Appalachia Appalachian Dialect

You’ll Catch Cold or You’ll Take the Weed?

 

you might catch cold or take the weed

A few weeks ago I received the following comment:

Hello,
I came across your blog while trying to find information on a saying that a friend and I were discussing. His family is Scottish and lived in Eastern Tennessee. The term that his grandmothers used when one should not play outside in the cold and dampness was, “You’ll take the weed”.  Do you have any information on this particular saying? I am trying to find more about the origins and whether it was a common saying. Thanks for you help!

Fawn Horner

—————–

I have never heard anyone use the word weed in the manner Fawn described. I checked one of my favorite sources, the Online Etymology Dictionary, and this is the only definition that came remotely close:

weedy (adj.) Look up weedy at Dictionary.com
early 15c., from weed + -y (2). In old slang, in reference to horses, “not of good blood or strength, scraggy, worthless for breeding or racing,” from 1800; hence, of persons, “thin and weakly” (1852).

The definition made me wonder if describing a horse that was doing poorly could have morphed into describing a person who might be doing poorly or who might become sick from being out in the cold and damp air.

Granny is always worrying about someone taking cold-even herself. She has rules to prevent taking cold like don’t wash your hair if you’re going to have to go outside later in the day-you should only wash it after you’re in for the night; always wear a coat with a hat or toboggan if it’s windy; if you’ve been sick recently then by all means when you do go outside you better bundle up good or you might take cold or worse yet-a backset; and you must take all precautions against getting wet in the rain.

All my life I’ve laughed at Granny’s dire warnings of taking cold, but sometimes I hear her exact admonitions come straight out of my mouth.

Several years back I used the photo at the top of this post to tell you this:

Chitter couldn’t stand it, as soon as the tractor pulled out of Pap’s garden she had to shed her shoes and get in it. The other girl-she was mad because I told her she couldn’t do the same.

Chatter was recovering from a recent illness and I wouldn’t let her go barefoot in that cold turned ground in the cool evening air because I could hear Granny in my head warning me not to.

If you’ve got any warnings from your mother or granny I hope you’ll share them. And if you’re familiar with the word weed being used as Fawn described please leave a comment and tell us about it.

Tipper

 

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24 Comments

  • Reply
    Tipper
    May 1, 2017 at 8:38 pm

    Paula-thank you for the great comments! Yes I know about puny : ) Isnt that the best word for when youre feeling…well puny LOL! I hope you have a great week!

  • Reply
    RB
    April 28, 2017 at 7:39 pm

    I can’t remember ever hearing the word “weedy” used to describe someone, but I do remember the word “reedy” being used for someone tall and lanky. I wonder if there’s a connection there.
    I also remember the thing about not 0washing hair and then going outside, and I remember when you were sick or even feeling a bit poorly, you never took a shower or bath for fear of taking a chill. And I remember being covered with a pile of blankets, sweating like a hog, when I had a fever, though nowadays we know you do the opposite as long as the person isn’t shivering.
    I also remember being told you feed a cold and starve a fever (or was it the other way around, I never could remember), and now we know there’s not much sense in that either.
    But I’ll never be convinced sugar doesn’t hype children up or that chicken soup does nothing to help when one is feeling badly like some doctors/scientists now try to tell us. LOL
    Prayers everyone’s having a great weekend, and a safe one too.
    God bless.
    RB
    <><

  • Reply
    Melissa P (misplaced Southerner)
    April 28, 2017 at 9:28 am

    Love this post! We recently found that what we thought was English/Irish ancestry on my mother’s side is actually Scottish, so I’ve started reading a lot about my ancestors, ancestral home, and all things Scottish. (I do, however, draw the line at haggis!) This saying is one I hadn’t heard before and with the possibility of it being from the Scots, I went to my research. The following is what I found. Sounds like it might possibly be where the saying came from.
    “In phr. to wede awa(y), (1) tr. to carry off or remove, esp. by death, to make to die off. Gen.Sc., liter.”

  • Reply
    PinnacleCreek
    April 27, 2017 at 8:18 pm

    I usually don’t post twice on same blog but here goes. Miss Cindy’s comment was extremely interesting. Back n the day we were taught about “dog days” and getting cuts infected by the dew. I learned this from the older folks. To this day I discourage surgeries or extensive dental work during that time. My Mom always said her Dad got a “Fall sore” on his leg that took months to heal. Also we were warned snakes were blind and more apt to bite. None of my studies ever mentioned this, but even clothes sour easily during that time.

  • Reply
    Michael Miller
    April 27, 2017 at 5:43 pm

    Tipper, could that usage of “weed” have been derived from an archaic reference of “widow weeds” or another usage as defined below?
    “Clothes worn by a widow during a period of mourning for her spouse (from the Old English “Waed” meaning “garment”).”

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    April 27, 2017 at 1:57 pm

    Tipper, I’ve never heard the word “weed” used in that way, however it may be a very old usage. Both of my grandmothers and my mother used to warn me just the way your mother did about catching a cold. In fact, the very phrase she used was, “You’ll catch your death of a cold.” With that dire warning ringing in my ears I was usually very careful. I also warn my children and they pay no attention to it. They tell me all that has been disproven. Well, I’m not so sure. The other day I was asking my daughter how my grandson was since he had had some sort of virus. She began to describe his condition as some better but still not really fully recovered. I said to her, “you mean he’s puny” and we both got a laugh because its been so long since we heard the term used. Its a perfectly good description of what we were talking about but somehow the word has fallen out of favor. Have you heard the word “puny” used?

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    April 27, 2017 at 10:47 am

    I’ve never heard of “The Weed” and I’ve never caught a cold. In all my born days I’ve never caught a cold. Is that unusual?
    Now let’s talk about the times a cold has caught me? Not only does it catch me, it jumps all over me. Every other week it seems, anymore!
    Actually I don’t wear a coat, even in the dead of winter, unless it is windy. I don’t even wear long sleeves. It’s something about me and sleeves I think. If sleeves fit right when my arms are down by my sides, they are up at my elbows when I raise my arms up. If I get them to fit with my arms up, my sleeves hang down to my knees. I must be a sight out shoveling snow bare armed but its better than looking like an orangutan.
    On the other hand, or should I say the other foot, I always wear shoes. My feet are extremely sensitive nowdays! I might wear just socks inside but not often.
    Now when I was growing up the shoes can off on May 1st and stayed off til Oct 1st. School, Church or whatever we went barefooted.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    April 27, 2017 at 10:32 am

    I haven’t heard of “take the weed” but we were always warned about taking the cold. Mom would say, “you had better not go out with that wet head or you’ll take the cold!”

  • Reply
    Ken
    April 27, 2017 at 10:07 am

    Tipper,
    Thank you for the video and Birthday Wish from the girls, I sent it on to my youngin’s, so they could see it too.
    From the side of the picture, I guess that’s Chatter with her arms folded. I can’t tell if she’s mad or just cold and watching her sister enjoy that fresh plowed ground. Both of ’em are Special! …Ken

  • Reply
    Shirl
    April 27, 2017 at 9:55 am

    Mom had earaches as long as I can remember. Unlike Jackie Kennedy’s fashion statement, she wore a scarf tied under her chin to ward off the cold or wind. And she never let us go ‘barefooted’ until May 1st. Mom never said “take a cold”, it was “catch a cold”, even when we were not exposed to a contagious person to catch it from.
    I’ve never heard anyone say “you’ll take the weed” in that manner. It was probably a saying common for that area in Tennessee, like so many sayings that I’ve never heard outside of Eastern KY.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    April 27, 2017 at 9:35 am

    Mama used to warn about going out “in your shallow go nakeds” –never heard anyone else say this. Also going outside with wet hair or going to bed with wet hair or washing hair during the “time of the month”.

  • Reply
    SuzyJ
    April 27, 2017 at 9:30 am

    Ha tried to look up about weed sayings, all I got was about the “other kinda weed”.
    As promised, I saw today where on Saturday May 13 is the Spring Fling/Ramp Festival at the Union County Farmer’s Market in Blairsville, GA from 10-2. Hope to see some of you there 🙂

  • Reply
    Brian P. Blake
    April 27, 2017 at 9:03 am

    Cold and wet can lead to pneumonia. My Uncle John caught it after a snowball fight at college and died three months later, at age 19. Mother called pneumonia “the old people’s friend” because it carries you off quickly and painlessly. As the folk-saying went, “They died of the new-mown hay.”

  • Reply
    Edward Karshner
    April 27, 2017 at 9:01 am

    “Weedy” is an old one I heard, literally, once a million years ago. When I was in grade school, I took sick and the nurse called my Mom and told her to come get me because I “looked weedy.” I remember that because I wasn’t sure what it meant, but I liked how she said it…she was from the exotic region of Eastern Kentucky.
    But, wow, that is a rare one.

  • Reply
    Linda Case
    April 27, 2017 at 8:46 am

    My Eastern Kentucky grandmother would never let her daughters work in the fields hoeing corn if they were having their menstrual period. When grandpa would gather up his workers for the day she would say, ” She can’t go today, she’s puny.” The word puny meaning that particular girl was on her period. She also would not allow the girl to wash her hair or bathe during the cycle, stating it would make her sick if she did. All the children, and there were 14, were not allowed to go barefoot until May the second. Why that particular date my mother never knew.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    April 27, 2017 at 8:40 am

    Since you mention it, I don’t recall Dad cautioning us about avoiding getting sick. I think to him weather was mostly to be taken as he found it. But Mom, the nurse, was always watching our health. We didn’t get to start going barefoot until ‘the cold was out of the ground’ or about late May. And she wanted to bundles us up.
    The worst asthma attack I ever had came the night after I had been running around in the November woods in shirt sleeves. Along about then I was wishing someone had told me to wear a coat.
    As we know by experience though, kids ignore weather to pay atte tion to more exciting things but the older we get the more sensitive we get to it.

  • Reply
    H Lee Mears
    April 27, 2017 at 8:30 am

    Never heard weed thing. And EVERYTHING was going to make us sick according to Granny! Snow, rain, wet hair, baths, barefoot, no coat, no hat! And at her house it was hot enough inside to kill us. I’d say about 90* at any time..
    And all kinds things bring bad luck.

  • Reply
    PinnacleCreek
    April 27, 2017 at 8:10 am

    Back when I studied different illnesses and causes, I totally disagreed with the parts that said getting chilled could not cause a cold. With my Appalachian raising I was taught the rules about wet hair and not getting a chill. After any cold or flu we were cautioned to avoid a “backset.” Somewhere I even heard to wear a hat to keep the heat from going out the top of your head. As further proof the times I became the sickest were sitting in front of an air conditioner after working in the heat outside.
    Later I started reading much literature on alternative medicine, and I found a whole world of information that did not include taking a chemical substance (pill) to cure our ills. Years of our ancestors learning from experience have made folk like Granny experts in common sense ways to prevent getting sick. There are so many alternatives explored by other countries and also in the hills of Appalachia. Herbs, copper, garlic, acupuncture, prayer, aromatherapy, sassafras, fasting, Vitamin C, probiotics, fatback on a boil, and Granny’s wisdom may just be much better than all those chemicals unnatural to our body.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    April 27, 2017 at 8:02 am

    Tipper–I’ve always been of the opinion that there ought to be an opening day for barefoot season. As a youngster I always wanted to rush barefooting it as we got a spell of warm weather, while Momma would utter dire warnings to the effect “you’ll catch your death of a cold.”
    I reckon it’s just natural for youngsters to want to make a meaningful connection with the good earth directly through their bare feet, and I can remember how proud I would be, well into the summer, when the bottom of my feet had become tough enough to let me walk on concrete or asphalt in the heat of the day. Of course the real test of toughness was to rub out a cigarette butt with your bare foot.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    April 27, 2017 at 7:50 am

    My Grannie admonished me about going out bare foot when the dew was on the ground. One time, in particular, she wouldn’t let me out when I had a cut on my foot saying it would poison me.
    It never made much sense to me so for the most part I went barefoot with or without dew on the ground but even my child’s mind could grasp the threat when I had the nasty cut on my foot.

  • Reply
    Larry Griffith
    April 27, 2017 at 7:40 am

    Never heard weed. Mostly heard and use catch your death of foolishness.

  • Reply
    Larry Griffith
    April 27, 2017 at 7:40 am

    Never heard weed. Mostly heard and use catch your death of foolishness.

  • Reply
    Larry Griffith
    April 27, 2017 at 7:40 am

    Never heard weed. Mostly heard and use catch your death of foolishness.

  • Reply
    Larry Griffith
    April 27, 2017 at 7:40 am

    Never heard weed. Mostly heard and use catch your death of foolishness.

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