie having scarlet fever struck close to home as I had it when I was 7. Given that it was half a century later, I benefited from penicillin, which was unknown to civilians until after WWII.

    I grew up before TV, which so changed speech in the US. I suspect that I still have that accent that was specific to the central counties of NC East of the fall line. The influx of folks from up North to Raleigh and Wake County drove many of us out. I know dozens of folks I was in high school with who left because of the increased population density and the rudeness – in our view – of those who came in and asserted themselves. When I was in my early 20s I worked for the NC Fire Insurance Rating Bureau and traveled a lot in the NC mountains in Haywood, Buncombe, Burke and other counties. I tried to convince folks I met there that I was but one generation removed from the hills, but apparently my accent was too proper for their ears.

    I’ve lived in central Texas for the lasts 25 years. What really made me feel at home was the people here who are so much like the people I grew up among. While our accents are slightly different – folks know I wasn’t born here – but our values are the same. I’ve been asked, “What part of Texas are you from?” (which I consider a great compliment). My response is always, “East Texas. Far East Texas!” Now I’m seeing a lot of Californians moving here – don’t blame ’em at all – but I know that it will change this area forever.

  • Reply
    Barbara Dennis Kolkhorst
    February 26, 2022 at 3:04 pm

    I really enjoy all this information. My father came from Tennessee. He came to Texas in the 1920s and married a girl from Tennessee. She died in one year. In 1934 he married my mother. He often used the words you explain and define. I often get your quizzes right even though I am from Texas. (I am 81 years old). I really enjoyed the readings of the book. He said they stored apples in a shed and they tasted wonderful if he snitched them in the winter. His Tennessee is very much like your Appalachia. It’s like visiting with him again. ( he died in 1978)

    • Reply
      TexasFarmGirl
      February 27, 2022 at 3:54 am

      This is exactly the way I feel. My family came from the mountains of western North Carolina, northern Georgia, northern Alabama, and eastern Tennessee. They came to Texas in the late 1860s. Their language, colloquialisms, and folk ways came with them and remain part of us to this day. My dad, the last of his generation in my family passed in 1997. I so miss his voice and wisdom. Presently I’m doing an in depth genealogy of my family.

      I know we are far from our roots, but we still carry on here with the same speech, folk ways and even the same food ways that those in Appalachia also enjoy. Our ancestors saw to that. The community in which we live is made up of Scotch-Irish people that have our same background and speak in the same manner, have the same “sayings”, as well as have the same folk ways. We pass almost every vocabulary test Tipper puts out. It is uncanny how alike we are.

      We have found people of like mind here and if we met in person I am sure we would be friends.

  • Reply
    Mary Clutts
    February 26, 2022 at 1:33 pm

    What a lovely thought…..If I’m not among friends I’m certainly around friends-to-be. Thank you.

  • Reply
    dee
    February 26, 2022 at 11:26 am

    I have been blessed to travel a lot during my life and it always brings a sweet, sweet feeling when I hear that beautiful southern dialect being spoken.
    I enjoyed your reading of Dorie Woman of the Mountain 5. I remember my Mother telling me that Daddy’s Mother had second sight. I listened closely to what Dorie went through with scarlet fever, as one of my dear Aunts told me she nearly died with it. I do know about the Rheumatic Fever, as my Mother had that as a young girl and it damaged her heart. I also believe in the intuition Dorie said her father had, as again one of my Aunts told me about a dream she had and it made no sense to her until she actually saw it play out the next day.

  • Reply
    Christine
    February 26, 2022 at 11:02 am

    Ron’s quote is well said. I always feel comfortable around folks that sound like me and my people. It’s sad that throughout my life I had to change how I said things or pronounced words to try to fit in while going to college and working in the business world. In my first English college class my papers came back with so many notes on them it looked like a coloring sheet. The notes were always the same, use proper grammar, word choice, cliche …cliche…cliche, stop writing how you talk, write how others can understand what you mean. That last note made me so depressed I almost quit the class, but thankfully I didn’t. I worked hard to write and speak so I would be like others, but one day I just decided I’m tired of being what others want me to be and I just started being myself. Some liked me and some didn’t but in the end I’m the one who has to live with myself. Now I’m retired and don’t care if my grammar is right or proper. I write how I want and if my punctuation is incorrect or my words ain’t right, oh well, sooner or later they’ll get the point.

  • Reply
    AWGRIFF
    February 26, 2022 at 10:19 am

    I got to thinking about friends made in the army and most of them were from the south or from Appalachia. We always had more in common.

  • Reply
    Larry Paul Eddings
    February 26, 2022 at 9:47 am

    “Friends to be” Wow, I love that expression, it says so much.

  • Reply
    Shirl
    February 26, 2022 at 9:21 am

    When I go back to my hometown, I don’t think I sound one bit like the voices I hear in the area. I surely still have the accent as people remind me almost daily. Some of the folks in my hometown have never traveled far and are simply being themselves. I hope they don’t think I’m talking proper. Proper is a word used back-home to describe a fake accent and that is something I would never do!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    February 26, 2022 at 9:03 am

    Tipper Pressley, you certainly have the ability to surprise me! I expect you do that to each of us here now and again. How in the world did you remember that from going on four years ago? Anyhow, your’s is a voice that would make me feel at home if I heard you out of sight over in the next aisle of the grocery story. And as Pinnacle Creek says, it would be a comfort. It would be a comfort to meet any of the folks who post here. You are the one who did that and all you all, together with my church family are a comfort to me in these troubling and troubled times. Bless you all.

  • Reply
    Karen
    February 26, 2022 at 8:27 am

    I have not traveled much during my life. I’m more a homebody. I did live in Marietta, Ga in 1969 when my husband was stationed on Dobbins air force base before going to Viet Nam. I had just graduated from nursing school and got a job at Kennestone Hospital. The nurses I worked with said they liked my accent. Growing up in Berks County I never realized I had an accent. They found some of our expressions to be delightful. They had to ask me what “spritz, and rutch” meant. I know what you mean when you say hearing someone that sounds like you when in a new place makes you feel good. I do love sitting and listening to people with accents different than mine talk. I always enjoy your language segments on your U Tube channel.

  • Reply
    PinnacleCreek
    February 26, 2022 at 7:59 am

    That first sentence by Mr. Ron Stephens was so impactful I had to read it twice. We can all improve, and it should be a goal. However, much of the reason a great deal of our customs, language, and lifestyle has been lost is we possibly had the misguided idea that we needed to be more like the general population. Was this influence from the stereotyping we heard on television or did those of us who left our home bases try too hard to fit in. Even our local colleges taught Sociology featuring mostly the “snake handlers” of Appalachia. Fortunately, many have learned our roots are one of the most precious gifts we have.
    I have grown so proud of my heritage, and in a very small way I try to make those around me proud of where they came from. I am also comforted by the sound of a voice that speaks like me, and I find we even share the same brand of humor. A recent example occurred at the local Dollar store. A few of us had become bored with the wait and engaged in conversation. Talking about the uncertain times one mentioned we may have to learn to eat that sour weed we ate as a child. Surprisingly many had tried it as a child and one lady added she had to eat “sour weed” and mustard sandwiches. This resulted in a lot of laughter from everybody except the young cashier who looked at us like we were speaking a foreign language. Hopefully she will one day love and embrace her people and their ways. Thank you, Ron.

  • Reply
    Martha Justice
    February 26, 2022 at 7:55 am

    It’s always good to hear a familiar sound in someone’s voice even if you don’t know them personally. ❤

  • Reply
    Ray C. Presley
    February 26, 2022 at 7:27 am

    I know exactly what tipper means when she talks about hearing talk from home when in a strange place. When my wife and I were first married and traveling from Maryland back through southern Virginia, stopping for gas and hearing that soft dialect – one that can’t be faked by imitating a brogue and spitting tobacco juice – we felt as if we had actually arrived back home. It is indeed comforting.

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