Appalachia Appalachian Dialect

Slang Expletive Words


A few weeks back Blind Pig reader Dana Wall left the following comment:

“I am fairly new to this site. Have you posted slang “expletive” words and phrases? My grandmother, for example, would exclaim, “Oh, my land!” when surprised or doubtful. Neither she, nor any relative, used the Lord’s name in vain. She also varied the exclamation with “Land sakes,” and “Land sakes alive!” Sometimes, “gracious sakes.” My grandfather was the inventive one, however. I could go on.”

Dana’s comment got me to thinking about all the words we use in place of bad ones when we get mad or something doesn’t go our way. I used to babysit a little one who started saying a bad word he heard his Daddy say. I taught him to say fiddle sticks instead and pretty soon the girls were saying it too.

The list of words used in place of cuss words could go on forever. In addition to the ones Dana mentioned I’ve heard:

  • Goodness
  • My goodness
  • Gracious
  • My gracious
  • Great day in the morning
  • Oh my word
  • Gosh
  • By gosh
  • Dang
  • Darn
  • Dad-blame-it
  • Dad-burn-it
  • Dad-gone-it
  • Dad-jim-it
  • Dag-na-bit
  • Dad-blast-it
  • Shoot
  • Oh my foot
  • Son of a gun
  • Golly
  • Crap
  • Crud
  • Shucks
  • Well I swear
  • Gole-durn-it
  • Curse it
  • Mercy
  • By ned
  • By gum
  • Dog Gone
  • Confound it

When I was in high school I was spending the night with a friend and her mother overheard me say “confound it.”

She said “How old are you? I haven’t heard that since I was a little girl!”

I don’t really remember Granny or Pap saying “confound it” but I must have picked it up somewhere in my childhood.

Hope you’ll leave a comment with more slang expletive words. I know I’ve only mentioned a few.


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  • Reply
    December 3, 2020 at 5:07 pm

    I’m so hungry I could eat the hiney out of a skunk. (Kinda builds your appetite.)

  • Reply
    October 17, 2020 at 6:55 pm

    Not an Appalachian saying, but my friend from the mountains of Switzerland used to say Sugar instead of sh*t.
    I sure do miss her.

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    January 3, 2019 at 6:30 pm

    After thirty years in the Navy, I know all the words those are substituting for…

  • Reply
    Billy J Stokes
    January 3, 2019 at 4:09 pm

    I swan or I swanny. I think instead of I swear.

  • Reply
    Carol Credit
    January 3, 2019 at 12:54 pm

    Goodness Gracious Alouicious! and For Heaven’s Sake!

  • Reply
    January 2, 2019 at 10:27 pm

    I don’t know where I picked it up, but I say “HELLo central!!!” when I’m frustrated over something. And my Mammaw Moffitt was so upset to hear me say “Dad Jim it!” when I was little. I’ve also heard “My NERVES!” and “my stars!”

  • Reply
    Brent Clayton
    January 2, 2019 at 9:54 pm

    My grandma’s by word was bloomin! ” I stubbed my toe on that bloomin rock”. Daddy always said ” I swanney” or ” well, I swanney”.

  • Reply
    January 2, 2019 at 9:40 pm

    Worked with a man who would say John Brown. Like “ that John Brown thing just broke “

  • Reply
    Carley Windsor
    December 28, 2018 at 1:03 pm

    This has been one of my favorites so far…I have laughed and laughed at some of these phrases! And even funnier still, to me, is that my four year old daughter and five year old son say “blasted” and “dadgummed”, as well as every thing they don’t know the name of is a doo-hickey. Daily speech for us! We use sakes alive, I swannie, Heavenly days!, flyin’ flip (is a favorite of mine) or flyin’ rat tail…my mom uses ‘what in th’ thunder’ all the time, and my Grannie used “Hell’s Bells’ (which I use quite often, but always say to preface “As my Grannie always said…”also, they laaaaaaw and Heavens to Betsy are favorites around our house. I’ve been getting tickled at how many only hear this from grandparents nowadays, or memory of grands saying these terms…it’s everyday words for us. I had to go to Huntsville to get a husband (bc everybody on this mountain is kin to me)…and it took him 3 months of listening to my daddy before he started understanding him…haha!!

  • Reply
    Paula V
    November 1, 2018 at 6:48 am

    You covered about all the expletive substitutes I heard growing up. However, there are a couple of exclamations I can offer: my father used to say, “Great day in the morning!” and my grandmother would always exclaim “Law!”, which I figure was a substitute for Lord.

  • Reply
    Pete Babacheck
    October 20, 2018 at 10:00 pm

    When I moved to another shop at work, the guys started saying “Mother Hubbard” instead of the more colorful phrase once they found out I went to church. Nice of them to do that for me, didn’t even ask.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    October 19, 2018 at 3:21 am

    WOW…..”After hearing all these saying’s …surely the “Fit would hit the Sham”….when I was growing up!
    I say a lot that I sometimes worry about later …mostly when I am really hurt with anger… “Hells Bells” is one of my favorites…”mostly I don’t get mad often….well then, when I do, I try to rationalize the situation while I pull the kettle off the eye and let the steam die down a bit…and think maybe I needed a boot to shake me up a little..
    Sometimes I just brush stuff off…go paint and my mind goes to another place…and I really (like I tell some at times)
    I really don’t give a “flying flip”….LOL
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    October 18, 2018 at 9:55 pm

    I grew up hearing “Holy mackerel!” but I remember my parents’ reaction when my family met an older fellow from Maine who used to say “Holy mackinaw!” instead. I don’t know why a raincoat can’t be as “holy” as a mackerel 😉

  • Reply
    Janet E
    October 18, 2018 at 1:47 pm

    I have heard most of the words and reading them brought a smile. For some unknown reason many years ago, I started saying ‘sunny peaches”. When it pops out once in awhile and people are close they just laugh – so I guess it works.

  • Reply
    October 17, 2018 at 10:27 pm

    My Daddy would say “Dog take the luck!” I remember hearing that more than once in the wee hours when he would get up and run into something en route to his destination – he never put his glasses on and he wore tri-focals so I’d guess he was almost blind without them. You’d hear the thump, then “Dog take the luck!” I have no idea where it came from as I grew up in Mississippi. Makes me laugh now even thinking about it. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Harry Stout age 91
    October 17, 2018 at 8:45 pm

    wouldn’t that knock your hat in the creek

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    October 17, 2018 at 6:04 pm

    Well I had fun reading them. And one of the comments reminded me of how we used “point blank”. There are two variants. One is “pint blank” as it “it looked pint blank to me like the biggest four prong ginseng I’d ever seen”. The other was “plime blank” as in “he told me plime blank he didn’t know nothing about it and me aknowin’ the whole time he helped do it!” I had never before even though about how to spell that second use.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    October 17, 2018 at 1:14 pm

    “The Devil”–my elderly aunt’s worst! Grandpa would always say, “You’ve got something in your mouth I wouldn’t want on my foot!” when anyone said s**t.

    People used to refrain from what we called “blackgarding”–really bad language but now I hear it everywhere. I tell people they have a mighty poor vocabulary if that’s all they know.

    • Reply
      Doug Shook
      October 18, 2018 at 1:15 am

      Wanda, you used a word I have only heard my mama and her family use–“blackgarding”. I have wondered if anyone else used it to mean to use bad words. Now I know! I love this blog!

  • Reply
    Richard Moore
    October 17, 2018 at 12:22 pm

    One variation I remember is “I’ll Swanee” for I Swear or I declare. I also heard “Land a Goshen” but can’t use that here because we live not far from the Maury River gorge Goshen Pass. Someone mentioned being warned against using the (to me) rather tame “Gosh.” In eighth grade I had a teacher belittle me in front of the class for saying “Gosh” saying it was a very vulgar word. I remember thinking ‘she must know a meaning I’m not familiar with’.

  • Reply
    Papaw Ammons
    October 17, 2018 at 11:53 am

    I never used expletives of any kind as a child. I hated the taste of soap. Have you ever heard “Well dip me in whip cream!”
    I had a cousin who I heard one time say, “I’m so hungry I could eat the _ _ _ gut out of a _ _ _ _ _ bear. You can fill in the blanks.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    October 17, 2018 at 11:36 am

    Growing up with 5 brothers, I recon I’ve heard just about everything, some More Colorful or plain spoken. …Ken

  • Reply
    Rosamary Christiansen
    October 17, 2018 at 11:32 am

    I worked with an R.N. and her ‘go to’ word was “Blast!” I don’t know where she heard it, but when I need a strong expletive, it is my ‘go to’ word.

  • Reply
    October 17, 2018 at 11:27 am

    I’ve heard them all and use quite a few.

  • Reply
    October 17, 2018 at 11:21 am

    My childhood was full of these, as cursing or “dirty words” not allowed. At least it was well known they were not allowed unless my carpenter dad hit his thumb with a hammer. One of the oldest was ah foot, and through the years I heard a lot of ‘pon my word, ah flitter, and my dad’s personal favorite was, “I’ll be a suck egg mule.” If we wandered too closely to the real curse words we were quickly corrected, and mostly had to avoid all the different ones that began with a d. . Dad never had to teach us much about stealing because we never seemed to have that inclination. He set a good honest example. Now lying was a different matter, and he taught us from the cradle it was not always the deed but the lying that would get us in trouble. Good life, good raising, and I am still amazed at how much influence my parents had on my life. I try to pass these values on to children I am around on a regular basis. Great learning post today, Tipper. I like to think most Appalachian folks will go a country mile to do or say the right thing.

  • Reply
    October 17, 2018 at 10:16 am

    I have heard or used about 99% of those you expressed and your readers. I usually said “Goodness Gracious,” and I don’t know where I heard “Fiddle Sticks” but I sure have used that one too and “Shoot.” I had forgot about “confound it” but I remember hearing it and I may have used it.

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    October 17, 2018 at 10:16 am

    Dear Tipper, I’ve heard most of those mentioned and said them at one time or another, but my most used word to show exasperation is “Dang!”

  • Reply
    Dana Wall
    October 17, 2018 at 10:04 am

    Your readers listed some doozeys! I have heard relatives say almost all of them. I once was scolded for suggesting Mom was being conceited when she exclaimed, “Oh, dear me.”

    Mom’s dad was the champion in our family, however. I have never heard anyone else “swear” with Grandpas’ favorites, except for my sister and cousins when we were imitating Gramp.

    “By thunder,” he would yell. And, “What in thunder are they thinking?” An emphatic expression was, “Thunder and mud!” But we all thought his most inventive was a coined word. “Thunderation!” We knew he was upset or angry when he “thundered” that one.

  • Reply
    Melissa P. (Misplaced Southerner)
    October 17, 2018 at 9:58 am

    “Oh, Jiminy Christmas” and “Fiddlestix” were ones I heard quite a bit growing up. Another one I firmly believe came into my vocabulary because someone almost slipped up in front of me and quickly made the switch – “SUGARFOOT!” I still say that one.

  • Reply
    Yecedrah Beth Higman
    October 17, 2018 at 9:50 am

    Well, land o’ Goshen! I remember my momma saying that when I was very young,

  • Reply
    Richard Beauchamp
    October 17, 2018 at 9:26 am

    When something didn’t go to suit my Great uncle Court he would say ” Now wouldn’t that cob whack you “!

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    October 17, 2018 at 9:24 am

    It’s funny to me how people came up with words that sound similar to profanity to use in place of the the “bad words.” It’s like it makes us feel better about ourselves to change it up. I know just about all of the ones on your list. Confound it was common at our house growing up. A few time I heard dad or mom use the big S word but it had to be pretty bad for this hat to come out.
    A few more I know:
    Well sugar
    Ah foot
    Dern it
    Geez O pete ( my wife’s favorite)
    Son of a biscuit eater

  • Reply
    October 17, 2018 at 9:20 am

    This is so funny! I remember hearing most of the ones you mentioned. When my Daddy was acting silly, he would say, “Goodness gracious golly goobers!” Another one I heard a lot while growing up and still hear occasionally is “Good grief!” I have never really understood that one because there is surely nothing good about grief! LOL! When I was reading through the comments, I got to thinking about the movie, “I Can Only Imagine.” I thought it was so interesting to find out that the group “Mercy Me” actually got their name from Bart Millard’s grandma saying, “Mercy me!” She would say that often, and that influenced Bart and his group to give their band that name.

  • Reply
    October 17, 2018 at 9:15 am

    My friend used to say, “Well, I’ll swaney, well, forevermore and for Heaven Sake!” When I get aggravated or hurt myself, I just say, “God Bless It!”

  • Reply
    Garry Ballard
    October 17, 2018 at 9:15 am

    Snakes alive! Was a common one here in Australia but haven’t heard it for years. Another common one here was Stone the Crows!

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    October 17, 2018 at 8:53 am

    Mama said, “Land o’ Goshen!” and “Lawsy me!’ and “Great Jehosaphat!” Nana, who was Irish, said, “Saints, preserve us!”
    We also said, “Blast it all!”

  • Reply
    October 17, 2018 at 8:52 am

    Just remembered: Why, that’s enough to make a preacher cuss!

  • Reply
    October 17, 2018 at 8:47 am

    You’ve pretty well covered ’em, but here’s a few:
    Horse Feathers
    I Swan
    I Swanee
    My Life
    If that don’t beat a goose a gobblin
    Golly Moses
    Shoot a Monkey
    Jake Mynoot
    Foot Fire

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    October 17, 2018 at 8:20 am

    Law, was a big one. Gosh was sometjing my grandmother wouldn’t say. Not sure why.

  • Reply
    Sherry Whitaker
    October 17, 2018 at 8:18 am

    I swear pine blank! That was a favorite saying of my Memaw. My Dad wouldn’t even let us say “darn”. He would say “horsefeathers”! Mother would say, my stars or my stars & garters! Makes me laugh. 🙂

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    October 17, 2018 at 8:17 am

    My Great Uncle Ron would say “Great ooggly moogly!” I loved that one and still say it. Confound it is always a goid one, too.

    I read an article about cursing in the TV show Deadwood. It said that in Victorian times (hard to think of Westerns taking place in the Victorian era!!!) cursing was more on the “blasphemy” side. Cowboys would have cursed like Yosemite Sam. The writers updated the cursing for the show to make it more modern and scatological.

    I think my point here, trying to be made before coffee, is that Appalachian cursing seems to be more Victorian which makes sense.


  • Reply
    Jeanie Crutchfield
    October 17, 2018 at 8:15 am

    I grew up with the “Shoot fire and save matches” saying among many more of the ones you listed.

  • Reply
    October 17, 2018 at 8:02 am

    H E 2sticks
    What the hay?

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    October 17, 2018 at 8:00 am

    I worked with a woman who had a unique one she and her siblings came up with, “Bug spit!” And my Dad had an old man who worked for him in the log woods who would say, “Hellllllooooooo slickers!” Varying the emphasis lets that one range across from swearing to a mere nonsense expression.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    October 17, 2018 at 7:48 am

    Tipper–Momma could get considerably vexed at times, and that’s not surprising given the rambunctious nature of her brood, but only once did I hear her utter a cuss word or true expletive. That came in the immediate aftermath of giving herself a solid whack on the thumb with a hammer. I’m not sure whether the pain of that or realization of what she had just said bothered her more.

    She did have a bunch of words and phrases as substitutes. Some of them you have listed. Others, almost always preceded by the word “Oh,” included:
    by golly
    dad gum it

    Great topic, by the way, and it’s sort of refreshing to realize that our forebears could express vexation without resorting to crudities.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    October 17, 2018 at 7:43 am

    My Grandmother used to say “I’ m about to begin to start to swear”. She never did though.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    October 17, 2018 at 7:43 am

    Growing up there was an older gentleman who loved to cattle trade, I can remember him and my Dad bartering on the price of a cow he would almost always exclaim “I Doggy that’s to high”. I believe he have said this no matter what ever Dad priced the cow at.

  • Reply
    October 17, 2018 at 7:36 am

    Shoot a mile!
    Holy mackerel!
    And Gramma said ‘mercy sakes!’ And maybe ‘mercy sakes alive!’

  • Reply
    Brad Scott
    October 17, 2018 at 7:19 am

    My Pappaw Scott used to say “Well, Dog my cat!”

  • Reply
    October 17, 2018 at 5:51 am

    Just a bare minimum of cleanup in this one, “Shoot fire and save matches!” When I first heard it I thought, “Well I guess you could do that with an old-timey pistol.”

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