Appalachian Dialect Pap


creek rocks

B verb
1 To throw rocks at in order to intimidate or to drive away or back, esp to ambush a rival in courtship on the latter’s way home from seeing a girl. Hence rocking = the action of driving an intruding boy away; rock a house = to warn or intimidate the inhabitants of a house by throwing rocks at it; rock back home = to drive cattle home by throwing rocks at them.
1913 Kephart Our Sthn High 259 A prime amusement of the small boys is “rocking” (throwing stones at marks or at each other), in which rather doubtful pastime they become singularly expert. 1939 Hall Coll. Nine Mile Creek TN He’d run a bear in on them, and they got to rocking it. (Fonze Cable) 1953 Hall Coll. Deep Creek NC [The bull] belonged to old man Collins. I told him if he tackled me I would have to shoot him…I tried rockin’ him to keep him off me. (Fate Wiggins) 1970 Hall Witchlore 32 Incidentally, “rocking” (that is throwing rocks at) was mentioned in two tales as the treatment for cows thought to be boogers or ghosts. 1985 Pittman Comm Centr 140 [I]t was an often practice that the visiting male was “rocked” on his way back home after a visit to his girl’s home. 1986 Sevier Settler 8:25 “Rocking” people was a practice that was done on Halloween and throughout the year. If a fellow was walking his girl friend home from church, and if his friends knew which route he would be taking, the fellow’s friends might hide in the bushes until the couple came along. Then someone would yell, “Pick’em up,” and his friends would throw a handful of rocks at the couple. The rocks were never meant to harm the couple, they were only meant as a teasing joke….

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English

Pap told me tales of boys rocking each other for fun when he was young. It never sounded like much fun to me 🙂 But I could see by the glint in Pap’s eye “rocking” was big fun for a boy growing up in the mountains of Appalachia.


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  • Reply
    Kat Swanson
    October 9, 2020 at 2:21 pm

    Friday evenings ..while our parents were gone to trade ( which meant grocery shopping in the 50s in Wise Co. VA. ) was the time we kids could rock our cousins in their cabin near us. All week as we walked home from school, we kids had been picking up good rocks, putting in our pockets, hiding them from our patents, getting ready for our FRIDAY NIGHT ROCK FIGHTS! We would go at it til some body got their head cracked and saw blood.
    And WHAT’S THIS ABOUT ONLY BOYS ROCKIN EACH OTHER? My girl cousins and me always joined the ugly brothers in this playing. As far as I know, the parents never found out what we did while we waited for them to come home from trading and sometimes bring us a box of cracker jacks!

  • Reply
    Don Byers
    October 8, 2020 at 3:03 pm

    Rocking……last time I got rocked I got hit with one…….but then again,,,rocking….rockin’….that’s a rockin’ good way, that’s a rockin’ good way, to fool around and fall in love….

  • Reply
    Sherry Dobbs
    October 8, 2020 at 1:48 pm

    I can remember my Uncle Elmer rocking the outhouse when my Aunt Betty was enthroned! He got in alot of trouble, I’m glad I was never the recipient of the barrage.
    When our son was 11, he and our neighbors son were always up to something. Our Casey came in one day and said Josh and he were throwing rocks at each other and Josh got him in the eye! I looked and his pupil was blown! It looked like a spoon…the formerly round pupil was mis-shapened, it was now shaped like a spoon with the top part being oddly oval with a handle hanging down!!! I was beside my self as we drove to the opthalmologist. Dr Derosa said he saw no permanent damage to the back of the eye which was reassuring and the mis-shapened pupil would either resolve on its own or not!!!! WHAT! ???? THANKULLY, I’m happy to report the pupil did resolve on its own back to its normal shape! But this Mama was by no means happy about the rocking!

  • Reply
    Kenneth Ryan
    October 8, 2020 at 11:02 am

    We don’t have many rocks in east Texas, at least throwing size. We threw crawfish mounds at each other.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 8, 2020 at 9:52 am

    You left out the best! Rocking the outhouse. When somebody went in and got down to business you would commence rocking the door. After the initial salvo you would slow down to one rock every once in a while. But if the door started to move you flung another barrage. This could go on until your arm got sore or until you got bored and ran off. Right before you hurriedly left you would let loose a hail of rocks so that the victim would be terrorized and stay inside long enough for you to get out of sight.
    Another usage of “rocking the outhouse” has nothing to do with rocks. It entails rocking in the same sense as a rocking chair. An outhouse, being as it is a rather small but tall building in proportion, has a high center of gravity. Due to its mass it is still hard to tip over. The best way to achieve that goal it to initiate a rocking motion with ever increasing timed surges of pressure being applied on one side. Hince “rocking the outhouse”.
    I never participated in either of these two activities and wouldn’t admit to it if I had, even though the statute of limitations has run. 1 Corinthians 13:11

  • Reply
    Celia Miles
    October 8, 2020 at 9:23 am

    My early school days were full of rocking, especially every afternoon. I don’t remember it as an especially cruel activity or real animosity–just expected behavior. Walking home from school, one group encountered another, words (insults) were exchanged and before we knew it we were throwing rocks at each other. Of course, we did get hurt and had some bruises when we got home and heard the refrain: “you’re going to put somebody’s eye out one of these days.” Luckily, we never did…and luckily we grew up.

  • Reply
    Gene Smith
    October 8, 2020 at 8:45 am

    My family used “rock” as a verb, but I had forgotten about it until I read your post. We boys rocked each other in teams, somewhat like we “played army” growing up during WW II, some as the enemy and some as the Americans. A tragic thing happened when I was in the army in the mid-fifties. On night maneuvers in a German forest, some soldier threw a rock at a passing jeep, and struck a young lieutenant in the temple. He died the next day in the army hospital in Heidelberg. Luckily, we never had any casualties when we rocked each other as goofy boys, although one buddy got hit in the eye during a teenage mud-ball battle at our swimming hole.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    October 8, 2020 at 8:23 am

    I had forgotten that. I did hear “rockin” occasionally as a boy and would understand it fine if I heard it said. But it has been a very long time since I have. Like most country boys, we rocked hornets nests.

    I have a story that is sort of a variation on rockin that I heard told by the principle actor in the drama.

    There were two friends together each walking a girl home from church. The road passed through a gap in the cliff, leaving a high rock wall above the road as it went along the slope. The storyteller dropped back out of the light, reached down and picked up a big sandrock. A little later he dropped out of the light again and flung the rock toward the cliff. It hit with a loud POW and he ‘broke to run’. His friend made a sudden grab and caught his collar and the back of his brand new shirt ripped all the way down.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    October 8, 2020 at 8:17 am

    I don’t recall ever heard of rocking someone, also never heard of ghost cows!

  • Reply
    aw griff
    October 8, 2020 at 7:58 am

    I was glad to hear that Ken was doing good. I hadn’t much more than sent him a card until I ended up in the hospital with a heart rhythm problem. I had 0 blockage but the contrast dye shut my kidneys down. After several days the kidneys are much better. I’m as weak as branch water and couldn’t even throw a rock. I reckon I’ve done all kinds of rocking except rocking a male rival. Us boys would have rock throwing contest and a Cousin always won. Given the chance I believe he could have been a major league pitcher.

  • Reply
    gayle larson
    October 8, 2020 at 7:34 am

    We were taught as children not to ever thro rocks or sticks. The reason being we might put someones eye out. The only time I thru anything was skipping rocks in the river and it seems we could do that for hours. I did get pretty good at that for a girl.

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