Appalachian Dialect

Lots of Unusual Names from Readers

pig with words on it

The comments on yesterday’s post proved the names in Appalachia are as colorful as the language we use. I’m sending each of you a big thank you for the wonderful comments. You gave me much fodder for the project I’m working on.

All the comments are great, but here’s a few that jumped out at me.

Tipper,
I was so happy to see your post today! I Love the names from our region! Also, over the years, I have thought about how some names are butchered by us. In our community of Guntown, Hawkins County, TN. we had many ladies with beautiful names that were not known to the public until they passed on. For instance, Ollie for Olivia, Lyd (long I sound) for Lydia. One lady that lived near us was Tinnie. Her given name was Tennessee. In my husband’s family, there were sisters named Texas and Italy. Italy was pronounced It-ly. Aunt Texas had two sons named Huston and Dallas. Then there was Aunt Alafair. On my side there was my cousin, Douglas MacArthur Forgety and my great Aunt Melissa Sudee Kate. That is just a few from my neck of the woods. Thank you for your blog, it makes me remember sweet things from my past!

Sherry Case


I’ve heard Velma called Velmer or Velmar, Elva to Elvie, and in 1961 my good friend Donna had returned from her first year at college and wanted to go down south to my Grandparents with me for two weeks. My Grandmother knew her name was Donna but she called her Diner even though she heard me calling my friend Donna. We never thought to ask her why? On my Father’s side he had an Aunt Swepter who was the oldest child of his Grandfather and I had never heard that name before.

Dee


One of my great grandmothers was named Sophronia. They called her Fronie. My husband’s grandmother was named Buena, and she was called Bewnie.

Paula Rhodarmer


After finding and enjoying your blog so much, I now realize where so many of my family’s sayings originated. Raised by my Grandparents (Maternal) whom both came from N. W. Alabama, but met and married in Oklahoma in 1911. I recognize most of the ones you have mentioned. We were raised on the same kind of good homegrown garden vegetables, fresh milk and eggs. Not so much on venison…They raised and butchered a hog every year. Later they butchered a calf annually after we got a freezer. Wonderful carefree childhood in the country. One of the funniest memories I have about names: My Grandmother had a visitor and my cousin were in the next room playing when we heard the woman telling Mama about her daughter. She said,’ “Yes, Marthee had twins and she named them Eller and Steller. We cracked up with the giggles, but as you can imagine, it was not so pretty nor funny after Mama’s company left. I am 80 years young, and our family has been having an annual family reunion for the past 56 years at an organized camp ground at the lake up home. Aunts, Uncles, cousins, in-laws and probably some outlaws have met every year up until the pandemic stepped in and made us cancel this last couple of Easter week-ends. We gather on Friday night for a big fish fry followed by picking and grinning around the campfire; Saturday morning most of the men go to the Lodge to play golf. Saturday night is Mexican pot-luck (yummy), and again followed up with music into the night. Sunday noon is when we have the HUGE FEAST! This is followed by a very large Easter egg hunt for the little ones. We now number to more than 100 people. We come from everywhere across the nation. My husband and our peers are now the oldest generation (Seems impossible). We are the third generation of senior members. Of course, every year we have a new crop of babies added. The campground has individual cabins, bathhouses, and the main meeting hall/kitchen where we all meet to visit, play dominoes, work jigsaw puzzles, play music, etc. The kids have a huge area to play out of doors. It is a most wonderful tradition that I think our children will continue to carry on.

Betsy Wilson


My grandmother and her sisters were named after states. My grandmother was Virginia (Ginny) her sisters, Maine (Mainey) Nebraska (Braskey), Kansas (Kanny). I used to think it was weird the parents did that but now I think it’s cool that they dared to be different.

Ron Banks


My maternal grandma died before I was born. Her name was always pronounced as …LOU I ZY. . When I was a teenager, my mom decided we should go visit the OLD graveyard up on the high mountain where new owners of the land had paused their decade long strip mining. We took a picnic and brush clearing tools and we kids climbed in the pickup truck bed. After a rocky ride, the road leveled out at what mom once knew as her homeplace. We all took a hoe or a rake and she directed us toward a far corner where Graves were mostly marked by a big rock for a headstone, with a smaller one as a foot stone. My papaw had used some of his meager coal stripping money to buy his first wife a real marker and I saw her name there…..LOUISA

Kat Swanson


Verner for Verna….Murry for Mary….my Gndma Mauney’s name was “Theodocia” and was known as “Doesh”….my Grt-gndpa Cebrum Byers was known as “Cebe”…..Roe for Monroe…

Don Byers


My paternal grandfather’s name was Ira. Talking with an elderly gentleman whose family was friends with my dad’s family, couple years ago, I kept referring to Ira, pronouncing it correctly, of course (EYE-rah). He finally asked, “Who? Who you talking about?”
“My papaw.”
“Oh, you mean Ary (AR-ee).”
Thinking back to my youth (I was only 10 when my papaw passed), I recalled that that was indeed what he was called by the adults.

Joe F.


Mammy, Mom’s mother, had ten girls and named eight of them with names ending with an a. They were names like Lola, Dora, Vesta and etc that were seldom ever pronounced the way they were spelled. Mom’s name was Emiline. I thought that was an unusual name but never asked Mammy how she came up with it. Mammy’s name was Thursa and was known as Thurs. Her mother was a full blooded Cherokee Indian. I have often wondered if the name was derived from Thursday. My mother-in-laws name was Zeda. Her husband and others called her Zeddie. They had a daughter named Betty who was trying to impress a certain boy in school. The boy called one evening and asked for her. Betty’s dad thought the call was for Zeddie and said she was down there slopping the hogs. I’m not sure Betty ever forgave him.

Shirl


There are a lot of unusual names in my family tree but my favorite is “Happy”. Happy was my great great grandmother. Her real name was Happuch Matilda Gibson. Happuch was a probably a shortened version of the Bible name Keren-Happuch. Keren-Happuch was the youngest of Job’s three daughters. Happy married John Sadoc Smiley. There is another Keren-Happuch in my family tree but she wasn’t happy. She went by Karen.

Ed Ammons


My great-great grandmother Ora Barnes Vick had a sister named Homer. Homer passed away shortly after her eighteenth birthday. My great-grandmother Vick, who died in 1979, just 6 weeks short of her hundredth birthday, never spoke of her – at least in my hearing. When I was bitten by the genealogy bug in 1999, I learned of Homer from the “cemetery books” produced by the sweet ladies of the county Homemakers Club (which seems to be a Kentucky thing as far as I know). These ladies risked copperheads and rattlers, chiggers, mosquito bites, bulls and poison ivy to painstakingly record every known grave in the county. Some of these cemeteries hadn’t been used or maintained for sixty years and could no longer be accessed by even a dirt road. A few, sadly, were small family burial grounds on “old home places” that had been used to pasture cattle for decades. Some were barely readable even in the early 1960s when the first two volumes were printed. I will be forever indebted to these women. It was my privilege to thank some of them in person and through notes to the county genealogical societies of the four Kentucky counties where the earthly remains of so many of my ancestors now rest. I started my family history after all who came before me were gone – not a practice I recommend. The two ladies who climbed a steep bluff to record Homer’s grave assumed it was the grave of a man. The inscription read “Homer Barnes dau. of Cornelia and Immanuel Barnes,” but it was so weathered that you could only decipher the abbreviation for “daughter” if you knew what it should say. A second cousin found a labeled portrait of Homer in her late mother’s things. She was most certainly a young woman.

Lemma is another strange (to me) family name but there are several Lemmas in the cemetery book. I am a direct descendant of a “Lorenzo Dow Andrews.” Researching this name, I found that many southern families have a Lorenzo Dow [surname]. Lorenzo Dow (1777-1834) was a famous traveling evangelist. I also have a Horacio Gates Lane ancestor, named for one of the less successful Revolutionary War generals. One of my great grandmothers was named Tabitha – long before it became a popular girls name in the 1970s because of the TV sitcom “Bewitched.” She pronounced her name with the accent on the second syllable, unlike today’s Tabithas.

Patricia Wilson


Anytime I need help all I have to do is ask and Blind Pig readers go above and beyond in responding to my call. Be sure to jump back over and read the other comments if you missed them yesterday.

Tipper

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20 Comments

  • Reply
    Barbara
    October 15, 2021 at 11:48 am

    I had a friend from Floyd County, Kentucky who was named “Boy” and he had a sister named “Girlie.”

    As I recall, they had many other siblings and just ran out of names.

  • Reply
    Suzanne Mattson
    October 13, 2021 at 10:15 am

    My people were from the upper part of SC and Georgia, mainly around the Anderson SC area. One of my great grandmas on the Bryant side was Laodiceia. I understand they called her Dicey. In my fairly new genealogy search, I’ve seen that name come up a couple times.
    Suzanne

  • Reply
    Kelly Shook
    October 10, 2021 at 6:35 pm

    My great grandfather was Marion Washington Head his wife was named Cynthia. Photos I have seen are marked Cynthy and Wash Head.

  • Reply
    J
    October 10, 2021 at 5:22 pm

    Love reading these! I think names are so fascinating. First name in my family that comes to mind is my great grandmother’s step mother (but the woman who raised her) was named Peachie, and that was her real legal name.

  • Reply
    Kathy Tilley
    October 7, 2021 at 7:45 pm

    A lot of women in my family have the middle name of Jo. At school the kids called my family the Petticoat Junction family. My moma was Betjo (Betty Jo), I am Katjo (Kathy Jo), there is also Biljo (Billie Jo), Bobjo (Bobbie Jo), Trejo (Theresa Jo), Larjo (Laura Jo), Marjo (Mary Jo), Sajo (Sally Jo) and Liljo (Lilly Jo). My dad is Joe (Joseph Earl, J.P. (Joseph Paul, J.W. (Joseph Wayne), J.D. (Joseph Daniel), Jay (Joseph Allen) and J.J. (Joseph John). Those are my parents and siblings. I had a great Uncle named Uncle L.J. Nobody ever knew his real name until his funeral. On his tomb stone it has his name as Lucy Jayne. My son is Patrick but he goes by Packie which is what his older brother called him as a baby. My brother was not able to pronounce my Uncle Lieghton’s name and to this day calls him Uncle Satan. It kind of became a family joke. Aunt Sarah is Aint Sari. My cousin Dinah is Diner. My cousin Lynda is Lynder. My cousin Wanda is Wander. My cousin Connie’s real name is Consepcion (I am sure I did not spell that correctly. It is pronounced Consep-she-on. There are a lot of other weird nicknames as well as real names in my family.

  • Reply
    Janice B Chapman
    October 7, 2021 at 6:08 pm

    My mamaw was always called Izzie, but her name was really Isa (Pronounced Eye-sa) Estella. My other grandma was named Erie Ann-pronounced just like the Erie canal. I had an Aunt Celeste Texas. She was born in Celeste, Texas and was called Lessie. My husband’s grandmom’s name was Goldie Arizona!

  • Reply
    Gaye Blaine
    October 7, 2021 at 3:41 pm

    Had a relative named Edith but family pronounced it as Ed-ith. Eva was butchered to Evie, Inez was dubbed I- nus. Wyona was shortened to Oh-Nee. Pearl was lengthened to Pearlie. Flora was known as Flurrie. Bertha was pronounced as Berthie. Martha was shortened to Marth. Ella was known as Eller. Mary was called Murry. I grew up with this country way and thought nothing of it until I read this post. Of course we knew the correct way of spelling. Beatrice was really a challenge: Be-AT-trice. Men were commonly named Beverly and Shirley also.

  • Reply
    PinnacleCreek
    October 7, 2021 at 2:10 pm

    The names were so different, and families so large I wondered if they weren’t out of ideas. I had an Uncle Tarvin they called Tarve, an Aunt Dolras we called Darse, Uncle Welch. We had friends with nicknames like Chubby (he was thin) Fuzzy, and Brogues.

    I have never seen this mentioned and is just as well, but there was an unusual event once at our high school around ’57. Many student acquaintances were called to the office and took on new last names. It was common for children to not be adopted, but raised by grandparents or even sometimes relatives. If they were there from a young age they simply took on the name of the family. There must have been a memo sent out from the BOE to restore the name from their birth certificate, because many suddenly had new names. I knew two of them, and they were among my favorite people. This was done without any fanfare, and these young teens marched back to class with a new last name. I so wish we could get those days back where most things never turned into drama!

  • Reply
    Ronald Stephens
    October 7, 2021 at 10:46 am

    Noticed your subscription numbers in YouTube are climbing fast. I expect that means they will here on BP&A to. Looks to be like maybe yesterday you had the most comments ever. Really shows that names are a treasured part of our family heritage. Too bad the story behind nicknames gets lost after awhile. I do recall your post about how your’s came about.

    That “little” peculiarity of being called a totally different name than your “real” name has given genealogists fits. Probably caused more than a few legal tangles also down through the years. About that, I have read that the Cherokee historically had a difficult time pronouncing English (and vice versa). The word “Qualla” – as in the Qualla boundary – is reported to be the Cherokee pronunciation of English “Polly”. And the Cherokee “Tsali” was their pronunciation of English “Charlie”.

  • Reply
    Robert Louis
    October 7, 2021 at 10:46 am

    I’m from Pennsylvania and have no experience of Appalachia, but I wanted to say how informative and interesting I find your posts. They are like an entire course in American history.

  • Reply
    Christine
    October 7, 2021 at 10:45 am

    Tipper your readers did indeed provide some very interesting names and stories behind them. I truly enjoyed each story they shared. My family had more repeat names that were common and seemed to be passed down through the generations. We had multiple Thomas that were called Tommy, multiple Betty’s but the had different middle names like Betty Ann, Betty Ruth, Betty Jean. Ann was used as a middle name in at least three generations, Betty Ann, Ruth Ann and Tiffany Ann. But as I sad in my comment yesterday, we had more nicknames in our family than anything. Thank you all for sharing and making Tippers post even more fun by sharing some great family names that hopefully will be passed on in future generations.

  • Reply
    Shirl
    October 7, 2021 at 9:18 am

    Some of the folks I grew up with were only known by nicknames. One guy was simply know as L. I heard that was because his name was so difficult to pronounce, a name I don’t recall ever hearing.
    Names like Flossie and Fanny were popular back in the day when country women tended to name their babies after family members. Those names were common and belonged to beautiful women but could cause ugly name calling in this day and time.

  • Reply
    Jackie
    October 7, 2021 at 8:59 am

    My wife”s mother was Vera with sisters Vinnie Lee, Velma, Valarie and Virginia.

  • Reply
    Margie G for Gypsy
    October 7, 2021 at 8:56 am

    I got a real kick out of reading what others wrote to you. Names, it seems, are as unique to our region as are it’s most colorful, resilient and strong people! I remember as a child WISHING I had a “cool” name like Beth or Jennifer or Kim. But as I get older, I’m glad I’m not named something else. My name is Margie but daddy and those who truly know me know I am and always have been GYPSY and granny called me TURKEY ROGUE when I’d pilfer and climb through things and I hated that name….. lol

  • Reply
    Sherry Whitaker
    October 7, 2021 at 8:33 am

    I really had fun reading about all the different names! My immediate family is from East Tennessee with lots of connections to NW Arkansas. All those folks call everyone by their first & middle names…Sherry Fay, Charline Sue, Gary Don, Charles Joe, or had names with only inituals…H.C., J.T….and Uncle H.C. Was actually called Uncle Frog (because as a kid he always just sat like a frog, )
    Uncle Otis Linberg was always called by his nickname Tater.
    Tipper, it was fun to remember & ponder these precious folks that are so loved.I am reminded that the Bible says that the Lord made the stars & He calls them all by name! It is a comfort to realize He also knows us all by name.

  • Reply
    Brad Byers
    October 7, 2021 at 7:18 am

    Miss Tipper, don’t get me started. Readers might think I’m making things up if I listed all the “interesting” names in my family. Here’s a sample: Perlene, Algae, Eley, Olar, Clel, Clossie, Wordlaw. I want to say first and foremost that these are all people I loved. All have passed away, and their memories are dear.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    October 7, 2021 at 7:12 am

    It’s amazing Tipper, all the names and all the variations. I have been called Cindy, Tilly, Sister, Miss Cindy and my name is actually Cynthia but I have never been called by it. Yesterday was a most interesting post with lots of interesting comments. I had found it interesting when reading it in the morning then I went back to the comments again last night and was astonished at how many new comments had been added. You really stirred things up! Good job, getting us to think back!

    • Reply
      Cindy
      October 7, 2021 at 9:06 pm

      My name is Cynthia but I’ve always been called Cindy. I asked Mama why didn’t she just name me Cindy. She didn’t have an answer. It’s never been a popular name.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    October 7, 2021 at 7:00 am

    Great post yesterday. I loved reading all the names. I forgot one great aunt who was also named after a state. Her name was Minnesota (Minnie.)

  • Reply
    JimK
    October 7, 2021 at 6:51 am

    I’ve noticed names run in cycles. When my older siblings were born my parents where on a rhyming kick ( Jackie Dean, Glenda Jean.
    Now I hear more names influenced from outside sources, ( i.e. River, Faith, Hope…)
    The decade I was born parents seem to make sure a Christian name was always part of the process, ( Paul, Mary, Mark, James ..).
    I notice in visits to Cemeteries names ran in cycles from decade to decade. Don’t know if this will continue in this day and time.

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