Appalachian Dialect Heritage

Speak like an Appalachian

Appalachian Vocabulary Test 39

Native Appalachians have a distinct accent.

Many of the words used in the Appalachian culture are brought over with the folks who settled the region from Scotland, Ireland, England, and Germany.

In college I took an Appalachian Course where dialect was a huge portion of the class. My teacher discussed how in Appalachia we often leave off letters of words such as: fightin (fighting), sittin (sitting), or tater (potato). Other times we add letters: askt (ask), warsh (wash), or followered (followed). Then there are the words that we just totally change: larn (learn), mar (mire), ort (ought), holler (hollow), winder (window), fare (fire) and many others.

While I was taking this class, I recall thinking “Well I’m a native Appalachian, but thank goodness I don’t use those words”. HA! I did, and do use those words. Near the end of the class we had to do a project on a part of Appalachia. My brother, Paul, convinced me to do it on the brother duet style of singing, highlighting The Louvin Brothers.

This was at the time the first big bulky camcorders were beginning to be common. We borrowed one and proceeded with the project. Once it was finished and I watched it for the first time, I was horrified! I sounded like a hillbilly! Who knew I was in the habit of saying “de” for “the”? Do you know how many times I used the word “the” in that project? So I discovered, and accepted I have an Appalachian Accent and use some of the same words discussed in class and I’m happy to say I’m very proud of my accent today.

Below is a test, just for fun, to see how much you know about the Appalachian dialect. The answers are down at the bottom of the post.

  1. middlin: A. bacon, B. middle child, C. a town
  2. leatherbritches: A. pants for cowboys, B. dried green beans, C. briar patch
  3. peaked: A. mountain top, B. looked at, C. pale
  4. clabber: A. sour milk, B. talk, C. to hit someone
  5. dodger: A. baseball player, B. bread, C. out of the way
  6. scrooch: A. liquor, B. cheap tightwad, C. move closer together
  7. Like a hen on a _____ A. nest, B. june bug, C. farm
  8. If the sun is shining when it is raining it means: A. the devil is beating his wife, B. good luck, C. a tornado is coming
  9. Tough as a _____ A. bear, B. pine knot, C. coon hide
  10. Steep as a ______ A. mule’s face, B. wall, C. hank’s nose

Please leave a comment about the result of your test or what you think of the Appalachian Accent.

Tipper

1. A, 2. B, 3. C, 4. A, 5. B, 6. C, 7. B, 8. A, 9. B, 10. A

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23 Comments

  • Reply
    Johnnie
    May 3, 2018 at 1:43 am

    Never used dodger, but had heard of it

  • Reply
    graham tate
    April 25, 2013 at 11:24 pm

    i got them all right my grandmother was from deep southwest virginia were they dont “talk with you” they “talk AT you” and she used all of those and i asked her once why she called buiscuits dodgers and she said cause u better be dodgin em if i throw em at you and she also used “tighter than dicks hat band” “aint as big as a fart in a fryin pan” and having so much of something that you have “more than carters got liver pills” she passed away last november but we will keep the sayings going!!!

  • Reply
    Danny
    October 16, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    Nice website I got all of em right.But I was borned and raised up in the mountains of east tennessee so i guess i’m supposed to know em.We need more appalachians to preserve this dying dialect i’m skeered it’s goin to be gone and be forgot all about.

  • Reply
    Ms.Hillbilly
    April 20, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    Funny! I knew every single word correctly, except for “middlin.” I never heard it used for “bacon” — we always said “well, I’m fair to middlin’.” Which mean good to okay, of course :D.

    • Reply
      Johnnie
      May 3, 2018 at 1:42 am

      Part of hog you cut streaked meat, or bacon from is called the middlin

    • Reply
      Elizabeth
      August 29, 2019 at 9:15 pm

      My family was from WV. We always used middlin’ like you and said “fair to middlin.”

  • Reply
    Stephanie
    April 19, 2008 at 10:09 am

    Tipper –
    I got all but 9 & 10 right I had never heard either of these.
    I really have enjoyed your blog, especailly the music. It made me pull my ipod out and download some more Ricky Scaggs & Dillards!!

  • Reply
    Sarah
    April 16, 2008 at 8:39 pm

    This reminds me of the older guys out at the flea market. We have some interesting dialects around here too! LOL

  • Reply
    Meredith
    April 16, 2008 at 9:43 am

    Have to admit that I did not even get one right!!! I guess that’s a Texan for ya. We have our own dialect down here that is probably just as confusing. (Howdy y’all!) However, that being said, my father in law uses warsh regularly. Great post! Love it!

  • Reply
    Renna
    April 15, 2008 at 10:27 pm

    I only got 4 out of 10, and one of those was a guess. 😉
    I love hearing dialects and colloqualisms from various geographical areas. On the homeschooling messageboard where I spend time, we are from all over the nation. It’s always fun to compare the various ways we pronounce words, and the different words we use for the same items.
    When I use the expression “it came a gulley washer today”, or “it’s raining cats and dogs”, many of the northerners have never heard them. I was so surprised the first time I realized not everyone speaks the same!

  • Reply
    celene
    April 15, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. I’ll be keeping up with yours. It’s very interesting. Love the “Trust in Jesus” sont that’s olaying now. God Bless, Celene

  • Reply
    Paula
    April 15, 2008 at 10:36 am

    What a fun post! I got only 4 right out of the 10, but hey, I’m a western girl. My mom never washed a thing in her life, but WARSHED everything and I don’t think I ever say a -ing word without dropping the g.

  • Reply
    Paul
    April 15, 2008 at 1:54 am

    Tipper,
    I got them all right, but I guessed on #’s 1 & 5, using process of elimination. Like Trisha, I say “scooch,” not “scrooch.” I remember the first year I taught when one of my students said he wanted to work for the “Fars Service.” When I told him that it’s “Forest Service,” neither him nor his classmates would believe me until I brought in proof. 🙂

  • Reply
    Celene
    April 15, 2008 at 12:22 am

    Oh my gosh! I knew most of them. I live in rural Illinois and we have our own lingo. As a child I remember my Aunt Reva telling me to go “warsh my hands in the zinc” and she fried her chicken in “oril”. My mom just used plain old cooking oil and her chicken was never as good as Aunt Reva’s! Please stop by my blog sometime. God Bless, Celene

  • Reply
    Celene
    April 15, 2008 at 12:21 am

    Oh my gosh! I knew most of them. I live in rural Illinois and we have our own lingo. As a child I remember my Aunt Reva telling me to go “warsh my hands in the zinc” and she fried her chicken in “oril”. My mom just used plain old cooking oil and her chicken was never as good as Aunt Reva’s! Please stop by my blog sometime. God Bless, Celene

  • Reply
    Jessica
    April 14, 2008 at 9:45 pm

    You should totally upload that video sometime!
    Yeah, I only got 5 right, and those were just lucky guesses.
    It reminds me of a joke though, that is only funny if said with an Appalachian accent:
    Why were the Wisemen covered in ashes?
    ‘Cuz they came from a far.
    Get it?

  • Reply
    trisha too
    April 14, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    Okay, I got most of these right, but some from remembering things from books.
    Here in our part of MO we say “like a DUCK on a June bug,” we “scooch” closer together, and dodger isn’t bread, but corn dodgers is cornbread shaped kind of like sticks. Go figure.
    Your package arrived safe and sound–it’s all wonderful!
    Thank you again, Tipper! 🙂

  • Reply
    Teresa
    April 14, 2008 at 8:19 am

    I knew 7 of the 10 and use 5 of them regularly. My ex used to make fun of me for wanting “auss” in my drink. Actually he would say the bad word to try to get me to stop…lol! My hubby says “retch” instead of reach or fetch.

  • Reply
    susan
    April 13, 2008 at 8:54 pm

    i got 8 outta 10 🙂 i dont think i have an accent coming from california and then hawaii…but my husband mark does think i have an accent. well, up north here, they have an accent too. now my oldest lives in austin and boy, do they have an accent in texas and we all speak english 🙂

  • Reply
    Debbie
    April 13, 2008 at 8:09 pm

    I’m ashamed to say I only got 7 out of 10 right. I’ve made leatherbritches before :). I definitely drop the g on any word ending in ing. My husband is from New England and he tells me that sometimes I don’t even speak in complete sentences. hahahahahha
    That cracks me up. He’s right.
    Other words I pronounce differently:
    Fire _ FAR
    Mile _ MAAL
    Wash – WORSH
    Window – WINDA
    Child – CHALD
    There are more but I can’t think of them right now. I’d ask my husband but he’s out of town on business. When we first met he liked my accent but said I could slander the English language!
    Thanks for a great post. It was fun!

  • Reply
    Jennifer in OR
    April 13, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    This was so fun! I wonder if the “Clabber Girl” brand of baking soda comes from this meaning of clabber (sour milk)?
    Thanks for mentioning my Appalachian Accent post! I’m so glad I wrote that, or I may have never discovered you!
    Blessings,

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    April 13, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    I made 100%,I grew up with all these expressions. I guess we know what that makes me!
    My mother was forever correcting my language. She said I was murdering the King’s English. Now I learn that all these fine old words and expressions ARE the King’s English.
    Well, live and learn!

  • Reply
    Janera
    April 13, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    Hi! I’ve been lurking and loving your blog for awhile now. Just wanted to let you know I started a new blog of my own and linked to yours as one of my favorites. Take a look if you like, and let me know if it’s not ok to link to you. Thanks!
    http://mygardenhat.blogspot.com/

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