Appalachia Appalachian Dialect

Spring Has Sprung – At Least According To The Calendar

Spring Has Sprung

Only a week ago, it seemed spring had indeed sprung-now not so much. Although the calendar tells me Spring has arrived-my cold feet and hands don’t believe it. We’ve had below freezing temps along with snow flurries here in southern Appalachia for the past two days.

Excerpt from Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English:

A verb variant past-tense form of sprung.
1913 Kephart Our Sthn High 283-84 In mountain vernacular the Old English strong past tense still lives in begun, drunk, holped, rung, shrunk, sprung, stunk, sung, sunk, swum. 1939 Hall Coll. Hartford TN When I started my horse, it sprung right up, and I heared it hit the ground two or three times, and it run out of hearing, and if it wasn’t one of them [panthers], I don’t know what it could have been. (Bill Barnes)

To sprain.
2000 Lowry Folk Medicine Terms I sprung my ankle.

It’s still common to hear folks in this area use sprung in the same manner as from the Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English. For example I would say:

  • I was pushing it down in the box so I could fasten it when it sprung back up and hit me in the face.
  • I was running around the side of the house when I turned my foot over and sprung my ankle.

I’d love to know if you’re familiar with the usage of the word sprung-so leave a comment and let me know!


*Source Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English.


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  • Reply
    March 24, 2013 at 9:16 pm

    How about sprung a leak, like an old bucket?
    And I know what you mean about Spring being Sprung, I think it done sprung right outta North Carolina altogether this year leaving us here in the cold and rain. LOL
    But then I remind myself of how dry our fall was last year, and how badly we need this weather right now too, so I’ll thank God for it remembering He knows best!!!
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Glenda Beall
    March 24, 2013 at 2:22 am

    I love it, Tipper, when you teach us something from those dictionaries with the Old English, etc.
    We used to laugh at the neighbor kids who said they had sprung their ankles, but now I understand where the word comes from.
    Now if Spring would just come on I’d be happy. My little flowers are barely making it through the snow.

  • Reply
    brenda s 'okie in colorado'
    March 23, 2013 at 3:32 am

    Snowing like the dickens here in the Denver, Colorado area. Supposed to get 8 inches, maybe more. I need spring!

  • Reply
    spazial ed
    March 22, 2013 at 8:19 pm

    that thar tiller looks lik it aint been crunk in a while. sumbidy ought two crank it up an let it run fer a while an melt off that sno. it has ben purty dry here this winter but it shore has ben cold. u wuz askin fer sno so i cent al mine tu you. yore welcom!

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    March 22, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    Out on the mountain we called it “Sprang” & I don’t care if springs, sprangs, or sprungs, I just wish it would get on with it! BRRRR!!!

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    March 22, 2013 at 4:53 pm


  • Reply
    Rooney Floyd
    March 22, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    A nice lady named Laura Sprung worked several years at the Folk School probably 20 years ago.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    March 22, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    I know the word very well. I sprung my ankle two weeks ago and I am still hobbling around. As I get older I have come to realize that I don’t spring back like I once did.

  • Reply
    March 22, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    Gosh it’s Cold. I still got snow
    at my house. Looks like Spring has
    taken a back seat for awhile.
    That’s a pretty shot of Pap’s ole
    Tiller almost snowed over. I wish
    I had my taters in the ground but
    ain’t even got my garden plowed

  • Reply
    March 22, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    “I just got back from town where I sprung my cousin outta jail…”

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    March 22, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    Growed up usin’ it ‘zactly like that!

  • Reply
    March 22, 2013 at 11:35 am

    Spring, sprang, sprung! That seems to be the breakdown for usage as a verb. Sprung seems to be a good word for me as I sprung from the chair as the snake slithered near my feet.
    Happy playing in the white fluff!

  • Reply
    March 22, 2013 at 11:23 am

    I think sprung is a perfectly good word and I use it often. Like when Alex opened the screen door and sprung the hinges and when I stepped in a hole in the yard and sprung my ankle. Another word I use that they dont use when reading the news is pled. They say “He pleaded guilty”. I say “He pled guilty”. Just sounds better to me. But I usually don’t go by the rules. I just make them up as I go along. Much more fun.

  • Reply
    Bob Aufdemberge
    March 22, 2013 at 11:20 am

    Sprung is (or at least used to be before everybody started talking like the man on the 6 o’clock news) pretty common out here on the edge of the plains as well. Speaking of the weather, we’ve been having freezing drizzle and sleet, and are supposed to get 6 to 12 inches of snow this weekend. I’m afraid those budding jonquils of ours aren’t going to bloom.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    March 22, 2013 at 10:17 am

    I use sprung as in spring has sprung but like Miss Cindy I am not familar with it for sprained. Holp is becoming less common as the older generations pass on but it is one connection with “Old English” still heard every now and then.

  • Reply
    B. ruth
    March 22, 2013 at 10:14 am

    My crazy betterhalf sprung up at the crack of dawn. He’us a messin’ around gettin’ his gear on. I’ve never heerd such a gruntin’ as he pulled on a too tight old brown jump suit of a thang!..I laughed and said “Where you headed?” I figured he’d done give up the idee, since it had turned so cold, but no…”I reckon I’m goin’ ice fish’in”! As he headed out the door, with two fishin’ rods, a tackle box, in one hand, the other helt his cup of coffee and the most modern thing slung over his shoulder, a zippered six pack canvas bag full of egg sallet samwiches, that he nearly lost balance to the porch!…I laughed till my toes finally warmed up…It is below 22 degrees and with the chill factor and on the lake, it will shorely be near zero or at least the teens!!
    My, my, how that man loves him some “sprang crappie”!
    How I hope my son and my better half catch a frash mess!
    Guess, that’n would make a good spring tonic!
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Melissa P (Misplaced Southerner)
    March 22, 2013 at 9:53 am

    It’s funny, Tipper, I never heard anything OTHER than sprung for psst-tense of spring, but never used it for an ankle. That was always (and I do mean frequent) “sprained.”

  • Reply
    Jeanette Dunaway
    March 22, 2013 at 9:39 am

    My old roots go way back to North Carolina, however, my great grandfather and all those who came later were reared in North Florida (Nassau County). It sounds plum natural to me to hear someone say, “he sprung into action whenever the need arose.”

  • Reply
    March 22, 2013 at 9:22 am

    A few years ago, I had to call my boss and tell him I would be in after I stopped at the Immediate Care Center to see if I sprung my ankle. When I got to work, the giggles and grins told me they had been discussing what kind of injury that could possibly be. One of the girls was poking around the swelling that had been wrapped. I told her to be careful and not mash on it. Unlike Ed, I was not happy to explain what mash means. I asked them what they would have said. They all agreed that ‘press’ would have been the correct word. I told them I press my clothes, not my foot.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    March 22, 2013 at 9:21 am

    Obviously the past tense of Spring. 🙂

  • Reply
    March 22, 2013 at 9:17 am

    “Spring has sprung” or the “bucket sprung a leak” around these parts.
    Happy Friday, Tipper.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    March 22, 2013 at 8:56 am

    This spring has sprung
    More like the fall fell
    ‘Cause winter’s back
    And it’s colder’n…the dickens

  • Reply
    March 22, 2013 at 8:15 am

    Sprung is very common up here, where spring has definitely NOT sprung!

  • Reply
    Gina S
    March 22, 2013 at 8:08 am

    I nearly sprung out of my chair when I heard birds chirping outside on this cold, cold morning. Hopefully they brung spring weather with them.

  • Reply
    Cold Up North
    March 22, 2013 at 7:57 am

    As a kid in rural Wisconsin, we repeated the silly, incorrect english taught by our elders: ‘Spring, Sprang, Sprung’ and then ‘Spring is sprung, the grass is riz, I wonder where the flowers is.’

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    March 22, 2013 at 7:35 am

    Tipper, the calendar is man made and the weather is made by mother nature. In any battle between the two mother nature will always win. The weather will be what the weather will be. Man has tried so hard to seize control but, alas, it is not meant to be.
    I have minimal familiarity with the word sprung accept spring has sprung. I don recall hearing it used as I sprung my ankle. A sprained ankle is what I’ve heard it called.
    It’s been/is cold here now….surely it will warm soon.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    March 22, 2013 at 7:30 am

    Yes, I am far more likely to hear sprung than sprang or sprained. Sprang is how Daddy pronounced Spring. Along with harse and agg. Growing up around a rural Swain County vernacular as I did makes the “correct” pronunciation of the past tense of some words seem unnatural.
    I have in recent years reverted back to my native tongue and most people seem to understand me quite well. Those who don’t, may ask for a repeat or an explanation which I am happy to provide. Those who laugh at me, may continue to live their lives of ignorant bliss!

  • Reply
    Tim Hassell
    March 22, 2013 at 6:58 am

    “ung” is a very common usage in my area. I can remember from childhood people using the word holp (without the ed it was help helped holp) but I don’t hear it any more. All the rest in the list are in common usage around here.

  • Reply
    March 22, 2013 at 6:03 am

    Oh, most definitely. I have strong Old English Roots in my Coastal North Carolina heritage. As my education grew, I changed many speech patterns but that “ung” still sounds right to me. And now I like it and share my spoken heritage proudly.
    There are some things that shant be changed.

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