Appalachian Dialect

I Say Say Do You?

Say in Appalachia

A few weeks ago a coworker mentioned she’d been enjoying my Appalachian Vocabulary Tests. She said even though she wasn’t from Appalachia she knew some of the words I shared because her father was from the area.

As we chatted about the test she said “If Dad asks someone something and they don’t answer he says “Say?” I said “And you find that odd?” She said she’d never heard anyone else use the word say in that manner. I said “Hmmm you haven’t been around me long enough because I say say like that all the time!”

Typical conversation at the Blind Pig house:

Me: What do you want to eat?

Other people who live in this house respond with total silence.

Me: SAY? What do you want to eat?


How about you do you say say?


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  • Reply
    November 23, 2016 at 9:20 am

    i hadn’t heard it used to elicit a response to a question already asked, but i know that using “say” as an attention getter (like “hey”) is, like so much else in the region, a britishism not unlike “tut tut”, ” cheerio”, or “old boy…”. think of all those mystery novels where watson might start a sentence with, “i say, holmes, old boy, would you blablabla…?”

  • Reply
    Julie Hughes
    November 4, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    Yes, that is the start of many of my sentences!!

  • Reply
    Saymon Aime
    November 2, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    So say is a sentence in itself? You don’t say! I have to say I have never heard say said so many ways as it has been said here today.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    November 2, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    I was doing away with my garbage
    a little while after dinner. Just
    as I finished emptying mine, a
    woman pulled up and said “say, did
    you see that Sleet awhile ago?” I
    didn’t know her but I could tell she
    was from around here, and I said
    “yes, and they’re calling for some
    flurries in the higher elevations
    tonight.” …Ken

  • Reply
    Jane Bolden
    November 2, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    I used to hear it used exactly like that when I was growing up. My oldest friend used to say “say” quite often especially when we were little. What a coincidence. I just spoke to her on fb about 30 minutes ago. She didn’t a say “say” at the end. I’ ll have to remind her about it.

  • Reply
    November 2, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    Well, say–this is what I usually say. My husband will often answer a question like, “Do you want beans or potatoes?” with “yes”. Makes me want to bean him! So I’d answer, ” Well, say–which one?”.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    November 2, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    I’ve never thought about it but I do use say that way. I especially use it when I’m not being answered by one of the kids. I can still hear my dad saying it to me when I was a young-un.

  • Reply
    November 2, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    No, I don’t use ‘say’ when I am awaiting a response. However, most of the time, I use the person’s first name to get his/her attention so I can ask the question I orginally asked. Also, using the term ‘hey’ sometimes gets the necessary response. I have learned that in this area ‘hey’ means ‘hi.’ I’m learning!

  • Reply
    November 2, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    Long ago when we were boys we were working out back at this soft drink company. There was an intercom mounted out side where we were working. One of the highly important ladies in the front office called back to relay a message. As luck would have it, she left the intercom on after her message. One of the young boys didn’t know it was still in the on position. He made a sarcastic remark to one of his friends. The lady in the front office almost had a nervous breakdown and assumed he was talking to her. Immediately there came this hysterical voice on the intercom, “WHO ARE YOU TALKING TO….Say? Well, you know how young boys will be sometimes…so from that day on and for sometime to come every time that guy would say something the other boys would scream “WHO ARE YOU TALKING TO…..SAY?” You know, as they say, boys WILL be boys. LOL

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    November 2, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    I too use “Say”, I think it’s a shortened version of “Say something” or in place of “Answer me”. Basically it is a request for a response to a question.

  • Reply
    November 2, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    Ooh, a new one! Have never heard it used like that…only as “say what now?” or “say again?” to ask someone to repeat something not-quite-heard.

    • Reply
      November 18, 2019 at 9:01 pm

      I also say “say what?” My husband is constantly saying, “Say again?”

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    November 2, 2013 at 11:21 am

    Nice Picture!
    Just yesterday I had a visitor who
    came to America 21 years ago. He has been here before and has a business in Alabama. I listened as he told me about how he and his brother left their homeland for a decent job in America. He said when they first got here they were just shocked at all the manufacturing going on, and now
    the whole world was having
    difficult times. I thought he had learned awfully good English,
    being a Mexican who made it here.
    But it was when he told me he was
    going to Hickory to visit some
    relatives that I puzzled him. I
    said “say you’re headed to Hickory
    to visit?” He paused a minute and
    then he grinned and said “that’s
    what I just said!” Almost confused
    this hillbilly…Ken

  • Reply
    Denise Smith
    November 2, 2013 at 11:20 am

    Say…I use that all the time! “Say, you got some more eggs in the fridge?” Just said that this mornin’! Love your blog! Read it every day when I can. You have a bunch on here so I have to catch up. I have some kinfolk from Wilkes County and Stokes County too. Up and down the mountain chain really. I am so happy so many are on line with the story of Appalachian people. Keep up the good work.

    • Reply
      November 18, 2019 at 7:07 pm

      My dad used ‘say’ just like that. If he asked one of us kids a question, if we didn’t answer quick enough he would use ‘say’ to get a reply.

  • Reply
    November 2, 2013 at 10:35 am

    So familiar! My mother (and her mother-n.central AL) employed this usage regularly- especially when impatient for a response.
    Several years ago, when reading one of Rick Bragg’s books, he quoted his mother (N.E. AL)- when asked about something he didn’t care to share, she responded, “He don’t say.” It made me smile.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    November 2, 2013 at 10:32 am

    Say, it is chilly here this mornin’. Say, when are you goin’ to town?
    To the way you spoke of “say” in your post? Hummm, I don’t think so here! Say, are you sure you haven’t been around some of those Northern Appalachians,
    “say, Maine-ish!
    Thanks Tipper,
    A little airish here this mornin’.
    The sun is shinnin’ and the leaves are holdin’ on for dear life. Say, chili sounds good, with a skillet of Mexican cornbread Southern style!

  • Reply
    Ken Ryan
    November 2, 2013 at 9:42 am

    I grew up in East Texas saying and hearing “say” used like that. “Say, do you have a dollar you don’t need?”

  • Reply
    November 2, 2013 at 9:26 am

    It’s funny how we don’t think about how often we use words in a different manner than non-Appalachian folks do. I say say the same way when asking a question. A substitute for “speak up!”

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    November 2, 2013 at 9:20 am

    Of course I heard “Say” used in that context in my youth but so much any more. I also heard “Speak” used the same way. More often that not it was “You better Say!” or “You better Speak!”

  • Reply
    C. Ron Perry
    November 2, 2013 at 9:07 am

    I have heard it and a variation of it is “say what”

  • Reply
    Bob Aufdemberge
    November 2, 2013 at 8:30 am

    Haven’t heard “say” used that way in our area. We’d probably respond to the silence with “Well?”

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    November 2, 2013 at 8:14 am

    I don’t use it like that, but I do say, say something!!

  • Reply
    Charles Fletcher
    November 2, 2013 at 8:00 am

    Say Tipper,let’s go over and visit Pap a spell.
    Hear and SAY this all the time.
    Charles Fletcher

  • Reply
    November 2, 2013 at 7:58 am

    never heard that one. i thought you meant the (non)hearer said it, like “excuse me?”

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    November 2, 2013 at 7:41 am

    PS: I forgot to say what a lovely picture that is, Tipper. You look like your in the Festival Barn at the folk school with the ever present camera around your neck…ready for the next shot!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    November 2, 2013 at 7:38 am

    I don’t say say much but it is certainly familiar to me. I used to work with a guy named Neil from upstate New York. Occasionally he would say to me….Cindy, your country is showing. It was not in the manner of criticism just a comment with a little laugh.
    There is so much in my speech that is shades of Appalachia that I am not even aware of, it’s just the way I talk.

  • Reply
    Dan O'Connor
    November 2, 2013 at 5:39 am

    Can’t say that I have heard say used that way.

  • Reply
    November 2, 2013 at 4:15 am

    “say” as you are using it is something I first heard about 25 years ago when we moved to the Needmore/Bryson City area. I only hear it from a few of the true locals. Hardly ever even in Robbinsville. So I’m wondering how far does saying say extend.

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