Appalachia Appalachian Dialect

To Cross A Letter


to cross a letter

cross a letter – to write over and at right angles (136)
I notice you have acquired the very annoying habit of crossing your letters, which in these days of cheap postage and paper is very abominable. If you cross anymore of your letters to me I will neither read or answer them (Sept. 25, 1859 R. Goelet, Washington)

Tarheel Talk – by Norman E. Eliason


I was reminded of the quote above when I published the post about being ill last Saturday. I’d say he was most defiantly ill about the crossed letters he was receiving.


p.s. If you missed the hoopla-The Pressley Girls have their very first cd! Go here to get one!



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  • Reply
    Ruth moscato
    September 19, 2021 at 7:24 pm

    Tipper,You have taken me up the Holler and I hear my Gramma.She would say that she made some Sodi Bread .I can smell her upstairs where she put ten Kids to sleep.I cant thank you enough for these memories that comes flooding back.I am Irish so we had a lot of Music wherever they gathered.There was also drinking and fighting. But those are memories too. I am left with afew cousins,everyone has gone. So like you I am in charge of the Stories,memories and the Ancestry . Thank you Iwill share your site with my Grandgirls . God Bless youns love Ruthie

    • Reply
      September 20, 2021 at 6:12 am

      Ruthie-thank you!!!

  • Reply
    November 19, 2017 at 7:49 am

    Jim Casada said it better than I could, but I’ll just say I agree! Having had to decipher (“read” is not the right word!) old letters which were completely covered in two layers of writing at 90-degree angles…well, the letters weren’t the only thing that was crossed.

  • Reply
    eva m. wike
    November 9, 2017 at 12:04 pm

    Well I am skerd to even atemp to join in this descushion! Eva Nell

    • Reply
      Ray Presley
      August 31, 2021 at 11:16 am

      You’re just an old “skerdy” cat!

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    November 9, 2017 at 12:56 am

    What you mean crossed letters Is a no no….Well, tell that to the girls in the forties and fifties that had pen pals all over the USA and across the big pond…That was the fun of it…We would write sideways, in the margin, and put other side indicating one to turn over the page…Then we would turn that page upsidedownards…and start writing until the page was filled…draw a line to which way you were to read the letter with a arrow pointing over to the other side and write above the return address…
    Hey that was a lot more fun than those handheld machines nowadays…Loved getting one of those complicated letters from a pen pal to try and decipher! HA
    Thanks for this post…
    PS…My Granny was very good at this…after signing off she would think of something else to say and up the side in the margin the note would go! ha

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    November 8, 2017 at 11:02 pm

    When I ordered my Pressley Girls cds I asked that they autograph them for me thinking that their signatures might in the future be worth more at a public auction than that of run of the mill present day performers. You never know! And it cost me nothing extra! What surprised me though was that they signed in cursive. That is uncommon these days. It was a pleasure to see!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    November 8, 2017 at 10:24 pm

    “he was most defiantly ill about the crossed letters”
    I would say that defiantly is definitely the better choice of words here. Definitely merely defines the matter. Defiantly has a pushback to it. It suggests an action rather than just a proclamation. I defy anyone to prove me wrong.

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    November 8, 2017 at 6:00 pm

    I found an old letter in an abandoned house at Shell Creek and it was from a son who had left home to work in Port Clinton, Ohio and he was writing to his mother back home in Carter County. It was back in December in 1958 and he wrote on the front of the paper and on the back and up the sides. Back in mid-century when almost all family letters were hand written and on whatever stationary or note paper was available, leaving a margin was as expected as punctuation and writing up the margin was common.

  • Reply
    November 8, 2017 at 3:45 pm

    How many times I’ve read or written crossed letters. – especially when sending letters overseas. Squeezing every precious message onto that little piece of paper to save pennies on postage; or cherishing every squished word that somehow brought me closer to the writer . . .
    As my correspondents have aged i am much more careful about keeping letters, words, and sentences well spaced but sometimes feel as though I’m shouting at them with my pen. Words crowded together sometimes seem to be being whispered. . . .

  • Reply
    November 8, 2017 at 2:05 pm

    Definitely or defiantly?

  • Reply
    November 8, 2017 at 1:38 pm

    I don’t write much anymore, since I learned to type in the late 60’s, but when I did, I don’t remember crossing a letter, or writing on the outside edges. Where in the world did you find that letter from back in the Civil War Era?
    I was listening to our Christian Radio Station at Murphy when I heard “The Twelve Days of Christmas” by Carol Roberson. I think he sounds a lot like Elvis Presley. …Ken

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    November 8, 2017 at 10:56 am

    I am guilty of these same transgressions but I make no apologies. My reply would have been along these lines:
    Dear Aunt Aganust,
    If you consider your time to decipher my correspondences more valuable than mine to compose them then expect to see no more from me. You are now and in perpetuity no longer a part of my existence.
    PS: Anymore is a measure of time not quantity. Any more would have been the proper choice of words. If you do choose to write me in the future, please have someone with basic grammar skills proofread your work as I no longer have time to attempt to decode them.
    PPS: Do not reply!

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    November 8, 2017 at 9:35 am

    I remember reading about this years ago. Must be so difficult to read

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    November 8, 2017 at 9:02 am

    I had never heard of crossed letters. But there was a time when paper was not such a common item. So it got used and re-used until it was used up. I guess in a different way the were as bad about filling white space as my daughter says I am. That means that even official records back in the 1700’s were subject to be made on scraps of paper. Unfortunately, that eas one of several things working against their being preserved.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    November 8, 2017 at 8:27 am

    Tipper–Although in one sense it is untold miles removed from today’s post, I have extensive experience with “crossed” letters, and rest assured they will make you cross.
    My research specialty back in my “professing” days focused on European explorers in Africa, and all the academic books I wrote involved these men. It was common for them to run short of paper to maintain their diaries or send out letters which had minimal likelihood of making it from the depths of the Dark Continent to Britain. Accordingly, they wrote on the back and front of every piece of paper, turned it sideways, and wrote across what they had already written. Talk about being touch to decipher and hard on one’s eyes–this was the ultimate.
    In fact, through a combination of poor interior lighting (the Brits aren’t much for using artificial light in the daytime), long hours of reading tortuous material, and dealing with crossed letters, I became near-sighted. Mind you, I didn’t know it until Br’er Don and I were trout fishing side-by-side and he asked why I wasn’t setting the hook when I got a strike. The simple reason was that I couldn’t see my dry fly. My vision went from 20/15 in both eyes to something like 20/200 in the course of a few months.
    That’s my woeful tale of crossed letters.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    November 8, 2017 at 7:13 am

    I’ve never heard that expression, but I think, indeed, it would be anoying

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