Speak Like An Appalachian

I just finished reading Our Southern Highlanders written by Horace Kephart in 1913. The book documents the lifestyle of the Southern Appalachian People in the early 1900’s. I enjoyed the book and thought it neat that I recognized many of the locations mentioned in the book. Of all the subjects covered, the chapters on dialect were the most fascinating to me.

I’m astounded the dialect documented in the book-continues to come straight out of my mouth 95 years later. I’m curious if the dialect is really isolated to Appalachia or if it has a broader base of use across America.

I’m going to share a few phrases from the book that I use and hear often. I hope you’ll leave me a comment and let me know if you think they’re strange, if you understand what they mean, or if you hear this manner of speech on a regular basis.

* It’s starting to rain, better get the clothes off the line hadn’t you?

* Thursday week I’m going to take Mother to the Doctor.

*  I’d tell a man what for.

* They went to Franklin or Hayesville one.

* We had a bait of watermelon and it was good!

* We’re aimin to go to town.

* She looks a sight like her Pap.

* I better git on.

* Be careful or you’ll slide up.

* I’ll be back directly.

* Don’t much believe the sun’ll shine today.

* We just point blank got to fix it.

* We had one more time.

* Sit down and eat some supper.

* Jake ain’t much on courtin.

* Won’t you stay a while?

* When she fell, she stove up her arm.

* We had a good day, for we went on a picnic.

Don’t forget to leave me a comment and let me know if you are familiar with this type of speech or if it seems odd to you. I’d like to know if I use the same dialect said to be isolated to the Appalachian region in the early 1900’s or if the theory is wrong.


p.s. To read my first post about Appalachian dialect go to Speak Like An Appalachian

10 thoughts on “Speak Like An Appalachian

  • June 24, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    Oh, Yes! I am familiar with just about everything you mentioned. And I do understand their meaning. If you want to read a very insightful sociological interpretation of the Appalachain culture and its origins, get Kai Erikson’s book “Everything In Its Path: Destruction of Community in the Buffalo Creek Flood.” Published in 1976. He really did some very good research into Appalachian Culture and its origins. In fact, he traced the origins of many of the words we use and the way we pronounce them to Shakespear’s Elizabethan Era.

  • June 25, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    I’m reading this book too. Very weird that we are reading it at the same time, although you beat me! For anyone who is interested in reading it, you can find it through the link I added to Tipper’s origional post. It really is a good book. Tipper and I are obviously Kindred Spirits! Thanks for the post!

  • June 25, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    I too have been exposed to and used several of these phrases.

    *Itâ??s starting to rain, better get the clothes off the line hadnâ??t you? (Yes, I’ve heard this)

    * Thursday week Iâ??m going to take Mother to the Doctor. (I’ve heard my grandparents use this)

    * Iâ??d tell a man what for. (I know of several people who have given the “what for” to someone. This is definately still alive in Eastern KY.)

    * They went to Franklin or Hayesville one. (I even use this one)

    * We had a bait of watermelon and it was good! (Not too familiar with this one. I’ve never heard it used in a sentence)

    * Weâ??re aimin to go to town. (I’ve been aimin to do a lot of thing’s but can’t find the time. This is definately used in Eastern, KY today)

    * She looks a sight like her Pap. (I’m not too sure about this one. I’ve heard the saying “What a sight”, but never “looks a site like”.

    * I better git on. (I’ve heard this one)

    * Be careful or youâ??ll slide up. (I dont’ think I’ve ever heard this one)

    * Iâ??ll be back directly. (This is used quite a bit. I even use it once in a while still)

    * Donâ??t much believe the sunâ??ll shine today. (I’ve heard this one)

    * We just point blank got to fix it. (If I had a dollar for every time I heard “point blank” used, I’d be rich!)

    * We had one more time. (I’ve heard this too)

    * Sit down and eat some supper. (I thought for years that we didn’t have lunch. Lunch was dinner and dinner was supper)

    * Jake ainâ??t much on courtin. (“Courtin’ is still used by older generations)

    * Wonâ??t you stay a while? (Ok, I didn’t even realize this was “Appalachian Speak”, I have heard this phrase all of my life along with “stay and sit a spell”)

    * When she fell, she stove up her arm. (Although I’ve never stove up my arm, I’ve stove up my finger more times than I can count. Seriously, what do you call it if its not “stove up”? Sprung perhaps? I honestly don’t know.)

    * We had a good day, for we went on a picnic. (I’ve heard this before too)

    Here is another one” Go over there and hope him”. Meaning “Go over there and help him”. My papaw said that.

  • July 2, 2009 at 11:43 pm

    Tipper: Yes, I remember most of those ‘sayings’. I grew up living with my grandmother who used many of those phrases. She used some words right from old English. Used to say ‘Pon my honor’ thus and so and I could never figure out what that meant till I read some Shakespeare. We called the closet “the press”, don’t know where that came from. “I recollect..” instead of I remember. I miss the mountain folk and the mountain talk.

  • July 6, 2009 at 11:48 pm

    Have to ask: Did you ladies ever hear the expression…”I want you to look the lettuce.” or “look the greens”. Leaf lettuce has those little green bugs that are hard to see, so looking the lettuce is looking for those little bugs and washing them off in a clean pan of water…twice! My grandmother would “kill the lettuce” with very hot bacon grease. I never liked the taste of “killed lettuce”.

  • July 7, 2009 at 9:37 am

    Not only have I heard most of those phrases, I still use many of them. One that I don’t see is an Eastern Kentucky/West Virginia phrase “gom (sic?).” It’s pronounced Gawm. We use it when one is messing or about to mess something up, such as “your gonna gom that up.”

  • July 7, 2009 at 9:47 am

    In reply to Annie’s comment:

    Yes I hear and say look-like ‘you better look those beans before you cook them’. I grew up eating kill lettuce-and still make it myself. I liked the taste of it. Reminds me of spring-fresh kill lettuce, beans, cornbread-and of course sweet tea to drink.

  • July 10, 2009 at 10:28 am

    I’m born and raised in Oklahoma and hear folks talk like this!! Especially in South-eastern part. My Grandparents said about 95% of all those except with”….directly…” it was pronounced ‘ dreckly ‘. And then there’s ‘ over (or out) yonder ‘ and ‘ reckon so”. I say ‘ fix’n to ‘ and get made fun of by my yankee friends and relatives…..I do not care!! No one could out of my Grandparents house without being offered a plate of food and sweet tea! And if you turned it down they’d look at you like you had something wrong with you!! LOL!!! I miss them SO MUCH!! My father-n-law says about all those too with the additional ‘ worsh (wash)’, ‘wrench(rinse)’ and’ (dreen(drain)’ , HEEHEEHEE! He’s so cute! I love all the differences in speech around the country……just not the uppitiness of some who think you’re stupid if you don’t talk like them. Long live the uniqueness of us all!!

  • July 10, 2009 at 10:31 am

    What is ‘kill’ lettuce?? Is it what we call ‘wilted’ lettuce where you put hot bacon grease on it??

  • July 13, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    Yes dennymc56, you are exactly right.!!!! To “kill” lettuce means to pour hot bacon grease over it. Lots of people put onions in it too. Most people in my family and region (I’m from Eastern KY) pronouce it “kilt”. For instance, “I had “kilt” lettuce for dinne”r; “Junior “kilt” a deer when he went hunting last week”; and “I tried to climb that tree, fell out and nearly “kilt” myself”.

Leave a Reply