Appalachian Dialect

Way Up In The Middle Of The Night

Way up in the middle of the night

The other morning Granny asked The Deer Hunter if he heard someone shooting way up in the middle of the night. He didn’t hear it nor did Paul or I so I’m thinking Granny heard something she thought was a gunshot. Or then again, maybe we all slept through it leaving Granny to wonder about the shot.

Anyway, my mind latched onto the way Granny described the time she heard the gunshot: way up in the middle of the night.

I’ve said those very same words to describe the exact time one of the girls called out to me because they were sick at night or to describe the time of night that I heard an unusual noise.

Not to long ago my unusual noise was a towering pine tree out on the ridge that finally succumbed to the beetle damage and fell during the night. I kept thinking someone was doing something with a piece of tin I guess it was the tree settling and sliding down the steep side of the ridge. By morning I had forgotten about the noise until The Deer Hunter asked me “Did you hear that tree fall way up in the middle of the night?” See he says it too.

What exact time is way up in the middle of the night?

Even though I describe the time of night that way, it’s still hard for me to say exactly when it is. For sure past midnight but before dawn is the best description I guess.

The phrase is so very typical of our lovely Appalachian language. Instead of saying during the night we feel the need to offer the information in a very descriptive detailed manner so that the listener knows exactly what we mean.



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  • Reply
    patricia bingham
    December 1, 2017 at 9:26 pm

    I know what time that is exactly, just like it says, “way up in the middle of the night”. and to tell the truth, that when most things happen that are going to happen….:)

  • Reply
    October 6, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    Geezz, what could have been going on so important that I missed this day’s blog? Well, I just will not pass up an opportunity to compliment you on that picture. Those girls look so cozy and sweet way up in the middle of the night.
    Our favorite thing used to be to stay up until way in the middle of the night telling ghost stories, playing monopoly, or just giggling ourselves to sleep. The only thing better is to be way up in the mountains drinking hot coffee while somebody throws another stick of wood in the fireplace.
    I will say it again, Tipper, you have the best gift of taking our ordinary day to day living and just showing us how unique it really is. Be careful, though, when hundreds start reading the blog they will be headin’ for the hills to find what they have yearned for all their life.

  • Reply
    October 6, 2017 at 11:17 am

    If you said that to me I would know exactly what time you were talking about.

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    October 5, 2017 at 11:19 pm

    She walked the floor, waiting for him to come home; a way up into the night. His middle-of-the-night tumbling of the front door latch took him face-to-face into her wrath.
    I believe that made it between 2:30 and 3 a.m.
    After that they didn’t speak to each other till a way up into the next week.
    Which made it Thursday afternoon.

  • Reply
    Lee Mears
    October 5, 2017 at 5:04 pm

    I’ve heard this all my life and now wonder how far and wide it’s used in US ??
    I’d say its the time when the cat wakes you up and you know it’s far too late to ever get back to sleep before the clock ‘goes off’.

  • Reply
    eva m. wike
    October 5, 2017 at 1:32 pm

    Tipper: All the posts for today were interesting! However, as a ‘self-appointed’ JUDGE, I DECLARE THE WINNER OF TODAY’S “COMMENT COMPETITION” IS THE BRILLIANT MR. BILL BURNETT!
    Cheers, ENMW

  • Reply
    Charles Ronald Perry, Sr.
    October 5, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    I have heard that also, way late in the day or night.

  • Reply
    October 5, 2017 at 11:50 am

    At Sunset today, there’ll be a Harvest Moon, folks should look at this Big thing, cause it usually occurs in September. But since this is the first Full Moon since the Fall Equinox started, this time it’s in October.
    I’ve heard shootings too , ‘way up in the middle of the night’, cause my little dog Whisky hears everything and let’s me know. I recon it’s just hunters. …Ken

  • Reply
    October 5, 2017 at 10:32 am

    Those words have come out of my mouth all too often. But, I never thought about how many times I must have left the listener wondering what in the dickens time was I talking about. To me, way up in the middle of the night means after I was asleep for a few hours.

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    October 5, 2017 at 10:23 am

    Miss Cindy’s definition just blew my mind. I’m taking the rest of the day off to study on that!

  • Reply
    larry griffith
    October 5, 2017 at 10:17 am

    Somethings I hear and use I don’t even realize until you point them out.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 5, 2017 at 9:57 am

    Way up in the middle of the night is when you don’t want to hear something way back upinunder the bed.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    October 5, 2017 at 9:31 am

    I do not think I have ever heard that. It is one of those things one understands the sense of without being able to be more specific. I suppose it could have arisen historically from being awakened in the night but without having (or at least looking at) a timepiece to see what time it was. And back in the day, a clock was an unnecessary luxury. Daytime could be estimated fairly well on sunny days but nightime was a different story.
    I had read for years about people telling time by the stars and always wanted to know how it was done. Just the other day I read it is done by observing the position of the big dipper because it makes a completion rotation around the north star in twenty-four hours.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    October 5, 2017 at 9:29 am

    I loved this post. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard it (night timing) described that way…I’ve said it myself as do most of my kin!
    Also, I will sometimes explain, “Well, it was sometime in the morning, ’cause it happened between lunch and dinner!” Really!
    Yes, because it was way before supper! I reckoned…HA
    Why do I interject lunch in there? I think it is because when I grew up there was breakfast, dinner and supper. However, when grown I would hear most people saying lunch for the midday meal.
    In elementary school there was not dinner during the day! I also guess the reason I over describe the timing is so the (foreigner,not from around here person) would be able to understand the timing I’m trying to explain! Ha
    We had lunch for it was a very small meal to get you by until the 3:00 o’clock bell went off at school and we rushed home for supper. Supper was generally 6:00 pm or when Dad got home!
    Thanks Tipper…
    I think I’ve got the timing right. I know it happened before dawn and most certainly after dusk!

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    October 5, 2017 at 9:08 am

    Way up in the night is what I say but I’ve heard way up in the middle of the night too. To me that time is in the 2-4 am area. My folks would have used an a in there too as in, ” a way up in the middle of the night.”

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    October 5, 2017 at 8:52 am

    If I was rich, I would commission the girls to write a song called “Way up in the middle of the night.” I’m going to tuck that away as a story title.
    This is what I love about this blog. You point out the obvious that I just don’t see. You have a great ability to look at Appalachia in a way that is objective. I’m learning from you how to do that.
    I’m also thinking about how “way up” gets used in other ways. A place can be “way up yonder.” My grandma used to accuse people of “getting way up into” themselves. Right now, with all the foolishness going on in the world, I wish I was way up in the hills.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    October 5, 2017 at 8:33 am

    Tipper–In my experience “way up” is used in a variety of ways to express distance or take matters to the superlative or highest level.
    For example:
    “She lived way up at the head of the holler.”
    “That old bear treed way up at the top of a red oak.”
    “Way up at the head of Deep Creek’s Left Fork you begin to get into speckled trout.”
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Don Tomlinson
    October 5, 2017 at 8:21 am

    Now I’ll be humming Billy Joel’s song all day. In the middle of the night….I go walkin’ in my sleep. Yep, I’ve said it many of a time particularly in the summer referring to when a storm rolled through, or when there was a cat fight out in the yard.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    October 5, 2017 at 8:04 am

    I guess you have to be from “Round Here” to know what time ‘Way up in the middle of the night” really is. You reckon?

  • Reply
    Michael Cass
    October 5, 2017 at 8:02 am

    “Way up in the middle of the night” is indeed “lovely,” as you wrote.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    October 5, 2017 at 7:43 am

    Tip, way up in the middle is as far as you can go before the turn to begin out the other side. It is the ultimate reach before the turn. I think there is a mathematical term for it but I don’t remember what it is, but I know exactly what way up in the middle is!
    I just love our descriptive expressions!

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