Appalachia Appalachian Dialect

Spooky Appalachian Vocabulary Words

Ghost story about lady in long dress

I thought it would be fun to use spooky words for an Appalachian Vocabulary Test. But when I started trying to come up with spooky sounding words-other than the most obvious-I drew a total blank.

I pulled out my Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English for some help-and these are the words I came up with-take the test and see how you do.

  1. Booger
  2. Devil’s brew
  3. Evil foot
  4. Hair ball
  5. Haunt


  1. Booger: ghost, demon, or a bad person. “Now that you’ve stayed till dark you better take my flashlight so you can see how to get home. You don’t want to run into any boogers.”
  2. Devil’s brew: moonshine, homemade liquor. “He’d been down the road with that gang of outlaws drinking the Devil’s brew. Thats why he came home ready to fight. He might as well be the Devil himself after he takes a few drinks of that stuff.”
  3. Evil foot: infection in a horses foot. “I’m afraid Ole Sam has the evil foot. I don’t know what in the world we’ll do if I can’t use him to plow. We’ll be ruint.”
  4. Hair ball: a ball made of hair used by witches. “Granny Beavers was 94 years old when she told me about the scariest thing she ever saw. She said when she was a little young girl her great grandmother took her over the mountain to check on a old lady who lived by herself. Everybody said the old lady was a witch. When Granny and her grandmother got to the house, the old woman came out and hollered some sort of jiberage and threw balls of hair at them. Granny Beavers said her grandmother died before day light the next morning of a awful terrible pain in her head.”
  5. Haunt (haint, hant): a ghost or spirit. “Theres a haunt down there at the river. It comes out every full moon. I know it does cause I seen it with my own two eyes.”

My thoughts on the words:

*I grew up hearing folks talk about boogers-especially telling children if they didn’t mind a booger (or the boogerman) would get them. I still hear booger on a regular basis and still use the word myself.

*I’ve heard folks call moonshine/alcohol the Devil’s Brew-also the Devil’s Water.

*I’ve never heard nor read #3.

*I’ve never heard hair ball used in this manner-I thought a hair ball was something cats spit up or you found rolling around under your bed.

*I’ve heard older folks use the words haunt and haint-both used in the same way-to describe a ghost.

I hope you’ll leave me a comment and tell me how you did on the test.



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  • Reply
    Hal OO Wiener
    October 25, 2014 at 10:56 am

    Wit C.- buying a new eye is like buying a blank cd. Until you see something there is nothing there. With a used one you can see everything every previous owner saw. Kinda like a free movie. That is why they are so expensive. The price depends on who had them before.
    Got ahead and give me the evil eye. If it is too evil I can reformat it and use it for a third eye. If it is blue porcelain I will probably wear it and keep this crummy glass one in my pocket for emergencies. Or I could use it like a GoPro and record myself doing stupid stuff.
    Can you send it to Tipper? I can pick it up at her place. Maybe she can help me fit it. If it fits I might give her the glass one. I heard she was some eye problems. It wouldn’t hurt to have a spare in case one of her natural ones goes out.

  • Reply
    Wit C. Woemen
    October 25, 2014 at 9:30 am

    Tell Hal OO Weiner that it is no wonder he can’t see out of the corner of his eye or eyes. Since he has been buying those used eyeballs at the funeral home thrift store. Those used’uns are round fer they have nearly been used up and rounded off!
    Ask any sky star watcher, they will tell you occasionally have to look out of the corner to see clearly!
    In the mean time, I am giving him, Hal OO Weiner, the EVIL EYE!

  • Reply
    Jane Bolden
    October 25, 2014 at 8:32 am

    Remember the booger man. SCARY!!!

  • Reply
    Granny Norma
    October 25, 2014 at 2:48 am

    Hi Tipper,
    These are all familiar except evil foot. When I was a young girl, I knew a woman who kept a table knife under her pillow. Being a know-it-all, I told her that it wouldn’t do her much good against someone sneaking in. She then corrected me. The knife was there “on account of haints.” I guess it was her talisman to ward off evil.
    Thanks to Roy Pipes for typing out “Little Orphant Annie” by James Whitcomb Riley – one of my all-time favorite poems.
    But… “The Boogieman’ll gitcha if ya don’t watch out”

  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    October 24, 2014 at 7:58 pm

    why has spooks taken over Halloween?Didn’t it use to start out as a Hallowed blessing from harvest festivals? I for one never like Halloween, mother made me a witches outfit when I was 3years old and I really though I had turned to a witch. so scary for a 3year old. Halloween never turned my crank after that I thought the witch perhaps would turn my head on backward and I’d never get it straight again.

  • Reply
    Hal OO Weiner
    October 24, 2014 at 5:54 pm

    b. Ruth’s comment got me to thinking (which initsownself is dangerous.) She said something about the corner of her eye. I don’t understand. My eyes don’t have corners. I took the glass one out just to see. I was right, no corners, a perfect sphere. I didn’t take the blue porcelain one out to check it because I can’t see too good with just the glass one but I’m pretty sure it don’t have corners either.
    PS: I am lOOking to upgrade my old glass eye. I would like to have another blue porcelain one. I had to pay a lot for the one I have and I got it used from the thrift shop next to the funeral home. They said they would keep an eye out for one but it might be a long wait. So if you know of somebody with a blue porcelain eye that they don’t need right now or will soon not need, let me know. I am willing to pay a finder’s fee.
    I will be seeing you sOOn.

  • Reply
    October 24, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    I was good on the first,second, and last words. Hairball – well, that word just belongs to my kitties. Never heard it used from a witch. Wonder where she got all the hair from? Wonder if she was bald after making so many of them to throw? Evil foot – humm!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 24, 2014 at 11:33 am

    “a rag a bone and a hank of hair”
    I woke up this morning with that phrase in my head. I couldn’t remember where I had heard it. I had to look it up. Even before the Blind Pig I had to look it up. It is from The Vampires by Rudyard Kipling. It is a scary poem but it’s not. It is thought provoking but not scary but then again it is.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    October 24, 2014 at 11:07 am

    I’ve heard them all, with the exception of evil foot. However, there seems to me another name for a horse or cow getting a foot infection other than evil foot! I read it somewhere, but can’t think of it now.
    Hair ball I’ve heard of…In the olden days, I may have mentioned this before, dresser sets contained a dish with a lid and hole in the top to receive hair, hence called a hair receiver.
    The hair was saved and used to make mourning jewelry by some or given to someone to make the jewelry.
    Or….in the case of a cackling witch saved it to make hair balls…ewwwww
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS..This writing gave me the belly ache…so I need to make me a “potion” fer it!
    PS…Have you ever got a glimpse of a “apparition” out of the corner of your eye? Then when you turn your head to look at what you thunk you saw, it was gone?
    My eye doctor said, “It might be floaters!”…I said, “It was floatin alright! I don’t think “eye floaters” are 5 feet tall?” “Nope”, he said, with a wide eyed look of his own!

  • Reply
    Al K Hall
    October 24, 2014 at 11:00 am

    I grew up with a boy who had an “evil eye”. One eye would look straight while the other one looked off to one side and up a little bit. He claimed he could see you just as good out of the “evil eye” as the other one, just not at the same time. He also claimed to be able to look into your soul with that eye.
    He wasn’t born that way. He got that way after a horse kicked him in the head. I’ll bet that horse had “evil foot”.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    October 24, 2014 at 10:57 am

    I guess my growing up in Appalachia made me familiar with all the words on the list! You might add another: “Evil eye.” Someone could give you the “Evil eye,” and the prognosis wouldn’t be good for you. Or if your parent gave you “the evil eye” it meant your mother or father was “on to” you shenanigans and punishment would follow that “evil eye” look if you didn’t quit what they were warning you against doing.

  • Reply
    Brandi N.
    October 24, 2014 at 10:53 am

    Never heard of hairball (in the sense of witches and whatnot) or evil foot, but I’m well aware of the rest. We call shine fire water. And when we’re at deer camp, I tell the kids if they wander from the fire at night they’ll run into boogers. Probably not the best parenting, but hey..

  • Reply
    October 24, 2014 at 10:48 am

    I was a farrier for many years ,never heard of evil foot. I did know about the hair balls not sure where I learned about that

  • Reply
    Doris Carloff MD.
    October 24, 2014 at 10:26 am

    Have you not known people with “nervous disorders” who sit and stare and twist their hair. Their hair will eventually knot up or ball up and will have to be cut out, if the patient doesn’t break them off or rip them out themselves. It isn’t as common anymore with the advent of modern pharmaceuticals but still today is not infrequent. Such people were once presumed to be demon possesed. Could this unfortunate habit be the genesis of your “hair ball?”

  • Reply
    Bobby Dale
    October 24, 2014 at 9:48 am

    I’ve not heard of evil foot and thought hair balls were expelled by cats. As for Devil’s brew, Jim Beam bottles a brown water offering called Devil’s Cut, a name possibly derived from Devil’s brew.
    Bobby Dale

  • Reply
    October 24, 2014 at 9:41 am

    I’m familiar with all but Evil Foot and Hairball used in this manner.

  • Reply
    October 24, 2014 at 9:40 am

    Evil foot is the only one I’m not familiar with. Seems like the older folks said devil’s fire instead of devil’s brew.

  • Reply
    Brian Blake
    October 24, 2014 at 9:37 am

    Halloween, “All Hallows’ Eve” on October 31, is the liturgical day appointed for remembering the dead, particularly martyred saints. As the world darkens into winter, a metaphor for the bleakness of the grave which all must face, mortals trusting in salvation through Christ ridicule the dread specter of the Lord of Death.
    “Booger” appears to be Appalachian shorthand for “bogeyman.” The word derives from “boggle,” to be astonished or confused by a riveting sight. The Bogeyman is a non-specific spirit, the embodiment of terror, a nickname for Satan. Early Christians adapted Saturn, the ancient Greek god who ruled the Underworld from which none return.
    Parents may invoke punishment by the Devil in Hell to scare their children into good conduct. I was spared this traumatic imposition.

  • Reply
    Mrs. V
    October 24, 2014 at 9:27 am

    Tipper, I remember from reading Huckleberry Finn that Jim the slave in the beginning of the book used a hairball to tell Huck’s fortune. Chapter 4, The Hairball Oracle:
    “…Jim, had a hairball as big as your fist, which had been took out of the fourth stomach of an ox, and he used to do magic w/ it. He said there was a spirit inside of it, and it knowed everything.”
    But certainly never heard it in common usage.

  • Reply
    Darlene Debty Kimsey
    October 24, 2014 at 9:22 am

    Some of my best friends live in Booger Holler.

  • Reply
    Lisa Snuggs
    October 24, 2014 at 8:29 am

    When I was a little girl, I guess “boogieman” was our citified version of “booger.” It still makes me raise my eyebrows and check under the bed!

  • Reply
    Eldonna Ashley
    October 24, 2014 at 8:05 am

    No hair ball or evil foot. The rest are very familiar. Sometimes boogerman is said as boogeyman. In this usage of haunt I grew up hearing it pronounced as “hain’t.”
    My family was very anti-alcohol. I have heard all liquor referred to as devil’s brew.
    That also reminds me of the name “one-eyed devil” used to refer to a TV set. I thought it was rediculous to call it that. As the years pass and TV shows sink a bit lower too often, I am inclined to think there is some truth to that.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    October 24, 2014 at 8:05 am

    I’ve heard of hairballs, it used to be thought that a persons hair held power over them (Remember Samson?) Witches were said to keep all their hair they shed to avoid others holding power over them. I know people today that will not throw out their hair less the birds get ahold of it and twist it in knots for their nests, they fear it will drive them crazy.

  • Reply
    Roy Pipes
    October 24, 2014 at 7:33 am

    I heard this poem at Halloween
    LITTLE Orphant Annie’s come to our house to stay, An’ wash the cups an’ saucers up, an’ brush the crumbs away, An’ shoo the chickens off the porch, an’ dust the hearth, an’ sweep, An’ make the fire, an’ bake the bread, an’ earn her board-an’-keep; An’ all us other childern, when the supper-things is done, We set around the kitchen fire an’ has the mostest fun A-list’nin’ to the witch-tales ‘at Annie tells about, An’ the Gobble-uns ‘at gits you Ef you Don’t Watch Out! Wunst they wuz a little boy wouldn’t say his prayers,– An’ when he went to bed at night, away up-stairs, His Mammy heerd him holler, an’ his Daddy heerd him bawl, An’ when they turn’t the kivvers down, he wuzn’t there at all! An’ they seeked him in the rafter-room, an’ cubby-hole, an’ press, An’ seeked him up the chimbly-flue, an’ ever’-wheres, I guess; But all they ever found wuz thist his pants an’ roundabout:– An’ the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you Ef you Don’t Watch Out! An’ one time a little girl ‘ud allus laugh an’ grin, An’ make fun of ever’ one, an’ all her blood-an’-kin; An’ wunst, when they was “company,” an’ ole folks wuz there, She mocked ’em an’ shocked ’em, an’ said she didn’t care! An’ thist as she kicked her heels, an’ turn’t to run an’ hide, They wuz two great big Black Things a-standin’ by her side, An’ they snatched her through the ceilin’ ‘fore she knowed what she’s about! An’ the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you Ef you Don’t Watch Out!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    October 24, 2014 at 7:23 am

    Tip, I’ve heard them all but evil foot. I’ve never been around horses so that might account for me never hearing about it.
    The remainder I’ve heard. Haint and bogger were used to talk about all kinds of scary things of the night.
    Devils brew and hair ball I’ve heard less.
    My mother was so badly scared as a child and consequently she tried not to scare her children.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    October 24, 2014 at 7:21 am

    Tipper–Evil foot is a new one to me. I’m familiar with the rest of them, although I think my knowledge of hair ball comes from reading (perhaps relating to gypsy lore) rather than through Appalachian connections.
    There are lots of terms for devil’s brew–golden moonbeam, tangle foot, knee twister, white lightning, liquid corn, stump water, etc.–a testament to mountain ingenuity when it comes to language usage.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Barb Wright
    October 24, 2014 at 7:19 am

    I have never heard of #’ 3 and 4,but the rest of them I am familiar with from reading the Foxfire books. I have heard firewater used as #2 and around these parts,we say boogey man instead of booger man. Funny how a few hundred miles changes things!

  • Reply
    October 24, 2014 at 5:49 am

    I’m not familiar with Evil foot or hair ball. The rest I am.. When we were real little my Granny would tell us if we didn’t mind her that the Boogerman was going to get us,, it was always the “Boogerman going to get you”.. I wasn’t afraid of the boogerman, but MaMa’s fly swatter got my attention…

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