Robert And Elizabeth Beck Collins - Pioneers Of The Pioneer Church Of The Smokies
Appalachia Through My Eyes - Winter Formal

Appalachian Grammar Lesson 20

Dictionary of appalachian words

According to The Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English people in my area use the word never in two ways which differ from the traditional use of the word.


1. Never replaces a past-tense verb referring to a single event. Correct usage: "I didn't see Scott and Seth at the festival." Incorrect usage: "I never seen Scott and Seth at the festival."

2. Never is followed by did and the infinitive of a verb. Correct usage: "I have never been to a place that was so lonesome and sad." Incorrect usage: "I never did go to a place that was so lonesome and sad."

I totally agree with the Dictionary-because I use never in exactly the way it claims. But what I'm a little doubtful about-is whether or not my usage is all that different from other areas of the US. So leave me a comment and tell me how you never.


Subscribe for free to Blind Pig And The Acorn by Email


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


How about "never once"? "She never once told me she liked my hat."

I knew we had a heavy accent but I never thought my hunting buddies and I would hear it so far from home . About 15 years ago we went in the Walmart along I 40 in Amarillo and we thought the greeter had emigrated to Texas from far east Tennessee.
Larry Proffitt

One of my mother's favorite expressions was "Well, I NEVER!"

When my nephew was small, a long time ago, we lived in a small town in WNC that had garbage pick up. My uncle brought the boy a very big box home to play with. By big I mean refridgerator size. He had great fun with that big box but after a couple of weeks we got tired of that big box in the yard. So, on the day of garbage pick up I slipped out early and dragged the big box around where the gargage was waiting for pick up, thinking that the truck would come before the child saw it.
I was wrong. My nephew came around the house just in time to see his box go into their big truck
Now here comes the point of this story.....he was very upset seeing his box removed. He stood there in the yard shaking his head back and forth and said....."never, no, never, dam garbageman took my box!!!"
I've never heard anything funnier.

Everyone in my area uses never in just the same way! Must be all through Appalachia.

I never realized until now how I use the word never. I thought of something I say often. I never got to go. Instead of saying I didn' t go.

Mike-I think Im guilty of the whenever usage too : )

Blind Pig The Acorn
Celebrating and Preserving the
Culture of Appalachia

"I hain't never made corn likker but I've knowed two-three people that has..

I never did hear of setch!...Most of my nevers are follered by did...I would put it in front, a'liken to "I did never hear of such", but that confuses even my "bassackerds" way of speakin'.
"Did I never or I never did!"
Soooo, that there would seem like I heared such or not so much?
Like "Ima Hoot" maybe we should just leave off never, altogether.
Mountain folks really never saw a never they couldn't climb...they just went about their business and did it...
Thanks Tipper,

I have heard both uses of never all over the place. If you substitute, "I never saw them at the fair" for "I never seen them at the fair", I don't see anything wrong with that usage and I hear it everywhere.

I have a friend from West Virginia who is in the habit of saying, "Whenever I was 12 years old...", or "Whenever I lived in Georgia...". In my mind, I use whenever to talk about a habit or repeated occurrence like, "Whenever I go to the grocery, I buy cornbread mix...", or "Whenever we travel, we stop at Cracker Barrel..." and I use "when" to talk about a point in time, like "When I was 12 years old..." or "When I lived in Georgia"

Any thoughts?

I use never in both of the "incorrect" ways!

Are you sure your usage of the word ain't the right way?

Only difference is I would say, "I never saw" instead of "I never seen". Surely everyone in the great USA has said, at one time or another, "I never saw it coming".

Guilty as charged! It is still one of the common colloquialisms in the Ozarks too.

I use never as an adverb in a sentence. Sometimes, depending on the type of verb, I might also use what we call a helping verb - have, has, had. The English language can be somewhat tough to navagate, espeically for someone learning it from their native language. I can see how learning English for an adult can be difficult.

Yes, "never" gets used out here on the edge of the plains just like in your examples, so it's definitely not limited to just Appalachia.

I use never the same way you do, Tipper. Most people here in Louisiana do. I think it may be more of a country thing than a regional one.

I had to say these out loud a couple of times to be sure. The first one, yes; the second one, I never did hear. (reporting from the frosty North)

Tipper--To revert to an old country classic from Webb Pierce, and thereby likely reveal my years, "I ain't never, no never, seen nobody like you.
Jim Casada

Usually in our Appalachian parlance in Choestoe where I grew up, we would say, for example:
"I never did like the chore of pulling weeds out of the garden, but had to do it or our vegetables would never produce."
It seems we followed never--in explaining our negative action--with did--or another verb, sometimes mispronounced:
"I'd never heard (pronounced as though it had double rr's: hearrd) that tale told like Cecil could tell it!"

Would "I never saw Scott and Seth at the festival" be correct? Or "I never went to a place that was so lonesome and sad."
I don't think your use of never in either phrase is incorrect although other words might be questionable. But, if your choice of words conveys your thoughts to the other person, how can it be considered incorrect?

I use it that way too. Just never thought about it before reading your post. So talking here in east Texas is alot like it is there.

If it hadn't been for this grammar lesson I never would've knowed the dif'ernce. I ain't sure I do yet. But Thanks for tryin' to educate me anyhow.

I was taught never to say never, so I never have and never will!

I "never did" thing about using it any other way...

Don't forget; Well, I never!
I guess here in FL we /I use the work exactly the same way you do.
But, I am a 'true' Floridian, not a transplant....they sure do talk funny.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)