Appalachian Dialect

The Word Blow in Appalachia

dandelion seeds blown in wind

Usage of the word blow

  1. To rest or catch one’s breath. 1975 Fink Backpacking 5 Here we had to stop and blow a number of times before we emerged into the open, cultivated fields on top, to get our first clear view of Big Bald, across the valley of South Indian Creek.
  2. To speak loudly, to brag. 1859 Taliaferro Fisher’s River 205 So that ended Davis’s bullyin’, puffin’, and blowin’ about his manhood.
  3. To flatter, make a person feel good. “He’s in there talking a bunch of hogwash. I reckon he’s trying to blow up the boss man so he’ll have his favor.”
  4. To leave hurriedly. 1968 DARE = hurry. “I’m late; I’ll have to blow” (Brasstown NC).
  5. A braggart. 1976 Thompson Touching Home 17 He was a big Blow.
  6. A storm with high winds. 1913 Kephart Our Sthn High 79 Durn this blow, anyhow! No bear’ll cross the mountain such a night as this.

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English

—-

I’ve heard The Deer Hunter use blow as described in number one numerous times. He might say something like: “We went straight up the mountain to the top of the ridge and he had to stop and blow about 15 times before we reached the top. You know how much younger he is than me?”

The manner blow is used in number two is extremely common here and its hard for me to imagine everyone in the world doesn’t use blow to describe someone who goes around…well blowing!

Blowing someone up with flatter is one I’m familiar with, but don’t hear as often these days.

Using blow to describe taking flight in haste is one I have never heard. Funny the Dictionary notes it as being said in Brasstown.

Number five is very similar to number two. I suppose number two is describing the action of blowing and number five is describing the person who blows as a blow.

I’ve heard the usage in number six, but most often heard blow-down to describe a great storm.

Hope you’ll leave me a comment and tell me which blow usages are still alive and well in your neck of the woods.

Tipper

bowl of vegetables

Come cook with me!

MOUNTAIN FLAVORS – TRADITIONAL APPALACHIAN COOKING
Location: John C. Campbell Folk School – Brasstown, NC
Date: Sunday, June 23 – Saturday, June 29, 2019
Instructors: Carolyn Anderson, Tipper Pressley

Experience the traditional Appalachian method of cooking, putting up, and preserving the bounty from nature’s garden. Receive hands-on training to make and process a variety of jellies, jams, and pickles for winter eating. You’ll also learn the importance of dessert in Appalachian culture and discover how to easily make the fanciest of traditional cakes. Completing this week of cultural foods, a day of bread making will produce biscuits and cornbread. All levels welcome.

Along with all that goodness Carolyn and I have planned a couple of field trips to allow students to

You Might Also Like

25 Comments

  • Reply
    tmc
    May 15, 2019 at 7:14 pm

    We loaded that hole with enough Kinepak to ” blow up the county”. ( We have to use Kinpak to set a pole in a rock sometimes).

  • Reply
    Quinn
    May 15, 2019 at 6:49 pm

    The only one I’ve heard regularly is the the last one, as in, “it’s really starting to blow” when the wind is coming up, or “we had quite a blow last night.” You mention blow-down, which to me is a tree that came down in a blow!

  • Reply
    SusieQ
    May 15, 2019 at 4:50 pm

    I’ve heard blowing smoke as exaggerated bragging, blowhard as a braggart, and I learned ”well blow me down” from watching Popeye when I was long ago years old 🙂 ….. as for flattering the boss,… instead of blowing up the boss we called it brown nosing.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    May 15, 2019 at 1:54 pm

    Tipper,
    A few years ago at my garden party Don brought out two watermellons from his Trunk. Jim spit the seeds toward the creek and told about the contest he participated in when he was a kid. He won the contest and Don leaned over to me and said, “you can’t beat anyone with that much Hot Air.’

    Tipper convinced me to let her friend come. That was my friend, Lonnie, and I enjoyed e-mails with him for a few years until he died. I miss him! …Ken

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    May 15, 2019 at 1:13 pm

    The three that are most common to me are; blow hard, blowing smoke, and blow down.

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    May 15, 2019 at 12:04 pm

    About the worst insult we’d hear about someone was, “He’s all blow and no show.” Also used the word as in 4. and 6.

  • Reply
    Melissa P (Misplaced Southerner)
    May 15, 2019 at 12:03 pm

    The first one (take a blow) is frequently used in horse sports. After a horse works very hard (like in a race or a hard ride) one needs to let them “cool down” or “blow” (which they are literally doing with their breathing) before completely stopping them. Blow is also used in racing when horses are in training. A blow-out is a hard, fast training run to get them ready to race. It gets their muscles loosened up and gets their lungs ready for competition. I have also heard that human runners frequently do the same thing. All of the others I have heard also, but (naturally) the first resonate more with me.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    May 15, 2019 at 11:15 am

    Blowhard is what I have heard–meaning a bragging person.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    May 15, 2019 at 10:15 am

    Instead of blow, I use “sucking wind”

  • Reply
    Fran Dixon
    May 15, 2019 at 10:04 am

    For 1 I’ve heard puffin and blowin for out of breath
    2 bragging was just blowing or lying was blowin smoke
    3 was used your way
    4 in the 80’s my daughter picked up phrases such as blow this pop sickle stand for hurrying
    5 braggart was a blow hard
    It’s odd how sayings are changed slightly from place to place. I’m born and raised in Eastern Kentucky

  • Reply
    Jack
    May 15, 2019 at 9:08 am

    “Blow downs” is a common term to refer to trees blown down on trails or in rivers.

  • Reply
    Shirl
    May 15, 2019 at 9:06 am

    Blow Joe or a blow-hard is used to describe a braggart in eastern KY. One comes to mind that I haven’t heard in ages. ‘Well, blow me down’ was used to describe disbelief, same meaning as hush your mouth. I’m laughing so hard as I type these words. Yes, we really did say that!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    May 15, 2019 at 8:58 am

    I have heard #4 used just the opposite of your example such as “blow into town”. “They’ll just blow into town without a thought of where they’re gonna stay.” I guess if you can blow in, you can blow back out.

    Also when we were tired and ready to go home we’d say something like “Come on it’s time to blow this place!”

    So yeah, I spect I’ve heard and used them all.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    May 15, 2019 at 8:47 am

    Number 4 is new to me too. But I have heard the same meaning expressed as “put it in the wind” or “get it in the wind”. Sometimes “it” is a little more specific.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    May 15, 2019 at 8:09 am

    Tipper–I’m familiar with all of them, although in the case of #2 there’s often a bit of a variation and blow is used as blowhard–i. e., A windy fellow full of himself and pretty much a stranger to the truth.

    One usage you don’t have that I’ve heard all my life involves some type of meat, usually fish or maybe an imperfectly cured ham, going bad in the warm months and flies laying eggs on it. “Flies have done blown that meat. It won’t be fit to eat.”

    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    May 15, 2019 at 8:07 am

    I’ve heard each example and they are all fairly common in my neck of the woods. I’ve also heard it to describe a violent eruption or explosion as well as the surfacing of a whale to expel water to take another breath.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    May 15, 2019 at 8:01 am

    You made me recall, as AW said, the word “blowhard” as a braggert (#5). But then we two are each from eastern KY. Also, we always referred to down trees as a ‘blowdown’ which, by the way, the dictionary used with computer word processors does not recognize.

    I don’t recall hearing it growing up, but there is ‘blow smoke’ meaning to mislead, obscure the truth, which may or may not include an element of bragging.

    I just wonder if the Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English could be used with a word processing program. I would sure like to use it that way. And I would enjoy reading the writing of native sons and daughters that could use it to be authentically Appalachian. Would be interesting also if movie script writers would use it.

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      May 15, 2019 at 5:29 pm

      You can add words to the dictionary used to make comments here, at least on my computer. When the red zigzag line appears under the word it thinks is misspelled just right click on it and then click on “add to dictionary”. After that it will allow the word.

    • Reply
      Tipper
      May 20, 2019 at 7:22 am

      Ron-I so wish the dictionary was digital so that it would be searchable. I’ve heard the next version will be so I’m keeping my fingers crossed 🙂

  • Reply
    Vanessa
    May 15, 2019 at 7:42 am

    Funnily enough I’ve heard #3 the most in the army, though it isn’t to be used in polite company & I’ve never heard it since leaving. “He wanted that promotion/ position/ deployment so bad he came in & kept blowing sunshine up my @**. Tough rocks for him.” Thinking back, that was one of my favorite things about the service, sayings from all over the country. Some (mostly southern, lol) got picked up by everyone they were so good.

  • Reply
    Sanford McKinney
    May 15, 2019 at 7:11 am

    Tipper,
    We climbed up the side of that mountin and were so winded that we had to stop and take a blow. This was a common
    sayn years ago in the mountains of North East TN.

  • Reply
    Don Byers
    May 15, 2019 at 6:52 am

    Referring to a braggart as a “big blow” was common when I was a kid in Union County, GA.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    May 15, 2019 at 6:37 am

    2, 4, 5, 6. Hear it all the time. Really like the blow up the boss though, may have to start using it that wsy again

  • Reply
    aw griff
    May 15, 2019 at 6:36 am

    The one I hear and use to describe a braggart or liar is blow-hard. Blowing smoke I’ve probably heard the most that describes a person who is bragging. lying, or exaggerating.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    May 15, 2019 at 6:17 am

    I don’t recall hearing number six. I’ve heard all the rest. I just love how we use words, seems we can take almost any word and add new meaning to to suit our need!

  • Leave a Reply