Appalachia Appalachian Dialect


Nonsense locations like where the creek burnt in two


I received this email a few weeks ago:

I wonder if you and/or your readers know or use any nonsense direction sayings. My Dad’s was ‘Over there where Angkern killed the screech owl’. It meant either that the location of something was indefinite and could be anywhere or that the speaker didn’t know the location.

I asked a co-worker from McKee. KY that question once and she said their expression was, ‘Over where that little black dog stays.’

I like those kinds of colorful sayings. A similar one is, ‘About as long as a piece of string’ which could mean either an indefinite size or that size was not important to the intended use one way or another.


After reading Ron’s email I thought of one I used to hear quite often: where the creek burnt in two. For example: “You know he lives down there where the creek burnt in two.”

I ask a few friends if they could think of any similar sayings for nonsense places. One said his family used to say where the barn burnt down or where the old oak tree was.

In the same manner that Ron pointed out-the sayings I’ve shared were really a way of saying the location is not known or is indefinite.

Have you got any to add to mine and Ron’s list?



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  • Reply
    September 9, 2021 at 7:44 am

    I guess this is kind of a nonsense place. I can remember when someone said “come on, let’s go”. When the question came “where are we goin’?” “We’re goin’ to London to see the Queen”.

  • Reply
    Garry Ballard
    July 13, 2020 at 1:01 am

    In Australia we have a couple of sayings like that. When someone is from a long way away we say ‘beyond the black stump’ or ‘out the back of Bourke’, a remote town in the Outback. Actually most of inland Australia is called The Outback. A funny saying I remember is when I’d ask my father where he’d been and he’d answer ‘there and back to see how far it is’.

  • Reply
    Sheila Bergeron
    July 11, 2020 at 5:53 pm

    It’s a right smart piece to town. I’m gonna jerk a knot in your tail.

  • Reply
    Paulette Tonielli
    July 31, 2017 at 9:43 am

    My personal favorite: “You can’t get there from here”.

  • Reply
    July 31, 2017 at 9:19 am

    I have to tell this story. I went to grade school in McCaysville GA. The school was located atop a hill, you could see for miles in all directions.
    We had a new student move from Atlanta to McCaysville, culture shock I am sure, but that aside. The new kid would ask where do you live? …the reply was ” over younder” then the speaker would point in a direction from the panoramic location.
    A few weeks into the “new kid’s” introduction into small town life, he raised his hand in class and asked the teacher where younder was, sighting it has to be the largest neighborhood around. After the dead silence and roaring laughter, she explained the use of younder. I don’t remember the kid’s name but many years later his story still makes me smile.

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    May 26, 2016 at 7:42 pm

    Down the road a piece …..

  • Reply
    May 26, 2016 at 3:01 pm

    All very colorful, and can be found down the road a piece, I’m sure.

  • Reply
    Cullen in Clyde
    May 26, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    CP here: My brother-in-law was giving directions to my wife once. He told her, “It’s down there past where that fellow used to have that dog tied to a tree. The dog died, and the tree’s gone. But the rope’s probably still laying there.”

  • Reply
    Sheila Bergeron
    May 26, 2016 at 2:35 pm

    How about a right smart piece?

  • Reply
    Bryant Cooper
    June 19, 2015 at 8:18 am

    In Texas, people will ask for directions and the local will say “oh its just over yonder” or “that my friend is just a skip, jump and a holler or a far piece”

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 18, 2015 at 11:22 pm

    I don’t know nothing about a creek that burnt in two, but I’ll tell you sometime about two young whippersnappers that blew one in two.

  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    June 18, 2015 at 10:14 pm

    I do remember one funny colorful saying from long long ago when I lived in Atlanta. Some weekends, just to get out of the city, my best friend, Beth, and I would fill up the gas tank and take a road trip for parts unknown. With the gas tank full, we didn’t worry much figuring if we drove far enough, eventually we’d see something we recognized, be it the Statue of Liberty or the Golden Gate Bridge. LOL
    Anyway, one time we really did get lost and pulled over at a tiny old country store with one gas pump to ask directions. The old guy sitting on the store’s porch told us, “Well, you just go down this road a piece til you get to the red house with the white picket fence. Well, the house’s not red anymore and the fence is gone, but that’s where you’re gonna want to turn right, and it’ll get you right back to the interstate lickety split.”
    We looked at each other and left the old fella no wiser than we’d been when we first talked to him thinking we’d drive down the road a piece and either find a house that looked like it might have once been red, or maybe a direction sign to the interstate, either one.
    No such luck. So we stopped in the next town, went into the fire hall (you could just walk into them back then, not so much anymore, at least not around here) and asked for directions, and there we got some real help.
    And from that time on, even til today, every time we needed directions or sometimes just out of the blue, we’d think about that old fella’s directions, mimicking what he’d said and how he’d said it in our minds, laughing the whole time, and thinking it was well worth the bad directions and extra driving just for all the laughter it’s given us through the years.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    June 18, 2015 at 10:08 pm

    We was a’talkin’ and not payin’ much mind to Jimmy and we noticed he was gone and looked around and there he was, a way back down the road a right fur piece from us and we commenced a hollerin’ and didn’t look like he could hear us and we couldn’t throw a rock that fur so we just left him. Dreckly, here he come, just a’runnin’ t’beat the band and a pantin’ and foamin’ at the mouth. He was a good old dog but he didn’t seem to pay close attention.
    He always found a tarpin to gnaw on.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 18, 2015 at 3:49 pm

    over thataway summers
    way back up in on the head uh Larky
    don’t ask me, I ain’t never been there neither
    well, I reckon I could tell you but then I’d have to kill you

  • Reply
    June 18, 2015 at 12:43 pm

    When I was little, my family went
    to Atlanta to see my oldest brother. We hadn’t seen that many
    lights since the last lightning
    storm. Anyway, daddy found the
    street near where Bud lived, but
    couldn’t find it. Finally daddy
    asked a Policeman and he had no
    clue where this street was. Turns
    out it was only a couple blocks
    from us and intersected with the
    street we were on.
    My brother and I were so glad
    when we left and got back to our
    Smokey Mountain Bushes…Ken

  • Reply
    June 18, 2015 at 12:29 pm

    Not really the same thing, but when estimating distance we often would say it’s just a “little piece down the road” or it’s a “good country mile”.

  • Reply
    jose luis
    June 18, 2015 at 11:25 am

    Tipper dear, I am very far from the Appalachian Trail, but here in Argentina there are those like especially among men in the field.
    For example: Where ?, “where the devil lost the poncho”, or Where ?, “over there, where the wind turns.”
    A very cordial to you and all your readers greeting, José Luis from Buenos Aires.

  • Reply
    June 18, 2015 at 11:24 am

    Can’t say as I can tell you any, but sometimes I think people try to locate places where some supposedly known event occurred. Happy day to all!

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    June 18, 2015 at 10:55 am

    Well, Mitchell uses the expressions yon side and yan side interchangeably… and wonders why I’m confused!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 18, 2015 at 10:45 am

    You keep going til you see a white chicken beside the road.
    My daddy used to point and say “Over toward Hanks’s mill.” By the time he got through saying it he’d be pointing in the opposite direction.

  • Reply
    Henry Horton
    June 18, 2015 at 10:24 am

    Don’t know if this applies but once heard a story about the death in a family of an aunt who was a “saver” (and organized). Whilst cleaning out her house they found a box labeled “pieces of string too short to use”. When they opened it they found out it was true.

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    June 18, 2015 at 10:10 am

    It’s down there just beyond the fur well.
    (the far well — the well furthest from the house)
    It’s a piece of the way down that road yonder.
    And, of course, if you ask where something is at:
    Between the A and the T. (I was grown before I
    figured this one out, although I heard it almost daily.)

  • Reply
    June 18, 2015 at 9:11 am

    Reading the original comments again, I wonder if the “Angkern” phrase was a reference to some tall tale – therefore the location would be difficult to define.
    The “black dog” reference could possibly mean a location that is close but “hidden” like things “right under your nose” or “like looking for a polar bear in a snow drift” or “if it was a snake it would have bit you!”
    Your reader’s responses should make a good read (as they always do).

  • Reply
    June 18, 2015 at 9:03 am

    Probably the most common are “over yonder” or “a ways away” for something or someplace not too far away but not too close either.
    Then there’s “far side of the moon” variously meaning a long distance away or a potentially dangerous place some distance away.
    I keep thinking of location descriptions used in directions by “old-timers” which confound out of town visitors and some of the younger folks as well; for example, “just beyond the Ridge where the old Hess place used to be and across from where the old school house burned down.” Why wouldn’t it be easier to say “east on Olden Road and just past Ridge road you will find the library across the street from the city park.”?!

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, PhD
    June 18, 2015 at 8:48 am

    Tipper: I have no trouble ‘understanding’ this expression of place/time. Like where I fell into the pig pen and broke my arm when I was five years old.
    I was climbing on the fence to reach the big popular leaves, with which I was going to make myself a leaf hat. I reaches the leaves and then WHAM I hit the ground SCREAMING! Then I went to the hospital FOR THEE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE – to have my broken arm set!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 18, 2015 at 7:32 am

    Tip, I don’t think of any expression at the moment but I’ll think on through the day and get back to you if anything bubbles up from the dark regions of my mind.
    I do, however, have a similar saying. As a kid I can remember conversations like this:
    “give me that ball”
    “cause why”
    “cause kizzie”
    There was no logical or real answer to the question so it was always cause kizzie.

  • Reply
    Glynn Harris
    June 18, 2015 at 7:18 am

    In my part of the world, giving directions often include….”Turn right on the dirt road, go about a mile and then turn left at the dumpsters.”

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