Appalachian Dialect Appalachian Medicine

He’s Hippoed!

hippoed means hypochondriac

A few month’s back a friend asked if I knew any other sayings for having the hippo. I didn’t even know what the hippo was so I couldn’t really come up with any other names for it.

I’ve known a few people who did indeed have the hippo…I just didn’t know that’s what it was called. Hippo is slang for hypochondriac.

I looked in my dialect reference books to what they had to say about the hippo.

“The Dixie Dictionary” edited by Thomas. W. Howard

hippoed adj suffering from an imaginary ailment <That poor ~ old woman.>

“Southern Mountain” Speech by Cratis D. Williams

hippoed adj descriptive of ill health or extreme fatigue. (I feel plum hippoed.)

“Hill Talk” by Ben Brouke

Hipercondrac: Hypochondriac
There is a hipercondrac in my family.

“Mountain Range A Dictionary of Expressions from Appalachia to the Ozarks” by Robert Hendrickson

hippoed Suffering from an imaginary ailment, the word deriving from hypochondria. “There goes that pore hippoed woman.”

“Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English” by Michael Montgomery

hippo verb 
A verb To be inclined to hypochondria; hence hippoed = incapacitated by, or preoccupied with, an imaginary or pretended ailment (esp as an excuse to avoid work), or by a feeling of vague depression or uneasiness.
c1959 Weals Hillbilly Dict 10 hippoed = neurotic, marked by hypochondria. Obsessed with troubles and ailments. 1967-68 DARE (Brasstown NC, Gatlingburg TN). 1974 Russell Hillbilly 41 Folks described them as “Hipp-oed”. 1975 Chalmers Better 66 The old folk say such a one is hippoed. 1994 Montgomery Coll. I reckon I’m just hippoed (Ogle). 1993 Walker Life History 71 Dolly the trick horse got hippoed and couldn’t’ get up.
B noun (usu plural)
1976 Garber Mountain-ese 41: = feigned illness . 1982 Slone How we Talked 103 = thinking you are sick, but you really are not.

I asked The Deer Hunter if he’d ever heard the words hippo or hippoed. Like me, he had never heard either one. Hoping you’ll leave a comment telling me if you’ve heard the words before and if you know any other words that fit the definition.


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  • Reply
    May 20, 2018 at 11:40 pm

    Yes! My grandmother and mother would always ask me if I was feeling “hippoed” (like the animal) when I was being lazy or just down in the mouth. I always knew what they meant, it just took me all these decades to actually wonder why they called it that! So if I understand correctly it is a mis- pronunciation and derivative of a hypochondriac. So hysterical! Just add one to your list, I finally had to ask what “cat fur to make kitten britches meant” after hearing it my whole life! Do you know that saying? 🙂

    • Reply
      May 22, 2018 at 2:43 pm

      Shonna-thank you for the comment! I’ve heard cat fur to make kitten britches my whole life but I have no clue what it means 🙂

  • Reply
    Kelly Cannon
    February 22, 2018 at 1:42 am

    Hallelujah! Tipper ,
    I have a letter from the civil war in which one brother writes Home and tells his parents that his brother gets the Hippo every time they march.
    You have solved a puzzle for me ! I am very happy ! Girl you made my day.
    I have tried talking to older people and online searches . Just had to say Thank You and tell you I enjoy your newsletter you are a good neighbor. Keep up the good work.

  • Reply
    February 21, 2018 at 1:53 pm

    new to me – but do use “puttin on”.

  • Reply
    February 20, 2018 at 3:02 pm

    Chitter looks like one of those pretty things out West. I’m glad Chitter and Chatter are from here, this part of Appalachia. And I love to hear them sing. Their harmony is as good as the Louvin Brothers or Jim and Jesse MacReynolds. …Ken

  • Reply
    February 20, 2018 at 2:00 pm

    “Puttin on” is what I was trying to think of. She’s just puttin on so she don’t have to go to work!

    I’ve called people hypos before meaning hypochondriac but decided I was being lazy in not saying the whole word. I was a supervisor at one time. One of the biggest parts of my job was collecting Doctors excuses. It was fun until the law changed and they stopped supplying a diagnosis. It was still fun though when somebody got their dates mixed up and I got to send them home because in wasn’t the return to work date yet. “But I need to pay my rent next week!” “Sorry the excuse says you can’t work until next Monday. I really need you here, but the law says I can’t let you work. You’ll have to go back to the doctor and get a release.” Most people were good at faking an excuse from work but had never faked a release.

  • Reply
    Lee Mears
    February 20, 2018 at 12:50 pm

    I’ve never heard this word except the animal. I’ve heard of hypochondriacs all my life and know some.
    BTW, I have WEBMD bookmarked.

  • Reply
    February 20, 2018 at 12:44 pm

    I ain’t never heard the word hippo, just the animal. Maybe my parents used that word but that’s one of the times I wasn’t paying attention. …Ken

  • Reply
    February 20, 2018 at 11:50 am

    New to me.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    February 20, 2018 at 11:37 am

    Sorry Carol. I meant Dana.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    February 20, 2018 at 11:10 am

    In some books about Abraham Lincoln–he called his attacks of melancholy and depression having the “hypo”.

    Several of my family members are hypochondriacs. I have felt guilty for yrs. when my oldest brother had to have sinus surgery–I thought he was exaggerating!

  • Reply
    aw griff
    February 20, 2018 at 10:44 am

    Carol, I always heard it pronounced like the animal.

  • Reply
    February 20, 2018 at 10:31 am

    I’d never heard of hippoed either but I thought I’d try a guess before I looked at the answer. Do you know of women who’ve had several children and carried them on her hip until their feet started dragging the ground? Eventually whenever they don’t have a kid on their hip, they still walk like they do. I reckon you didn’t have to suffer with that condition having twins that balanced you out.

  • Reply
    Kenneth Ryan
    February 20, 2018 at 10:20 am

    I’ve never heard the word either.

  • Reply
    February 20, 2018 at 10:10 am

    Love all your posts…learning many new words. Also love this hat of Chitter or Chatter’s…very handsome!

  • Reply
    February 20, 2018 at 10:04 am

    A fascinating new word and expression to me. Wonder if it is pronounced as hypo-ed, like the first two syllables of hypochondriac, or is it like the first two syllables of hippopotamus? Do any of your dictionaries offer suggestions for pronunciation?

    • Reply
      February 20, 2018 at 10:58 am

      This morning I asked Granny if she’d knew what hippoed meant. She said “Why yes I’ve heard that my whole life.” And like AW said Granny pronounced the word like the animal.

  • Reply
    February 20, 2018 at 9:35 am

    For Jim Casada: My dad always said, “two axe handles and a plug of chewing tobacco”.

  • Reply
    Janis Sullivan
    February 20, 2018 at 9:11 am

    I have only heard someone was hippo when they were upset or puzzled about something, they appeared sick or would not eat or something like that.

  • Reply
    February 20, 2018 at 9:03 am

    Never heard that word, but sure do know some folks who have it. A few years ago, I was at home recovering from surgery and taking calls from well-wishers. One family member would call every day or so to check on me. Or maybe that wasn’t the reason for the calls. As soon as I said I’m fine or I’m doing better, I got an hour long medical report about HER health. We call her a complainer, but now I have a new word to describe her.

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    February 20, 2018 at 8:47 am

    that’s a new one to me……

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    February 20, 2018 at 8:43 am

    That is a new one for me. Never heard it before.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    February 20, 2018 at 8:23 am

    Nope, never heard that one. I’ve heard words for illness. “I’ve got heart dropsy. Drop down and ain’t have the heart to get up.” Or “The epizootics have got me.” “I feel like I was sent for and couldn’t come then got there and warn’t needed.” “I feel like something the cats drug in and the dogs wouldn’t have.”

  • Reply
    aw griff
    February 20, 2018 at 7:36 am

    Hippoed was used by my Dad and my Father in law. I have said it too, but usual say hypochondria.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    February 20, 2018 at 7:14 am

    Tipper–You seldom offer a word or phrase from mountain talk which is unfamiliar, but this one is.

    Mind you, I’ve heard the word used in another context–to describe someone who measured about two ax handles across the posterior or who had to turn sideways to get through the door.

    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Larry Proffitt
    February 20, 2018 at 7:04 am

    No that one is new to me. Larry Proffitt

  • Reply
    Sheryl PaulI
    February 20, 2018 at 6:45 am

    Never heard that one but I love it! May have to borrow.

  • Reply
    February 20, 2018 at 5:59 am

    Never heard it called Hippoed, or any of the short versions, just plan ole Hypochondriac is the way I’ve heard it, and have known and still know a few people that seemed to always be ill, to here them tell it. Sad, but try to avoid saying ” how are you doing ” and get a 2 hour spill of their life’s illnesses, but never seems to be sick, because they look the same anytime you see them, for years.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 20, 2018 at 5:43 am

    Never heard of it, Tip. I have heard of hypochondriac but never hippo. Well, that’s not entirely true, I’ve heard of a hippopotamus called a hippo. I have however known lots of folks who suffered from hippo!
    I’ll be interested to hear what your readers have to say about that one!

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