Appalachian Dialect

Sun Ball


sun ball noun The sun.
1918 Hartt Lost Tribes 396 Let us consider the mountaineers a race apart and dwell lovingly upon such idiosyncrasies as “sun-ball,” “church-house,” “rifle-gun,” and “man-pusson.” c1940 Padelford Notes Nary a thing to do but watch the sun-ball rise and set. 1943 Justus Bluebird 115 The sunball was out of sight, and long shadows lay like deep black furrows in the hollow as they footed the last half-mile of the trail and came in sight of home. 1997 Montgomery Coll. (Adams, Brown, Bush, Cardwell).

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


I have never heard the sun called sun ball. Have you?


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  • Reply
    April 11, 2019 at 10:05 am

    Thats one on me Tipper. I haven’t heard the sun call the sun ball.☀️

  • Reply
    April 11, 2019 at 9:14 am

    yes to all of them..

  • Reply
    April 11, 2019 at 12:49 am

    My Mother often said “sun ball” to describe a glowing sunset, so I only thought of it as that perfectly round orange which you could view briefly without going blind, and it makes me think of her.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    April 10, 2019 at 4:24 pm

    Perhaps we are confusing sun-ball with Sun-dog which is a weather phenomenon where you can see what appears to be the Sun in three different locations in the sky.

    I do remember hearing men-folks and women-folks used a lot. “All the men-folks set on the left side of the church and the women-folks set on the right.”

  • Reply
    April 10, 2019 at 11:04 am

    How about “widow woman”? Weather broadcasters say, “Up near the Flagstaff area.” Where is that?

    “Little baby?” Or “little bitty baby.” Even “itty bitty.” File them all with the Department of Redundancy Department, and smile.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    April 10, 2019 at 9:25 am

    No, I’ve never heard the sun called a sun-ball.

    I’d also never heard of Rollin Lynde Hartt (got his full name from “Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English”), who considered us “a race apart” until I saw this. The title of the book – “The Mountaineers: Our Own Lost Tribes” spoke volumes.

    So I did a little checking. Sure enough, attended Williams College (Williamston, Massachusetts) where he was the artist for the 1892 annual. In 1920, he was living on East 11th Street in Manhattan and working as a journalist for a newspaper.

    It was in 1918, five years after “Our Southern Highlanders” was first published, that his work “The Mountaineers: Our Own Lost Tribes” was published.

    I could not find that work available on-line, but did find other of his writings. He wrote in demeaning and deprecating ways about farmers in Iowa, “darkies” in the South, and common folks wherever they might be found.

    But, as Judge Felix Alley said about another writer, I reckon he “wrote not to tell the truth, but to sell books in the north.”

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    April 10, 2019 at 8:47 am

    I have heard of none of that except maybe the use of church house to describe the building where a church meets. Same with school house. A school is a group of students and their teachers. A schoolhouse is where they gather.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    April 10, 2019 at 8:30 am

    Never heard ‘sun ball’. But I was struck by the quote referring to ‘church house’. That was the way I always heard it and said it. I can’t say for sure, but I think I am somewhere now in the process of switching to just ‘church’. Actually I hope not.

    Along with that of course was ‘school house’. That addition of ‘house’ may have arisen from the fact that farmsteads would have individual buildings dedicated to particular uses; spring house, smoke house, wood house, coal house, still house, etc. Over time, a working farm would have a whole group of satellite buildings.

  • Reply
    April 10, 2019 at 8:18 am

    Yes, I have hear sun ball many times. Eye ball is commonly used by my family as well.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    April 10, 2019 at 7:50 am

    I remember my Grandmother saying the sun-ball was hidden by heavy clouds all day

  • Reply
    aw griff
    April 10, 2019 at 7:41 am

    I’ve heard sun ball or maybe I’ve read it somewhere. I asked my wife if she had ever heard sun ball and her Grandmother used it. It must be a dying description.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    April 10, 2019 at 7:40 am

    I have actually heard rifle gun and church house. Sun ball no, but funny enough I have read it several times

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    April 10, 2019 at 7:30 am

    Never heard if a sun ball, must be a different part of Appalachia.

  • Reply
    Sanford Mckinney, Jr.
    April 10, 2019 at 7:03 am

    We learned quickly in the Army not to refer to our weapon as a gun. It was a weapon or rifle.

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