Appalachian Dialect

Only Got a Skiff of Snow

small amount of snow on steps

Over the last two weeks we’ve had several days of snow, but none of them have been more than a skiff.

The only measurable snow happened about a month ago and it was only about four inches. The snow was absolutely beautiful, but only lasted one day. By the next evening it was like it had never happened.

I’m plumb foolish about snow. I’m still hoping for a big one before spring of the year arrives.


skiff noun
A thin layer, small amount (esp in phr skiff/skift of snow = a light fall of snow).
1834 (in 1956 Eliason Tarheel Talk 294) last night we had a little skift of snow. 1904 Kephart Notebooks 2:600 A thin skift of clouds. 1939 Hall Coll. Cataloochee NC We just got out on top, and there was a little skift of snow a fallin’. (Will Palmer) ibid. Cataloochee NC They was a little skiff of snow, and that was how come to see their sign (Steve Woody) 1953 Hall Coll. Plott Creek NC My grandmother has told me that when they first were back there, and they’d be snow or anything, a skift of snow around the pens, they’d be bears and wolf tracks all about there trying to get the stock from the barn. (John Plott) 1966 DARE = the first thin ice that forms over the surface of a pond (Brunsville NC); There’s just a skiff of ice (Spruce Pine NC).
[OED skiff “a slight sketch, trace, touch, etc.” chiefly Scot; cf CUD/HT skift “a light shower”]

—Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English



canning jars full of food

Come cook with me!

Location: John C. Campbell Folk School – Brasstown, NC
Date: Sunday, August 23 – Saturday, August 29, 2020
Instructors: Carolyn Anderson, Tipper Pressley

Experience the traditional Appalachian method of cooking, putting up, and preserving the bounty from nature’s garden. Receive hands-on training to make and process a variety of jellies, jams, and pickles for winter eating. You’ll also learn the importance of dessert in Appalachian culture and discover how to easily make the fanciest of traditional cakes. Completing this week of cultural foods, a day of bread making will produce biscuits and cornbread. All levels welcome.

Along with all that goodness Carolyn and I have planned a couple of field trips to allow students to see how local folks produce food for their families. The Folk School offers scholarships you can go here to find out more about them. For the rest of the class details go here.

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  • Reply
    Betty Rugged Smith
    January 5, 2021 at 12:17 am

    Well, you oldies had better repent! We had 4 inches of snow at Christmas time. We live here in Gray, TN. I was born in Elizabethton, TN. In the year 1949. I am 71.11 years old. I had a Mom Proffitt who lived on Slabtown Road in Doe Valley, Johnson County, TN. When I was just a little gal, I called her “mom” because my mother called her mom. Yes, we canned a lot of goods, and I would be a good girl all day long, because I loved ” mom”. And also she made the best pickled beets in the whole world. And she shared. Lots a love! Betty Smith

  • Reply
    Terry Price
    March 11, 2020 at 2:36 pm

    My grandfather used to say that when there was a light dusting of snow (Spring Creek, Madison County, NC)

    Related: have you ever heard the phrase: calm down now, you’ll buck out of your traces”? I heard it a lot when someone was getting overly excited about something and loosing control.

  • Reply
    March 5, 2020 at 9:47 pm

    We’ve had snow a-plenty and there’s a possibility we’ll have more this week, but it’s the everlasting ice that’s been more of a problem. Still, we’ve had two warm days in the past couple of weeks, and today I noticed signs of early plants – I hope the rest of our winter doesn’t hurt them!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    March 5, 2020 at 1:32 pm

    Oops! I didn’t lie but I did forget. We had about 3″ of snow on Feb. 8 , a Saturday anyway, that made a winter wonderland for just the one day. Some folks went kinda snow crazy, especially the kids. I remember that feeling well for myself. Those memories stuck. There were a lot of pictures posted, some really fine ones. My favorite was a little blond girl with the cutest pink cheeks. Next favorite was a red barn and a ‘classic’ pickup in front.

    I don’t mean to ever write anything untrue. But Lord knows my short-term memory is not to be relied on too hard. Last trip for annual checkup the nurse asked me to remember three words then immediately started giving me instructions about something else. I got 2 out of 3.

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      March 5, 2020 at 8:35 pm

      Sometimes, when so many years have passed, the old mind seems to run things together. When we look into our memory file, we often pull out the wrong one. It’s not that they are untrue, it’s that we put them in the wrong order.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    March 5, 2020 at 1:19 pm

    Tip, your always wishing for snow. Every year as it gets warmer and warmer you are wishing for one good snow. It looks like it’s not going to happen this year, but then you never know. We’ve had snow in March!
    I always wish for snow because it makes you so happy!

  • Reply
    March 5, 2020 at 10:36 am

    Haven’t had a skiff of rain in more than a month here in N. California. Actually pretty scary.

    Hope you get your snow! Hank

  • Reply
    March 5, 2020 at 10:27 am

    I was raised with what looked to me as a child… 4 feet of snow. From November to end of April we didn’t see the ground. I must say though, thank the good Lord, our home was always warm. We walked to grade school and to high school. Well, actually I lived just barely far enough out that I could ride the bus to high school. I stood one morning up on the main highway waiting for the bus with sleet and snow coming down. Nearly froze to death, so I decided right then that I would walk to high school from then on and I did. You can keep pretty warm by just exerting the energy it takes walking a distance.

    I remember when my husband and I retired and the first snow came. We got up and got our cup of coffee, then we went into the living room sitting down watching it snow with a smile on our face that we didn’t have to get out on the snow covered road. Enjoy it while you are young but you may not relish it so much by the time retirement comes around. That is if you get the type of snow that hangs around for a long time.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    March 5, 2020 at 10:26 am

    About a month ago we got a couple on inches. It froze overnight and lasted 3 or 4 days where it was in the shade. The last one we had would have been a big one but it melted as it hit the ground. It snowed hard almost all day. If it had been just 1 or 2 degrees colder, it could have been 6 or more inches.
    I pray for snow! Not for me but for you.

  • Reply
    March 5, 2020 at 9:01 am

    I am with you on that, Tipper. When I worked it was a challenge to get out and drive in that winter wonderland. I loved it though, and learned to drive really well. As I had watched cars right in front of me slide out of control, I was always aware of how easy to lose control. AWD always used until I retired, and find now I have become a big chicken. Once had to drive through a small college town, and the ditches and banks were full of cars. I could only surmise that it was mostly young folks who had not quite got the hang of Winter driving. I chose a different route after that when possible I must admit my favorite pastime now is sitting beside a window watching a heavy snow fall while my vehicle sets safely in the driveway.

  • Reply
    gayle larson
    March 5, 2020 at 9:00 am

    Since I moved from Pennsylvania to Murphy I often kid the locals by saying we had to shovel where I came from and here you can sweep. I hated snow when I was working but now I sit by the window and think how beautiful it is.

  • Reply
    March 5, 2020 at 8:59 am

    One thing is for sure, I will never get excited about finding spoons in every persimmon seed I open. School was cancelled one day back in the fall due to a skiff of snow mixed with sleet. I was thinking, here we go this early in the year. Still hoping for one big tracking snow to fall on a Saturday when my young drivers are not on the highway.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    March 5, 2020 at 8:23 am

    Skiff is what I always heard it called also. To me it means any snow not deep enough to keep from knowing what is underneath it. My Dad would say, “not enough to track a rabbit.” Somewhere not long after that amount would be a tracking snow.

    We have not had enough here to turn the ground white, just seeing the flakes in the air but melting as soon as they reach the ground. Still too soon though to give up on the winter of 2019/20.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    March 5, 2020 at 8:16 am

    We had that little skift of snow the other day. It was a real disappointment, but the one before that one was beautiful. It hung on every tree branch and lasted until the next evening. I too would like to have one big snow before it warms up. Our local weather man says we will have one and my Wife, the big kid, really wants it.
    I’ve heard skift and skiff.

  • Reply
    March 5, 2020 at 6:32 am

    Not me, I’m perfectly happy with a skiff, once I retire ( hopefully in 5yrs ) I may order a plate full but for right now I’m good with a skiff.

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