Appalachian Dialect Heritage

Speak like an Appalachian II

Appalachian saying I gave him what for

I just finished reading Our Southern Highlanders written by Horace Kephart in 1913. The book documents the lifestyle of the Southern Appalachian People in the early 1900’s. I enjoyed most of the book. Of all the subjects covered, the chapters on dialect were the most fascinating to me.

I’m astounded the dialect documented in the book-continues to come straight out of my mouth 95 years later. I’m curious if the dialect is really isolated to Appalachia or if it has a broader base of use across America.

I’m going to share a few phrases from the book that I use and hear often. I hope you’ll leave me a comment and let me know if you think they’re strange, if you understand what they mean, or if you hear this manner of speech on a regular basis.


It’s starting to rain, better get the clothes off the line hadn’t you?


Thursday week I’m going to take Mother to the Doctor.


I’d tell a man what for.


They went to Franklin or Hayesville one.


We had a bait of watermelon and it was good!


We’re aimin to go to town.


She looks a sight like her Pap.


I better git on.


Be careful or you’ll slide up.


I’ll be back directly.


Don’t much believe the sun’ll shine today.


We just point blank got to fix it.


We had one more time.


Sit down and eat some supper.


Jake ain’t much on courtin.


Won’t you stay a while?


When she fell, she stove up her arm.


We had a good day, for we went on a picnic.

Don’t forget to leave me a comment and let me know if you are familiar with this type of speech or if it seems odd to you. I’d like to know if I use the same dialect said to be isolated to the Appalachian region in the early 1900’s or if the theory is wrong.



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  • Reply
    Sherry Thacker
    September 22, 2021 at 1:31 pm

    This all sounds just like where I grew up from and I still use most of them today. My son-in-law loves to hear me talk and I really pour on the southern talk when I see him.

  • Reply
    Art Murphy
    August 28, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    I am still finding wonderful things to read on your blog months after discovering it. I appreciate what you do and how well you do it.
    As for the dialect, I too am familiar with almost all of the phrases or variations of them. I grew up just south of the Tennessee River in northern Alabama at the very edge of the mountains. Having lived abroad, (just outside of Atlanta) for the last dozen years, I rarely hear these words except when I go home. There the music of the language lifts my spirits and soothes what ails my soul.

  • Reply
    Jack A Baker
    March 2, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    I really enjoyed the pictures and the Appalachian Dialect. Probably because I grew up in rural Southwest Virginia in the 40’s and 50″s and this brings back a lot of fond memories. I still have a few relatives in that area and visit yearly.
    People from that area have a wonderful heritage and are some of the best people I have met in my 70 years.They are proud people and have every right to be so.
    Thanks for the memories.

  • Reply
    February 4, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    thanks for stopping by my blog, and i do recognize all of the comments and loved the photos. brings back fond memories. i think the dialect has spread more than we know since so many of us left and moved to other places. my speech is a real mix of KY and GA and words from my husband from the North.

  • Reply
    Coach Daley
    April 21, 2009 at 9:46 pm

    Are you still keeping up with this blog? I have read “Our Southern Highlanders” as well and loved it. I also have heard all of these phrases and still hear some today. I went to college in NC Mts. for a few years and heard them everyday then. I think that most of the country is becoming so homogenized that local dialects are fading fast.
    Anyway, I hiked Mt. LeConte last summer and am planning to hike the southern half of the Smokies this summer.
    I look for the ghost of Horace each time I’m up there.
    I enjoy your site hear and hope you keep it up.

  • Reply
    Michelle Karman
    February 15, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    My grandmother and others of her generation (sisters, brothers, cousins) talked like that. One of my aunts (she’s in her 60s) speaks
    that way still. A lot of older people here (NC) do. My grandmother
    and her family came from GA, while
    my grandfather was from SC. I don’t
    even say y’all half the time but that’s me…I got bit by a British bug as a teen and was dazzled by ‘proper speech’ for a while…

  • Reply
    Steve Newell
    October 29, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    Hi, Tipper: Greatly enjoyed your language essay. I’m from northeastern Ohio (Warren), of Irish/etc. extraction, but during my career, I’ve lived in Miami, FL and then southeastern GA. I became familiar with most of the phrases in your essay during my GA years, but I also remember my Dad in Ohio saying that he was “all stove up” from doing some hard work (like picking corn, or shoveling snow). I used the phrase tonight, and my wife (of only 4 years) had no idea what I was talking about, so I tried looking up the phrase in the dictionary. It wasn’t there, so I googled it and found your blog. The dictionary did say, however, that “stove” is an alternative form of the past tense of “stave”, meaning to crush inward.

  • Reply
    August 29, 2008 at 9:26 am

    Love this post. About half of these I’ve heard, and that only because I lived in rural Arkansas 1996-2002, near Perryville or “Purville.” It was a really learning experience for this Yankee.

  • Reply
    August 24, 2008 at 8:51 pm

    A few more:
    down the road apiece
    “I swan”
    put the big pot in the little un
    Come back now, ye hear?
    Crack the window (or the door)
    I spent most of my life as an “army brat,” but all my family is from north Mississippi. And I grew up hearing these and almost all the ones you mentioned – and probably many more that don’t come to mind. Both my grandmothers used “directly” a lot – or rather “direckly.”
    Regional accents, however, are another matter – and sometimes just between few counties. I live in Georgia, but when I go to northeast Mississippi, I hear the hard r’s and more nasal pronunciation. And I still sound just like them.

  • Reply
    August 21, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    I think my south Georgia upbringing is much like the rural life of folk here in the Appalachians. We used many of these sayings and still do today. My father said “hope” for “helped” and I thought him ignorant when I was a teenager but later found that is “old English” and was passed down through generations of his English/Irish ancestors. I love dialects and I love our country because we have so many wonderful uses of language.
    I’ll give you an old saying my mother used often:
    “He’s so bow-legged he couldn’t hem up a hog in a ditch.” Isn’t that an image for you?

  • Reply
    August 21, 2008 at 7:56 am

    Well, I have read those statements before, but I don’t remember actually hearing them. Love it, though. 😀

  • Reply
    August 20, 2008 at 9:11 am

    What! Everybody don’t talk this way??lol…All that sure sounds familiar to me. My accent is sooo Southern. You know, where sounds like whar, there sounds like thar and so on. Well maybe not quite as country as I was when I was a child but still you can tell whar I sprung from. Have a great day!

  • Reply
    August 19, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    This sure made me smile Tipper.
    I hear these a lot and use many myself.
    Can’t help but think you should add “It’s Over Yonder.” 🙂

  • Reply
    The Texican
    August 19, 2008 at 10:11 am

    Hi Tipper, Being from south Mississippi, I have long been fascinated with the language I heard as a boy. Our ancestors came from the Carolinas and before that from Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. When I read “Rob Roy” and used the glossary of terms to interpret the dialect I found many of the roots of the language of the South. I am familiar with all the terminology you cited in both posts. We are kin. Pappy

  • Reply
    Linda H
    August 18, 2008 at 11:38 pm

    Hi Tipper, Language is a fascinating topic to me, especially as it relates to my folks. I’m always trying to figure out who they were and thus who I am. Both parents were born and raised in Kansas. The photo captioned “We’re aimin to go to town” reminded me so much of my Dad’s hair style when he was that age and the same high forehead and deep set eyes. I can hear my Dad saying “I’m all stove up” after he had worked hard. “You orta do what yer Mama said.” or “That’s what I’m aimin’ to do.” More than once I heard my Mom say, “He better mind or I’ll give him the what for!” Cornmeal anything was a household staple, but it wasn’t called “dodger.” Sometimes, my Dad would call cornbread “cornpone.” I was raised in northern CA and thought I had a fairly neutral accent, but when I would visit Kansas relatives, they would remark about my CA accent. I am enjoying your blog very much. The music is wonderful, too. I sometimes leave it on while I am quilting.
    Linda H

  • Reply
    Razor Family Farms
    August 18, 2008 at 8:26 pm

    I’ve heard these, too!
    I’m from the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia so many of the older folks (and the rest of us though not as much) used those very sayings.
    Loved those pictures!

  • Reply
    August 18, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    I’ve heard all of them, too, here in the hills of Arkansas. Maybe it’s just common speech for mountain folk? I have to say that it’s been a long time since I’ve heard someone say “I’ll be back directly (dreckly)”. But the rest, I still hear and say some of them myself.
    I just found your website recently and have really enjoyed reading it.

  • Reply
    Missy K
    August 18, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    Well, I am very familiar with almost all of them, and use most of them I have a soft spot for aimin’, Thursday week, and what for. But all my people are from the Appalachians, and I’ve always lived here, more or less, so I’m not sure how isolated that dialect is.

  • Reply
    petra michelle
    August 18, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    Hi Tipper! Very interesting post! I was born in Germany and raised in a large ciy in N.J., and heard or used most of these expressions in one form or another, except: They went to…one; you’ll slide up; she stove up her arm. An interesting lesson on how much can be understood and captured in most phrases all over the U.S. except where the slang is like another language, such as those few expressions above. I can go and on with my love of language. So aint going there. :)) Love it! Petra

  • Reply
    petra michelle
    August 18, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    Hi Tipper. Was born in Germany and raised in Jersey City, New Jersey and have heard and used many of these lines in some form or another. But there were several I never heard which were interesting:They went to…one,slide up, stove up her arm.

  • Reply
    August 18, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    I have heard most of these. My mothers side of the family had millions of these sayings and I just heard my sister say “warsh” for wash the other day. My grandfather also used to call recipes receipts.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    August 18, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    My goodness, Tipper, I know them all except “slide up”. I didn’t know those expressions were Appalachian, I thought they were just English, ha ha!
    I even knew most of the folks in the pictures—actually I’m in one of the pictures, a long time ago!!
    We have a beautiful/colorful heritage!

  • Reply
    Mark Salinas
    August 18, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    I really enjoyed the black and whites….thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    teresa atkinson
    August 18, 2008 at 11:28 am

    love that coat in the “sunshine” picture
    I have heard and/or use most of these in rural north georgia today.

  • Reply
    August 18, 2008 at 11:24 am

    I went back and read your first post and took the test. I got 8 of 10. So we are all much more alike than we realize. Unless we’ve been citified somewhere along the line.

  • Reply
    August 18, 2008 at 11:16 am

    The comment about ‘sliding up’ was the only one I’m not familiar with. I’ve always considered what we speak in our area is Arkansas Hick.
    One we use a lot is fixin.
    I’m fixin to go see a show at the theatre.
    I’m fixin to go to bed.
    I love old pictures. Notice how many are taken in front of cars. I asked about that once and was told cars meant you were prosperous. You wanted to show them off.

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    August 18, 2008 at 10:15 am

    Tipper: Since I was born in the shadow of the PA mountains, I’m familiar with many of the oddities of the Appalachian speech patterns. My speech patterns and dialect are still affected by being raised in the area. I still enjoy how the different areas of Appalachia speak. I have a friend from WV that compiled all the different terms used in Appalachia.

  • Reply
    August 18, 2008 at 10:09 am

    I have heard many of those sayings from my parents families which are from northern Louisiana and Mid Mississippi. They are not used at all in the New Orleans area. Although, I have used the phrase “I gave them the what for.”

  • Reply
    August 18, 2008 at 5:56 am

    We don’t use all of them, but do use some…and they are all familiar to some extent….maybe because I read a lot.

  • Reply
    Amy @ parkcitygirl
    August 18, 2008 at 2:50 am

    Wow Tipper! I’m a westcoast girl, living in the high desert and I made out about half of those! I love all those pictures to go with your post 🙂

  • Reply
    Valarie Lea
    August 17, 2008 at 11:19 pm

    I have either said or heard most of these, and my family is originally from the hills of Tennessee. 🙂

  • Reply
    August 17, 2008 at 10:50 pm

    I’ve heard them all except “slide up.” And I’ve said most of them. 🙂 What fun remembering! blessings, marlene

  • Reply
    August 17, 2008 at 9:48 pm

    That is perfect! We just got back from the family farm (located somewhere in Appalachia)and everybody talks just like that. I don’t know if this is Applachian or just in my family, but one thing my grandma always says is “got you told,” as in, “I don’t know if I got you told, but the watermelon basket Cousin Raylene brought to the reunion was just grand.”

  • Reply
    Julie Curtis
    August 17, 2008 at 9:31 pm

    She looks a sight like her Pap.
    Be careful or you’ll slide up.
    We had one more time.
    The above are the only ones I have NOT heard. I grew up in South Arkansas. We have a variation of the last one. We would say “we had a big ole time”. “Stove up” is what we say when we’re sore from working in the yard the first time in the spring, or a similar task we aren’t used to doing.
    Enjoyed it!

  • Reply
    August 17, 2008 at 9:19 pm

    I grew up in the foothills of WV. I’ve heard all of those and said and still say most of them. People still pick on me for saying over yonder.

  • Reply
    August 17, 2008 at 9:07 pm

    My grandmother uses the word “directly” very often and she has always told me that courtin was called sparkin. Lunch is called dinner. Also, we use the word “say” if you ask someone a question and they don’t respond right away. This is in central KY.

  • Reply
    August 17, 2008 at 9:05 pm

    Well , I knew all of them. But, “I ain’t but a little ways down the road a piece.”
    This reminds me of a PBS special
    I was watching regarding Appalachia. I was 3/4’s through it before I realized they were subtitling the locals. I howled laughing at myself. Then I tried to picture people who really wouldn’t understand them. That made me giggle some more.

  • Reply
    August 17, 2008 at 8:27 pm

    All of those except the watermelon one and “slide up” sound completely normal to me. But I did just grow up on the other side of the mountains from you!

  • Reply
    August 17, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    I have heard many of those phrases. My family roots are from KY, but more toward the Louisville area.

  • Reply
    August 17, 2008 at 7:38 pm

    Louise-Stove can mean bruised, sprained or even broken. Usually I’ve heard the word in reference to someone’s fingers or feet.
    Slide up-just means don’t fall down.

  • Reply
    August 17, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    This is such a great post. I’ve heard you say some of these very things!!

  • Reply
    Julie at Elisharose
    August 17, 2008 at 7:01 pm

    I am familiar with many of those phrases. My dad’s family is from Alabama. My mom’s is from Texas. Pretty Southern all around. I still “give people what for”. And I go places “Monday week”.

  • Reply
    Carolyn A.
    August 17, 2008 at 6:19 pm

    I can just hear my Dad’s voice now … “we had to poosh (push) it up the road a far piece.” Yes, I understood it all. It’s funny the things that come back to you even when you’ve been away from the hills for so long. I miss Rockingham County in Harrisonburg, VA so much and wish I could “go back in them days.” The pictures are totally awesome and I thank you for taking me home so many times. All this kinda talk makes me plum homesick. 🙂 xxoo

  • Reply
    August 17, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    I grew up in the hills of Southern Indiana and recognized every saying.

  • Reply
    August 17, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    I grew up in the Ozark mountains, but near a somewhat large city. The country people (including many of my own family) had some similar sayings. I won’t say it is exactly the same, but I knew what most of the phrases inyour post meant.
    Two I had no idea about, though, and couldn’t figure out:
    -When she fell, she stove up her arm. (Did that mean burn her arm? Maybe just hurt it or “messed it up,” but “stove” seemed to refer to a burn to me.)
    -Be careful or you’ll slide up. (Had no clue on this one.)
    Loved this post!

  • Reply
    Queen of Planet Hotflash
    August 17, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    I am from southeastern Kentucky, and the words you have posted are very familiar to me. One also hears often, Come go with, whenever friends or family get ready to leave you. Also when asking a question and the person doesn’t answer right away…..Say?
    and when carrying something heavy one will often hear guess your be packin a tote? Reckon y’all best be movin on.

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