Appalachia Appalachian Dialect

It’s A Cymling – I Think

My life in appalachia - Tools From Days Gone By

One day when I was looking up a word in my Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English, my eye fell upon the word cymling.

*Cymling- noun.  A small, inedible gourd or squash having an egglike shape, sometimes put in a nest to induce a hen to lay. Cf china, nest egg.

I thought it was a strange word-and I knew I had never heard it before.

A good while later, B. Ruth sent me several small dried gourd like things. She told me in the old days they used them for darning socks. I immediately was reminded of the word from the dictionary.

When I went back for a second look to see if what I remembered was right-I noticed the dictionary also had an entry for cymling head: A small round head; by extension a stupid person.

Cymling head seemed more familiar to me-and one of the sources used for the dictionary entry for it was even Brasstown. But I can’t really say for sure I’ve ever heard the word used.

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary site, the word cymling is most likely an alteration of the word simnel with the first known use of cymling being in 1779.

So after all that-I’m really curious to know if you’ve ever heard the word used?

Tipper

 

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41 Comments

  • Reply
    Gaye Blaine
    February 13, 2020 at 7:42 pm

    Mama was born in 1900. I heard her us egg cycling lots of times. Pretty sure her folks grew and used them in hen nests. Never saw mama grow any though.

  • Reply
    Stephen Suddarth
    July 9, 2018 at 11:15 pm

    Learned something today, never heard of a cymling, but now I have to figure out what a pattypan squash is LOL

  • Reply
    B F
    January 29, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    tipper
    i now have 2 cymlyns that a nice lady sent me , i see they are turning color(dark)and i think when they dry you are suppose to hear them rattilng so now does anyone know what to do to them?do
    i scrub them off and take apart to get the seed and if so i,d like to glue the “nest egg”back together
    any info?
    thanks

  • Reply
    Becky
    July 1, 2012 at 8:13 am

    Nope, never heard it before.

  • Reply
    Juana
    June 23, 2012 at 8:29 am

    Hello Tipper! At first, when I saw the photo, I thought, is that an egg? A squash? Then I thought, ok just read- it´s going to be an interesting post and you´ll learn something new as always in this blog. So I did… and I learned about CYMBLINGS.
    Sorry, I haven´t visited you in a while. I widowed and haven´t been myself for the past months.
    Hugs
    Juana

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 23, 2012 at 8:06 am

    Stephen-so the phrase “only the good die young” is referring to squash. That would insinuate that the rest of us become dried out old gourds

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    June 22, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    Tipper–Your mother-in-law is a walking encyclopedia! H. Rider Haggard’s novel “She” is the correct answer to the question I posed in connection with the origin of “She Who Must Be Obeyed.” I’m deeply impressed that she had read it. Mention his name and one in a thousand might think of “King Solomon’s Mines” or maybe the protagonist Alan Quatermain (based on a real life figure, Fred Selous), but to know this impresses me mightily.
    Just one more indication that mountain folks can be learned as well al practical and rooted to the soil.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 22, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    I thought darn socks was a nice way of putting it when you found a hole in one and couldn’t even find the other.

  • Reply
    susie swanson
    June 22, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    I’ve heard the word but thought it was those Pan squash that’s round and flat..I can’t say as I’ve ever heard it used any other way..New one on me..

  • Reply
    Tipper
    June 22, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    David-B. Ruth, a Blind Pig reader sent me the little gourd. And yes-it does seem to have seeds inside it. And I’m not sure about how you say it-but I think you’re right on that too : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia
    http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 22, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    Roy Orbison and The Platters were pretenders too. Don’t think they were cymlings though.

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    June 22, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    Now, say again: Where did you get the one you have pictured? Does it have seeds inside it? How is cymling pronounced? Like simm-ling?

  • Reply
    Stephen Ammons
    June 22, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    Tipper
    Cymling is another name for a pattypan squash. They are very tasty if you get them when they are young otherwise the skin gets so tough you would have better luck trying to eat a combat boot.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 22, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    Jim, I believe that would be from a book titled She by Rider Haggard. I read it many years ago then again about 5 years ago.
    Nice adventure reading.

  • Reply
    Charlotte
    June 22, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    Nope! that’s a new one for me. Popa brought something from the hay field that looked just like hen eggs; they had to be nest egg gourds. I have dried them and want to see if I can grow some plants next year.

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    June 22, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    I remember my aunt using a glass egg to darn socks, but I don’t remember her ever giving it a name. I had to chuckle at the use of ‘she who must be obeyed.’ I haven’t heard that saying in a very long time. I love learning new words. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    June 22, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    Very interesting! I’ve never heard of a cymling but I have been called a gourd head a few times by my older brother. The laugh is on him because now he’s bald as a gourd and I still have all my hair! Who’s the real gourd head brother? HaHa!
    Like Bradley we us gourd head in place of go ahead and I too have gotten some funny looks from folks who ain’t from around here.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 22, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    Ken-That is hengenious. And I thought our rear bedroom window bathroom was smart.

  • Reply
    Ken
    June 22, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    Tipper,
    I never heard of cymling, but when
    I was little, daddy brought in a
    bunch of fake eggs for our hen
    nests. Someone had made them out of talc and we put them in dynamite boxes with broom sage in
    it and nailed to the back of the
    house. My older brothers had much
    longer arms than me, so they could
    just raise the bedroom windows and
    gather the eggs…Ken

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    June 22, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    Tipper–This is a question for the esteemed Miss Cindy. If Lambert Simnel was a cymling of the first order, does Perkin Warbeck rate as the second cymling? If she came up with Lambert Simnel off the top of her head, she will know whereof I speak. Incidentally, her comment astounded me, inasmuch as I would have bet perfectly good cash money that I was the only one among your readers who knew of the erstwhile Lambert Simnel (my Ph. D. is in British history). Leave it to her, however, to make what is unquestionably the right link to the word and its meaning.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 22, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    Miss Cindy-I looked in to Lambert Simnel and he was a ten year old boy when all this when down. The pretender was actually Richard Simmons who coached the lad in courtly manners and such. I wonder if he is the same Richard Simmons who is still around today. He is a pretender too.

  • Reply
    Tim Cuthbertson
    June 22, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    No, Tipper. I try to know and understand as many words as I come across, but “cymling” is totally new, to me.

  • Reply
    Speshell Ed
    June 22, 2012 at 11:42 am

    Sumbidy bena tawkin bout me?
    That picksur looks jist lik me but hit hain’t me

  • Reply
    Kimberly Burnette
    June 22, 2012 at 9:41 am

    I used to run across the word “cymling” quite often when I was doing research on 18th & 19th century gardening.

  • Reply
    Gary Powell
    June 22, 2012 at 9:13 am

    I think I still have a few of the little egg gourds that my Granny gave me on one of my visits. She even put them in an egg carton. I never tried to grow them, but I may try next year.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 22, 2012 at 9:12 am

    Lambert Simnel (ca. 1477 – ca. 1525) was a pretender to the throne of England. His claim to be the Earl of Warwick in 1487 threatened the newly established reign of King Henry VII
    Simnel was a pretender to the throne and cymling is a pretender to the chicken nest.
    I remember my grandmother having some of those pretenders for her chickens nests. I always wondered what they were. They were tan and spotty like the eggs.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    June 22, 2012 at 9:11 am

    I was not familiar with the word cymling–for dried squash or gourd–but I certainly knew about “nest eggs” and “darning gourds” used quite widely by the women in the Choestoe Community of N. GA when I was growing up.

  • Reply
    Shirla
    June 22, 2012 at 9:06 am

    My mom used the gourds in the chicken’s nest, but never called them cymlings. I also never heard a person’s head called gourd head or cymling head. How on earth did a person mend socks with a gourd? Thank God for Google!

  • Reply
    Bradley
    June 22, 2012 at 8:59 am

    Tipper,
    I remember years ago my Granny used to have a number of nest eggs. I remember they were made of glass and they seemed to be made of thin glass. She had the white ones and I remember seeing several that were light brown.
    Ed’s state ment about gourd heads reminds me of something we would do as boys. We were rascals I guess but when someone would try to say something but was interrupted and then in stead of saying “Go ahead”, we would say “Gourd head”. We always got some strange looks when we said that but, we were always getting strange looks back then.

  • Reply
    Mamabug
    June 22, 2012 at 8:57 am

    That’s a new one for me Tipper. Quite an interesting post!

  • Reply
    Melissa P. (Misplaced Southerner)
    June 22, 2012 at 8:47 am

    I had heard the word, but never seen it spelled before nor did I realize it was any kind of gourd or squash. I always figured it was a derivation of “simpleton!” Now who’s the cymling head????

  • Reply
    Lonnie
    June 22, 2012 at 8:40 am

    I don’t know that word at all. Now that you mention it though, I think I know some cymlin heads–by extension! But I’ve never called them that!

  • Reply
    Karen Larsen
    June 22, 2012 at 8:25 am

    Never heard the word before. It sure does look like an egg, though!

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    June 22, 2012 at 8:05 am

    Tipper–I’d like to think I’ve been exposed to pretty much all the vocabulary of mountain talk, but cymling is new to me. Gourd heads, water heads, pin heads, hard heads (I plead guilty to being a member of that group), and a head I won’t mention for fear of raising the wrath of She Who Must Be Obeyed (you–and I’d be curious to see if any of your readers know where “She Who Must Be Obeyed” comes from).
    Grandpa used a fake egg to put his hens in the right mood, but it was made of glass. He called it a nest egg.
    Jim Casada
    http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    June 22, 2012 at 7:55 am

    I remember egg shaped gourds being used as nest eggs but didn’t know they were cymlings. Like Ed I’ve heard folks called Gourd Heads implying that their heads were hollow like a gourd but more often we called them Pin Heads which may have come from the resemblance to a Bowling Pin. Kids can be s cruel and many don’t out grow it. If e will notice usually those who call othes derogatory names sfferfrom low selfeteem and are trying to pull others down to their level.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    June 22, 2012 at 7:36 am

    Never heard the word.

  • Reply
    Carol Killian
    June 22, 2012 at 7:33 am

    No,I have never heard the term. I have learned something new today.

  • Reply
    LINDA L. KERLIN
    June 22, 2012 at 7:26 am

    I have never heard the word —so I am anxious to see what your other followers have to say about it.

  • Reply
    B F
    June 22, 2012 at 7:18 am

    tipper
    i am so glad you brought up that word'”cymlin”i hadnt thought of them in years , my granny used them in hens nests too , and boy what i,d give for seed if they could even be found ,i didnt know they could be eaten , as i thought they had a real hard outside peeling(?)
    you are always jogging my memory and thats what i need , it brings back so much
    i remember someone calling a child “cymlin head”is that mean or what?(ha)

  • Reply
    B. ruth
    June 22, 2012 at 7:03 am

    Tipper,
    The gourd that is used to darn socks is an egg shaped gourd and has a little handle sticking out, too. I may have called one of them a cymling…it is a squash, but thin and delicate when dried…Most define a cymling as squash…Some editable summer squash are egg shaped as well..My dictionary calls a cymling a pattypan, it has scallops around the edge..The two gourds I have that was inherited are hard and have tiny holes drilled in the little handle end with a string thru to hold them together. They were in a sewing basket and Mom told me they were used to darn socks..thus Sock Darning Gourd!The ones that didn’t quite make a handle were dried and used to lay in the nest box to encourage hens to lay or go broody….Now that said, there could very well be a change in definition thru the years..’cause like the sweet potato, mater and potato…the squash changes its shape sometimes as well…also the famous pepper…some folks will know what I mean that have grown them…Peter Piper Picked A Peck Of Pickled Peppers!
    Lets just called the gourds egg gourds..the handled one egg darning gourds as well and the pattypan squash a cymling…LOL
    At least I don’t recollect my Granny calling the false egg gourds cymlings, but I heard it somewhere! LOL
    Thanks for a great post, Tipper

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 22, 2012 at 5:17 am

    I’ve heard a person’s head referred to as a gourd, never heard cymling.
    When I first looked at your picture I thought “an egg with an outy.”

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