Appalachian Dialect

Unusual Word Usages and Phrases in Appalachia

appalachian words

In my latest video I share some of Appalachia’s unusual word usages and phrases.

I hope you enjoyed the video! Please leave a comment and let me know if you’re familiar with the uses I shared.

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  • Reply
    Sharon Schuster
    February 10, 2021 at 8:33 am

    I can hear my beloved kin in all those sayings. Missed the author of Tall Woman. Can you give the particulars so I can find it please? I have taken a notion to reading more. I don’t cotton to fiction, but I do like to read or listen to stories of the mountains. A body has to do something on these cold winter nights, right?

    • Reply
      Wil Ford
      February 20, 2021 at 9:23 pm

      Dear Sharon, I feel the same way! Daddy’s people were all from Virginia and West Virginia and Mom’s were from Kentucky. I grew up with our own vocabulary. I still use much of my mountain words. It drives my wife crazy when I try to get her to answer by saying “say”. LoL. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    Betty Brantley
    February 2, 2021 at 2:05 pm

    I love listening to you! It brings back so many memories! My Mother and Father, aunts and cousins, always said everwhen, and many of the other phrases as well. Listening to you reminds me of my childhood when I would listen to my Mother talk!

  • Reply
    Mrs R
    January 17, 2021 at 10:24 pm

    I enjoyed this video. My family is from East Tennessee, and I grew up hearing many of the “take” phrases you mentioned. Also, one of my grandmothers would always use “say” when she wanted us to answer her without her repeating herself. Do y’all say “tickled”? One way we use “tickled” is when something makes us giggle – as in, “She got so tickled watching the boy try to catch the cat.” Another way we use “tickled” is when something makes us very happy or elated – as in, “We were just tickled to get snow on Christmas Day.” My grandfather would call any kind of soft drink “good oil”. I don’t recall ever hearing the work “toucheous”, but one of my grandmothers used to say “touched in the head” if someone was not in their right mind – as in, “She’s touched in the head, so don’t believe what she’s saying.” I’m going to find your other dialect videos now. This is fun.

  • Reply
    January 4, 2021 at 1:53 pm

    I’ve used take, as she takes after her Granny. I’ve used take down, as in write. I’ve used take in with regard to altering clothes, as I need to take in that skirt because the waist is too big. I’ve used take up, as in starting. He took up woodworking when he retired. I’ve used took off, as I took off running for the house when the rain started. I’ve heard they had to take the baby, as in having a C-section. I like these posts about language, because I’m a retired teacher.

  • Reply
    January 4, 2021 at 12:22 pm

    I don’t think I had ever posted this, but I always remembered what a wise Sociology professor said to us one day. He indicated that the less educated were more apt to stereotype. Stereotyping simplifies without having to think very hard. Educated to me does not necessarily mean college educated, as some of the smartest and wisest people I knew learned from life. It is a good thing to always keep an open mind, and to learn and appreciate the differences between nationalities and cultures. This is why I so appreciate what you do daily and patiently to dispel all the the
    negative characterizations of the fascinating people from Appalachia. Instead of showing anger at those who use lazy terms like “toothless hillbilly” you choose instead to celebrate daily the beauty and wonder of Appalachia. Many appreciate this, and I hope one day to see you be recognized, quoted, and used as a teaching tool.
    Enjoyed the video, and see it is gaining popularity. We have some “touchy” folks in our family, and often talk about who we “take after.” There are down to earth expressions for almost everything, and we need to keep them alive.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    January 4, 2021 at 12:06 pm

    Say what? Well I never woulda thoughta that! Bees in a holler black gum log?
    We always just said touchy but my wife’s family said touchless.

  • Reply
    January 4, 2021 at 12:03 pm

    Toucheous, is the only one I don’t recall using.
    I spent 30+ years teaching engineering material in different locations for the company I worked for. I always started Monday morning out apologing for my appalachian slang, until while doing a class for NYC port authority. One of the attendees corrected me and pointed out everyone in the room had a different dialect and accent.

  • Reply
    January 4, 2021 at 11:40 am

    It’ has been a long time since I have heard some of those words, but I know them all. One word I remember my Mother did not like. If she called my name and I was in another room, I would say “What?” I was brought up to always respect my elders and address a lady as “Ma’am and a man as “Sir.” Apparently, saying “What” was being very coarse and I got a talking to or what I called a long preaching. I never got a switching but I would have gladly taken one rather than a long preaching.

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      January 4, 2021 at 8:00 pm

      That was my Daddy’s form of punishment too, a long sermon. But one time I remember he send me to cut a switch when I had done something wrong. I was dreading it because he had never physically punished me before and I didn’t know what expect. What I got was totally unexpected. He rolled up his pants legs and proceeded to put stripes on his own legs until I begged him to stop. That was the worst punishment I had ever been dealt. I won’t say I never misbehaved again after that but it did make me stop and think before I made mistakes. I didn’t ever want to see that again and thank the Lord I never had to.

  • Reply
    January 4, 2021 at 11:30 am

    I’m familiar with and use all but everwhen and name it to me. whenever and what do you say about it would be my version. When I take a notion or when the spirit moves me are interchangeable.

  • Reply
    Gene Smith
    January 4, 2021 at 11:04 am

    Did you mention “take on” as in wailing or crying? Example: “Why is he taking on so; he only stubbed his toe.” One of my dad’s aunts would wail and moan when she got a little sick, and my folks would say, “Why does she take on so?”

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      January 4, 2021 at 8:02 pm

      We never stubbed our toes. We stumped them!

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    January 4, 2021 at 10:51 am

    Tipper–All of these word usages are familiar to me in one degree or another, and your video brings a number of things to mind: 1. Part of the inscription on the tombstone of a regionally well-known outdoor writer from down Georgia way reads: “He was bad to fish.” To my way of thinking, that’s a telling epitaph and one of which to be proud. 2. I love the way you pronounce Kephart as “Kay-part.” I’ve only heard a few other old-time mountain folks say it that way. It’s actually one of many examples of the manner in which mountain talk moves in interesting directions. I’ve heard numerous folks from the area where I grew up (Swain County) pronounce my last name as “Cas-dee,” but I don’t believe any of them would be younger than seventy years of age. 3. To me it’s “tetchious” or “tetchy” rather than “touchious” or “touchy.” 4. Rather than the inquiring “say?” I’m more likely to use “say what.” That applies not only when there’s no answer to a question but when someone has made a statement which is quite surprising or leaves me incredulous.

    The real point of all this is that mountain English is wonderfully distinctive and rich in infinite variety. Sometimes the variety can be marked from one county to another or even from one section of a county to another.

    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Sallie the apple doll lady
    January 4, 2021 at 10:05 am

    All of today’s words and phrases are familiar to me but I did hear take up for school starting. Another I’ve never heard that one grandmother would say was “take here” meaning move over and let me by or a polite way of saying get out of my way. As a small child I guess I would stand near her when she was busy and heard it often.

  • Reply
    Celia Miles
    January 4, 2021 at 9:31 am

    Every one of those examples is familiar to me except “toucheous” which I’ve heard as “techy” (“she’s right techy about…whatever.” I’m not even sure how to spell them!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    January 4, 2021 at 9:23 am

    Tipper, I love this video, I’ve listened to it three times! I don’t think there is any of these expressions that I haven’t heard at some time or other in my life. My immediate family, my mother and father, used them some but it was mostly my grandparents and extended family and friends where I heard them.
    I think I’ve told this on the Blind Pig before but it’s worth repeating. When I worked in a hospital in Black Mountain one of my friends there was from upstate New York and every now and then he’d say to me “Cindy, your country is showing.” It would kind of catch me off guard because it’s just the way I’ve talked all my life, but then I’d remember, this man was from Upstate New York and I thought he talked funny….but I was raised to be polite so I never pointed out to him how strange his speech was to me.
    We southern people are raised to be polite! LOL!

  • Reply
    Donna W
    January 4, 2021 at 9:20 am

    I love these words and sayings. Today I didn’t recognize a lot of them, but it’s amazing how many take me back to my childhood… in IOWA! Mostly from my dad’s family and my maternal grandma.

  • Reply
    January 4, 2021 at 9:16 am

    All the sayings are used in my everyday conversations. I’m especially bad to say everwho and everwhen. I didn’t know there was anything wrong with saying the words until my daughters take to giggling. When I ask them what’s so funny, they won’t reply until I say ‘say?’ a time or two. Name it to me is usually associated with keeping secrets. Mom used to say, “She’s so techous, I can’t look crosseyed at her without her crying.”

  • Reply
    January 4, 2021 at 9:12 am

    I have heard and used a good many of the phrases. I read something last night that reminded on me of another phrase my mother and others would tell children and especially teenagers was you can go but you had better not show out or be showing off. This meant miss be have. In the story I was reading , the author said he was taking a shower under a waterfall in what he thought was a deserted camp ground until he latter learned a woman was watching him the whole time from the cab of a pickup truck. Showing off had took on a new meaning for him!

    I watched the blog about soft drinks being called dopes. In the cotton mills of upstate SC before vending machines some one would pull a wagon , something similar to the red children’s wagons, with soft drinks and snacks in it through the mill. This was called the dope wagon. Another word in the mills was water house. This was the restroom, usually two rooms, one a locker room with a water fountain in it and the bathroom in the other. A favorite drink in my area was a RC cola and a moon pie.

    Tipper, you can make or fix chicken and dumplings for me anytime you want too! You don’t need to wait for me to say.

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      January 4, 2021 at 8:13 pm

      How about a big RC and a pack of Nabs? Nabs came from National Biscuit Company originally but now they are made by Lance in Charlotte. Now there’s a square meal for you! Or rather six of them. RC’s are hard to find these days but Lance Toast Chee are today’s Nabs and are found everywhere.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    January 4, 2021 at 8:56 am

    One thing you have shown me. All my life no matter how long it has been since I heard Appalachian speech when I do hear it I won’t have any problem understanding. Your post today is a trip to my childhood home.

    One oddity today, you spoke of “take in” as begin. I heard it as “take up”, for example, “School will take up at eight a clock.” Anyway, we sure do get a lot of good out of that word.

    You have also taught me something we all sort of know already and that is that we note what is out of the ordinary. What is ordinary just goes by us most times. If somebody brings it up we are a bit confused. That is how you so often catch me out on whether I have heard, or use myself, words in a particular way. I like to think I am a noticing person but I doubt if it is as true as I like to think.

    It sounds like Chatter has a nature like my neice who is so tender hearted. It is just like them to be grieved that they are not tender hearted enough.

  • Reply
    Margie Goldstein
    January 4, 2021 at 8:36 am

    I have never heard “say” or “touches” but all the rest are familiar to me. I get a kick out of the way you tell things because you are excited about them. Tipper’s blog is interesting, no matter ever what you may see or read there. Why, she’s as interesting as a rooster with socks on!!! Have a great day all!!! Stay warm, kind and country!!!!

  • Reply
    Janis M Zeglen
    January 4, 2021 at 7:47 am

    In December we lost the last two surviving aunts in my daddy’s family, and so now it’s just the siblings and a myriad of cousins of all degrees. When you were talking I could hear my wonderful family, my aunts and uncles, the great aunts and uncles, and my grandparents using all but a few of your phrases. When you started this video, SAY, popped into my head, and I thought, AHA, I can tell her a new one. While I am here in the North, you bring me closer to home! Thank you, and may God bless you and your family this year! Stay safe!

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