Using the word ALL in Appalachia

The use of the word All in Appalachia

In Appalachia we use the word all in...well in all sorts of ways!

  • We often add the word all to pronouns: "I don't know who all will be there, but I'm going down to that meeting they're having." or "After the food was eat they all got up and left out of there pretty quick like."
  • We use all the for only: "That's all the one I seen in the shed. Somebody must have took the others and never brought them back."
  • We use the phrase, all fired to describe a state of anger or high emotion: "It made me so all fired mad I may never step through the door of that place again!"
  • We use all with the word how: "I don't remember all how she made them, but Momma's tomato pickles were the best you ever ate."
  • We use all's in place of all that: "All's I know is I did what she told me to do. And if that ain't good enough then I don't know what else a body could do."

The grammar usages above are all very common in my area of Appalachia-and in my household. When I'm writing there are 2 words that I use way too often and one of them is all. I feel the need to put all in at least every other sentence.


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Course the Bees

Papaw Wade Earl Wilson

Papaw Wade blowing his fox horn

course verb To trace or follow (esp bees to their hive).
1926 Hunnicutt Twenty Years 73 I told him I was going to course the bees. 1950 Woody Cataloochee Homecoming 13 He could "course" a bee with an unerring eye, and he seldom got a sting. 1976 Carroll and Pulley Little Cataloochee 18 He was an expert in searching out bee trees and had the ability to course bees into hives for the purpose of producing honey. 

~Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


I’ve always wanted bees. When I first started wishing for them several years ago, Pap told me keeping bees was a lot of work. He knew because when he was a boy he had to help his father, my Papaw Wade, with his bees.

Back in those days most folks didn’t order their bees like they do today, instead they found the bees in the wild and managed to capture them. Sometimes the bees were in a swarm and they were easy to capture, other times the coursing method described in the definition above was used.

You can read about some of the items that were used as bee gums or hives in those days on this website. Pap said Papaw Wade used a hollow log for his bee gum. 

One time I was talking about bees when we were down at Pap’s big garden. Pap said “If you really want bees you can find your own.” I said “How in the world would I do that?” Pap went on to explain how Papaw Wade would wait by a stream of water, usually a creek. As he sat patiently he kept his eyes open for honey bees that were visiting the water source. Once he saw a bee he began following it back to where it came from, hopefully to it’s hive.

I said “That sounds impossible.” Pap said “Well it does but if that’s the only hope you had of getting bees and you knew it would work and you were determined then it is possible.”
Still disbelieving the possibility of coursing bees, I said “But how in the world would you follow them?”

Pap said sometimes his father would carry a bucket of water into the woods where he last saw the bee and sit patiently until the bees found his temporary source of water and begin coursing the bee from that point. By continuing to move the water he came closer and closer until he eventually found the hive. 

Even after hearing of Papaw Wade’s bee coursing experiences I still found the process hard to believe. Pap understood my skepticism by saying “You’re right it’s a mighty hard job to do and not a job that can be done quickly. You have to have patience a plenty. Patience, good eyesight, and quick reflexes. Why the only one of us that could even attempt it now would be Mark.”

My nephew Mark was still in high school when Pap and I had that conversation. Mark graduated from Yale in May-not bad for a boy who grew up in a holler in Appalachia.

I still wish I had bees or at least the determination to try and course them myself.


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Breakfast - Dinner - Supper

Pinto beans

dinner noun The midday meal, traditionally the main one of the day.
1924 Spring Lydia Whaley 1 Pap let the county build a school house free on his land which was nigh enuf for 'em to go home to dinner. And he was "powerful to send us to school." 1940 Oakley Roamin'/Restin' 128 Its dinner in the mountains at 12 noon and supper at night. 1959 Pearsall Little Smoky 91 "Let's get us some dinner" may be said any time from 11:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M. 1972 Cooper NC Mt Folklore 159 I want to go back where they eat three meals a day-breakfast, dinner and supper, where the word lunch will never be heard again. 1996 Houk Foods & Recipes 7 Before noon, women headed home to fix "dinner," the main meal of the day, consisting of hot cornbread, beans, pork in some form, and possibly a dessert. Duly fortified, they went back out to the cornfield for the afternoon. What appeared on the table for supper often closely resembled what was left over from dinner.

~Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


Half of the T knob on Granny's well faucet has been broke off for a good long while. Pap didn't have any trouble turning the water on, but Granny said it hurt her hand when she tried to turn the lopsided knob when she watered the garden. 

We bought a replacement piece a couple weeks ago and yesterday morning The Deer Hunter decided it was time to take care of the knob.

As often happens with small jobs, the knob replacement turned into a more complicated project after The Deer Hunter accidentally broke the pipe going into the well while trying to loosen the knob that had been on there since the well was drilled in the 80s. 

Between our house, Paul's house, and Pap's basement we scrounged up enough plumbing fittings for The Deer Hunter to re-plumb the well top. By the time we finished Granny had made a pot of spaghetti and said we might as well stay for dinner so we did.  


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Appalachian Vocabulary Test 89

Holding on to the Appalachian Language

It's time for this month's Appalachian Vocabulary Test. One of this month's words is more of a phrase.

I'm sharing a few videos in this test to let you hear some of the words too. To start the videos, click on them and then to stop them click on them again. 

Take it and see how you do!


A video posted by Tipper (@blindpigandacorn) on

1. Cull: rejected. "She's been courting him for a few weeks but after that shine he pitched at the dance I'd say she'll cull him now."


A video posted by Tipper (@blindpigandacorn) on

2. Corruption: pus from a sore, a wound that is infected. "That cut has got corruption in it and you better get it out before your arm rots off. I told you, you should have went to the doctor."


A video posted by Tipper (@blindpigandacorn) on

3. Contrary: stubborn, ill, cantankerous. "If she don't get enough sleep she's so contrary you can't stand to be in the same house with her."


A video posted by Tipper (@blindpigandacorn) on

4. Well as common: as usual or beyond usual. "When someone asked Pap how he was doing he would often say as well as common. I know his grandmother Carrie said it too because I read a letter she sent to my Aunt Hazel and she said the family was as well as common."

5. Cloud burst: a sudden heavy rain. "There must have been a real cloud burst up on the mountain. You never saw the like of water that came down the creek a little while ago."

All of this month's words except the well as common saying are fairly common in my area of Appalachia, how about where you live?


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Appalachian Sayings - As All Get Out

Cute as all get out

as all get out = extremely

You can be:

tired as all get out
mad as all get out
happy as all get out
pretty as all get out
stuborn as all get out

You can see the as all get out list could easily go on and on

Several years ago a young guitar picking fellow came by to see one of the girls and he used the phrase as all get out. As I heard him talking out on the porch I thought "Well apparently that old saying is going to go on for at least one more generation."

You can jump over to the English Language and Usage page to read a thread about the origin of the saying as all get out. The page also shares some of the oldest documented usages of the phrase. 


p.s. The girls call miniature donkeys baby donks. The item Chatter is pointing to in the photo is actually a donkey hitched to a wagon of sorts. The donkey is at the Union County Historical Courthouse in Blairsville GA. The road the girls travel to college has a pasture with a miniature donkey in it, the girls are always telling us about the cute baby donk in the field. 

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A Little Keen Hickory

A keen hickry
The other day Sue Crane left a comment that got me to studying on a few things. 

Sue Crane: You knew you were in BIG trouble when my grandmother said "I'm gonna get me a keen hickory and cut the blood out of you". She never did but she sure could make you dance!

The comment got me to thinking about the times Granny had to give me a dose of hickory tea for not minding or for sassing her. The comment also got me to wondering about the word keen. I've heard it used exactly like Sue did all my life, but what does keen mean?

A quick search of my Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English turned up two different definitions. 

The first: to wail or make a lamentation

The second: sharp and piercing especially of the eyes. 

Next I jumped over to the Online Etymology Dictionary it also had the lamentation/wail definition, but it also had the following:

keen (adj.)
c. 1200, from Old English cene "bold, brave, fearless," in later Old English "clever, prudent, wise, intelligent," common Germanic (cognate with Old Norse kænn "skillful, wise," Middle Dutch coene "bold," Dutch koen, Old High German kuon "pugnacious, strong," German kühn "bold, daring"), but according to OED there are no cognates outside Germanic and the original meaning is "somewhat obscure"; it seem to have been both "brave" and "skilled." Perhaps the connection notion was "to be able" and the word is connected to the source of can (v.1).

Sense of "eager (to do something), vehement, ardent" is from c. 1300. The physical meaning "sharp, sharp-pointed, sharp-edged" (c. 1200) is peculiar to English. Extended senses from c. 1300: Of sounds, "loud, shrill;" of cold, fire, wind, etc. "biting, bitter, cutting." Of eyesight c. 1720. A popular word of approval in teenager and student slang from c. 1900. Keener was 19c. U.S. Western slang for a person considered sharp or shrewd in bargaining.

I've heard Pap, and others, use the word keen regarding someone's voice. If an individual had a shrill voice they would use the word keen in place of shrill. 


p.s. Up coming performances for The Pressley Girls 

  • June 3, 2016 @ 7:00 p.m. John C. Campbell Folk School Brasstown, NC
  • June 4, 2016 @ TBA Art Walk Festival Murphy, NC
  • June 5, 2016 @ 10:00 a.m. Decoration Shady Grove Baptist Church Ranger, NC

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He Threw a Donnick at me!

  Donnick is an old word for a rock

dornick noun A rock or stone small enough to be thrown. 
1975 Gainer Speech Mtneer 9 = a stone small enough to b thrown. "He hit him with a dornick." 1997 Montgomery Coll. = pronounced donnick, usually thrown at livestock to make them move (Hooper).
[< Irish Gaelic dorno´g/Scottish Galic Doirneag < dorn "fist"; cf SND dornack]

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


A week or so ago Jim Casada left the following comment:

Tipper--Bill B.'s usage of chunk, and someone else mentioned it as well, falls in my main linkage to the word.

I wonder if anyone among your readers is familiar with one of the things that I regularly chunked; namely, a donnick.

I heard that word used regularly as a kid, but other than personally using it in writing a few times, I don't recall encountering it in years.

A typical usage would be something like: "If you don't leave me alone I'm going to pick up the biggest donnick I can throw and chunk it at your head."

I was intrigued by Jim's comment so I looked in my dictionary and there the word donnick was! Even though the entry is spelled slightly different (see above) the definition notes it is pronounced the same as in Jim's comment. 

I have never heard the word, but The Deer Hunter said it was common when he was growing up in Haywood County NC. 

How about you-have you ever the word donnick?


p.s. Up coming performances for The Pressley Girls 

  • May 28, 2016 @ 2:00 p.m. Memorial Day Arts and Crafts Festival Blairsville, GA (inside the historic Courthouse)
  • May 28, 2016 @ 5:15 p.m. Relay for Life Blairsville, GA Farmers Market
  • May 29, 2016 @ 11:00 a.m. Valley Town Baptist Church Andrews, NC
  • June 3, 2016 @ 7:00 p.m. John C. Campbell Folk School Brasstown, NC
  • June 4, 2016 @ TBA Art Walk Festival Murphy, NC
  • June 5, 2016 @ 10:00 a.m. Decoration Shady Grove Baptist Church Ranger, NC

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Appalachian Sayings - Spitting Image

The Pressley Girls and Pap
Chitter, Pap, and Chatter 

spitting image = looks just like someone

There are lots of folks who can't tell the girls apart, don't feel bad if you're one of them. Most of the time folks who are around them often pick up on the differences in their personality and use those nuances to tell which one is which. However there are a few people who have trouble distinguishing between the two even though they're around them on a regular basis.

On the other hand, I've never thought they looked that much alike. I will admit, when I look at photographs of them I do see the startling similarities that are found in twins.

From the very first day I laid my eyes upon them I saw Chatter as being the spitting image of her Daddy and Miss Cindy. Chitter on the other hand was a Wilson up one side and down the other as they say.

Today, I still see the family genetics clearly showing themselves in the same manner when I look at the girls.

I've always thought Chitter especially looked like Pap through the brow of her face. After Pap passed away we collected photos to share with folks at the funeral. Ben noticed that Pap had his eyebrow cocked in the same position in most every photo. I said "That's it! Chitter does her eyebrow just like that sometimes!! That's why I always think she looks like Pap!" Another time I think Chitter looks just like Pap is when she squints her eyes. 

We all see things differently though.

Even though I believe Chatter gets her looks from her Daddy's family, Pap always said Chatter reminded him so much of his grandmother Carrie. One time Zelma Mason, who lived down the road, told me the same thing about Chatter-she said "That one is the spitting image of your great grandmother Carrie."

spitting image = looks as if the child were spit from their mouth


p.s. On the day the photo above was taken the girls played at a 9-11 Service. There was even a camera crew there to film part of it for NC Public TV. Chatter got her guitar some kind of all messed up and out of tune. Pap swooped in tuned the guitar and told the girls not to be nervous cause he'd be right there in the front if they needed anything-in other words his helpful and encouraging manner saved the day as it so often did. 

p.s.s. The Pressley Girls will be playing this Saturday May 21 at 3:00 p.m. at the Stecoah Valley Center

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Appalachian Sayings - Conniption Fit

Conniption fit

conniption fit = an angry tirade


Usually someone either pitches a conniption fit, throws a conniption fit or has a conniption fit. I've always been too backward to pitch a conniption fit in public...but I sometimes pitch them in my mind. 


p.s. A lot of folks have been asking if The Pressley Girls have any shows booked for this summer. The answer is YES! You can see the list on their website here. If you make it out to one of the shows please come up and say hello, we would love to talk to you. 

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Appalachian Vocabulary Test 88

Appalachian vocabulary test do you know these words

It's time for this month's Appalachian Vocabulary Test. I'm sharing a few videos in this test to let you hear some of the words too. To start the videos, click on them and then to stop them click on them again. 

 Take it and see how you do!

  1. Case knife
  2. Chinkiepin
  3. Chock full
  4. Chunk 
  5. Cobbled up

A video posted by Tipper (@blindpigandacorn) on

1. case knife: butter knife. "When you get up, get me the butter and a case knife."


A video posted by Tipper (@blindpigandacorn) on

2. chinkiepin: a small tree related to the American Chestnut with small round dark brown nuts. "When I was a little girl people always told me I had chinkiepin eyes."


A video posted by Tipper (@blindpigandacorn) on

3. chock full: full to overflowing. "She left the bathtub stopped up and the water running while she was messing with that phone. I mean it was chock full when I went in there and found it."


A video posted by Tipper (@blindpigandacorn) on

4. chunk: to feed a fire with wood. "Don't forget to chunk the fire when you get home or the house will be cold when the kids get home from school." (*as you can see I was thinking of one definition for chunk and my friend was thinking of another)



A video posted by Tipper (@blindpigandacorn) on

5. cobbled up: poorly constructed; rickety. "He built her house, but it was so cobbled up I heard you had to scotch things in place to keep them from rolling away on the floor."


All of this month's words are fairly common in my area of Appalachia, how about where you live?


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