Appalachia Appalachian Dialect



Our little hootendashers at about 3 years of age. They had just gotten their first swing set and in typical kid fashion they enjoyed the box it came in as much as they did the swings.

Back in February Blind Pig reader Suzi Phillips sent me this email:

“Hey, Tipper-How are you and the rest of the Blind Pig Gang? Hopefully, ya’ll are warmer than we are! Mitchell and his brother were reminiscing about their mama today and they recall her calling them her “little hootendashers”. They have no idea what it meant or if it was even a compliment (knowing those wild Phillips boys, I would reckon not lol!). We were wondering if you or any one else in Blind Pig Land had heard of it. I can’t find anything on the internet, don’t even know if that’s the correct spelling. Sounds kind of German to me, maybe? We are up against the naked rooster on this one and hoping you can help us solve the mystery! Thank you much-Suzi”

Although I’ve never heard the word hootendasher I immediately liked it-sounds just like something The Deer Hunter would call Chatter and Chitter. Suzi’s description of the word made me think of how we used to call the girls banshees when they were little-indicating they were sometimes mischievous wild children.

A quick google search didn’t turn up much of anything. Remembering Suzi said she wasn’t sure of the spelling, I decided to look through the H section of some old dictionaries.

The 1828 Webster’s Dictionary had a several H entries that seemed similar to hootendasher in a sense that hootendasher could be a corruption of another word.

  • HOB’BLEDEHOY, n. A cant phrase for a boy at the age of puberty. (I’m thinking Mitchell and his brother were younger than puberty so this is probably a no)
  • HOB’GOBLIN, n. A fairy; a frightful apparition. (most all of us are familiar with this one)
  • HOD’DY-DODDY, n. An awkward or foolish person. (I’ve felt like a hoddy-doddy before have you?)
  • HOT’TENTOT, n. A native of the southern extremity of Africa. A savage brutal man. (this one made me think of us calling the girls banshees)

None of the entries above really fit the bill for the hootendasher search-but they are interesting words.

On I came across the word hoyden:

World English Dictionary
hoiden (ˈhɔɪd ə n)

— n
a variant spelling of hoyden


— adj


— n

hoyden or hoiden (ˈhɔɪd ə n)

— n
a wild boisterous girl; tomboy

[C16: perhaps from Middle Dutch heidijn heathen]

hoiden or hoiden

— n

[C16: perhaps from Middle Dutch heidijn heathen]

‘hoydenish or hoiden

— adj

‘hoidenish or hoiden

— adj

‘hoydenishness or hoiden

— n

‘hoidenishness or hoiden

— n


After reading the entry I thought ah ha! Hoydenishness that is sorta similar to hootendashers. Then I remembered-they were boys-not boisterous girls! But the website World Wide Words Investigating the English lanugage across the globe, has a whole page about the word hoyden that made me think think twice about the word hoydenishness.

World Wide Words describes Jane Austin using the word hoyden in Pride and Prejudice to describe Lydia Bennet and details other examples of the word being used to describe boisterous or tomboyish girls. But then the site goes on to note some interesting tidbits about the word:

“Hoyden is a curiosity because it once referred exclusively to men. We may now look indulgently on hoydenish young women but male hoydens were considered to be rude, ignorant, awkward or boorish. In 1593, Thomas Nashe (its first recorded user) wrote disparagingly of the hoydens of Trinity Hall at the University of Cambridge. Its members were exclusively male at the time, as they continued to be until 1977, when the college admitted its first female undergraduates.

The other oddity is that hoyden is a close relative of heathen, which is much older. Its roots lie in very early Germanic dialects and is related to heath. Heathens were literally heath-dwellers, inhabitants of open country, uncivilised and in particular unacquainted with Christianity. Hoyden is thought to have been borrowed from heiden, the Dutch equivalent of heathen from the same ancient Germanic source.”

With a stretch of the imagination one could see how the descriptive hoydenishness could be morphed into hootendasher. And the fact that heathen is related to the word hoyden supports that stretch of imagination. Calling a rowdy boisterous child a heathen in a teasing manner is beyond common in western NC.

In conclusion, I don’t think I answered Suzi’s question about the word hootendasher-but I had a whole lot of fun trying to! I’m hoping one of you are familiar with the word and will be able to answer her question.


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  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    March 21, 2014 at 1:26 pm

    Thanks you so much, Tipper! I was out of town yesterday and didn’t get to see your post until now. From what I understand, Otie Phillips was an amazing woman (her life story is worthy of a post in and of itself!) with an inventive vocabulary. Her children and grandchildren revere her memory and they all have the best stories-I can listen to them for hours! While I didn’t find out the exact meaning of hootendasher, I certainly get the general drift of it and will pass it on. PS-“Up against the naked rooster” was Mrs. Otie’s way of saying she was between a rock and a hard place. I’m pretty sure we should all be saying it!

  • Reply
    March 20, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    This sounds like a word created to fill an immediate need, and a good one too, but not one that’s going to show up in a dictionary! 🙂
    And now I’d love to know more about that naked rooster expression, because that is a new one on me!

  • Reply
    March 20, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    Nothing like two little younguns running around loud at the top of their lungs, making so much noise one would think they were at a fire sale in a department store. I would have described those little ones as little he– raisers full of more energy than ten adults could muster up at one time. Love the word!

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    March 20, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    What a “hoot” this post has turned out to be for me! I love it!
    Although, my boys were and are as sweet as can be…sigh…when they were little they could break your last nerve! I was more afraid one or the other would hurt one or the other than all the noise, etc. that occurred!
    Years ago, I used to call a friend of mine, a “hairy legged heathen”! I explained to him “hairy legged” was a lot worse than just “heathen” and was used for emphasis! LOL He never got it! LOL
    I see a lot of surnames Hooten and Hootendasher? Could the neighbors kids be or in her past she remembered some rowdy, tough and riotous fellows (definition n. hooligans) with the last name of “Hootendasher”?
    I am thinking this mother made up that word…Her children bringing lots of “hoots and hollers” with a lot of “quick sprints” around the house(dashes) hence: “hootendashers”…
    My own Mother used to say to us when we got purty rowdy…”You’re louder and wilder then those “Frisby youngens'”…Now remember back in the fourties there wasn’t a toy called a “frisbee” and it don’t make any noise anyway!
    We didn’t know the “Frisbys” either…they must’ve lived close or she went to school with my Mom back in the 20’s or 30’s in NC….So forgive my Mom for saying it, all you Frisbys,…if you were some of the noisy bunch!
    Sounds like they were just having fun and I told my Mom so, but with the “look” we quietened down! LOL
    Tipper, thanks for a great post and all the research…I have burned more time researching words, I love it! I don’t know why I didn’t enjoy this when I was a schoolgirl!

  • Reply
    Rooney Floyd
    March 20, 2014 at 10:40 am

    The word “hootenanny” came to mind. Google said it is Scottish and means celebration or party. I could find nothing beyond that. But if you take “celebration and party”, not much imagination is required to coming up with running back and forth for “dasher”. I suspect that comes close to the meaning intended. The Scottish part surprised me. I would have thought German or Dutch (?). Of course, Scottish heritage is strong the mountains.

  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    March 20, 2014 at 10:37 am

    These words are a wrinkle in my horn. Some words I have heard, but many I have not. I wished I had seen my grandmother and grew up with her. She seemed so entreating to me.

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    March 20, 2014 at 10:34 am

    I’m with Miss Cindy — boys are great for hooting and dashing!! (us girls aren’t far behind). When my daughter was born my cousin dubbed her his Chunk the next two were boys and quickly became Hunk and Clunk!!!

  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    March 20, 2014 at 10:29 am

    Tipper. You were blessed with those sweet girls. These words seemed like some grandmother would speak.Some of these words leaves me flabbor gasted.You are an education to us.

  • Reply
    Karen Larsen
    March 20, 2014 at 10:10 am

    That is such an adorable pic of the twins…. any name for ’em would have to mean “cute”!!

  • Reply
    March 20, 2014 at 9:31 am

    I’ll go with Ed A’s description: hoot & dash; hoot ‘n holler…

  • Reply
    Stephanie P.
    March 20, 2014 at 9:18 am

    We lovingly call our three boys (all under 5 btw) Mess, Stinker, and Rascal. I told my middle son that he was a mess. He very seriously looked at me an said, ” I not mess, I a Stinker.” The term hootendasher could apply, though. The favorite pastime of all three is to chase each other while screaming at the top of their lungs. In our neighborhood everyone knows who we are.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    March 20, 2014 at 7:52 am

    What a great word though, maybe one of your other readers can fill in the blanks

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    March 20, 2014 at 7:38 am

    I’ve heard the word heathen used to describe wild kids. I’ve heard the word hoyden to describe a wild young man. I’ve never heard the word hootendashers that I recall but as soon as I saw the title of this post I knew you were talking about the girls. It just sounded like them.
    If you take the word apart you get hoot and dashers. Sounds to me like some one running around making a lot of noise. Hey, that’s what kids do.

  • Reply
    March 20, 2014 at 7:37 am

    I’ve never encountered that word. I sometimes refer to little ones as rug rats, ankle biters and tricycle motors. Banshees usually referred to girls that liked to run through the house while screaming.
    My dad called us outlaws, cohorts and hooligans.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    March 20, 2014 at 7:15 am

    If you take the word apart you have hoot en dash. Hoot is a loud scary noise and dash is a sprint. So put them back together and you have hootandash which is what brazen little boys are want to do. They sneak up on you and yell something at the top of their voices, then run before you can get your hands on them. Hence hootendashers. Well, it could be that simple.

  • Reply
    Susan Cook
    March 20, 2014 at 6:41 am

    Lol, but I’m stuck on up against a naked rooster! I can imagine what it means but new to me.

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