Appalachian Sayings - Take a Shine to

Take a shine to appalachia sayings

Take a shine to = develop a liking for

I took a shine to The Deer Hunter the first time I ever laid eyes on him, I'm pretty sure the feeling was mutual. I'm glad our shine for each other has lasted over 25 years and I sure hope it lasts for over 25 more. 

We met on a blind date, set up by one of my cousins and one of his Daddy's friends. The saying take a shine to always reminds me of one of the lines The Deer Hunter said to me on that first date. Smiling down at me with his blue green eyes twinkling he said "The sun must shine all the time where you're from." I think he was impressed with my summer time tan...a good thing he was because that was probably the last tan I ever had.

Sometimes it seems like it was only yesterday that we met. Other times it seems like I've never been without him, that somehow his presence wove itself around my childhood and growing up years even though he resided a whole 3 counties away and I didn't meet him until I was 20 years old. 

We've never went in for special occasion presents, not that there is anything wrong with going all out for a special day like Valentines or an anniversary, it's just something neither of us ever thinks about.

There were a few years, when the girls were little, that neither of us even remembered our wedding anniversary. School used to start on August 27 and sometimes that would remind me or I'd be writing a check and as I wrote the date I'd think "Hey this is our anniversary!"

Since I've ended up taking this post down the sappy road I'll tell you about the 2 favorite gifts I ever received from The Deer Hunter.

  1. I've always had a fondness for Angels. I used to collect them...until I ran out of room. When I was pregnant with the girls I was on complete bed rest. I was only supposed to get up to go to the bathroom and for my weekly doctor visit. The Deer Hunter was working way down in the lower part of the county on some hard horrid job. He went into a gas station to get a drink and a pack of crackers and while he was there he bought me a little Angel. It's playing a harp and is no bigger than 3 inches tall. Unthinking he left the price sticker on the bottom so I know it cost a whole $2.99. I just never got over the wonder of him being way down there working hard back breaking finger smashing manual labor and thinking about me.
  2. It was one of our first Valentine's Day as a wedded couple, actually it was probably our very first one. We lived with Pap and Granny while we were building our house. On Valentine's Day I came out to go to work and found a heart cut out of lined notebook paper with the words I Love You sticking under my windshield wiper. I've still got that heart. At the time I couldn't believe Mr. Tough Guy found the paper and scissors and made me the heart without anyone in the house noticing what he was up to. All these years later his impromptu Valentine still makes me smile. 


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Sayings by Way of Blind Pig Readers

Colorful mountain speech from appalachia

Back in January of 2011 I shared some of the comments Blind Pig Readers had left about sayings. One reader, Kris, pointed out every region of the world, Australia in his case, has their own unique sayings. Whatever the area, I believe people ought to hold on to their unique sayings so they'll be passed on to the coming generations. I hope you enjoy this re-post of the comments. 

  • John-who lives over the big pond said this in reference to my "If you're going to dance you'll have to pay the fiddler" saying: "He who pays the fiddler calls the tune" may well be the original saying, that's what I used to hear when I was small, in other words "when you start to pay your way around here you can have things how you want them!" Since so much of our language came from the British Isles-I bet John is right.
  • Brian Blake said: "For the love of Pete probably refers discreetly to Saint Peter, without taking the Lord's name in vain." A few of you mentioned the saying For Pete's Sake-bet that one is in reference to Saint Peter too.
  • Pam Moore told about a saying I've never heard-one with a very interesting story behind it: "My mom would always say that we had "enough food to feed Cox's army". I asked her who Cox was and she said she didn't know, it was just something that her parents said. I did some research and found out that there were two Coxs. During the Depression, in 1932, a priest named Cox led a march on Washington, DC consisting of unemployed men from Pennsylvania. In 1894, another depression year, Jacob Coxey led a protest march into Washington, DC to ask that jobs be created. I thought it was interesting that there were two "Cox's armies". 
  • Ethelene Dyer Jones gave a wonderful explanation for the old saying-its raining cats and dogs: "How about this one: "It's raining cats and dogs!" By researching this old saying, I found that it dates back to thatched-roofed houses, when straw was piled high to keep out the elements from the crudely-built dwelling. The cats and dogs (and other creatures) would sometimes crawl upon the thatch and sleep. When a heavy rainstorm came, the weight of the rain on the straw, plus the added weight of the poor animals (that were surely getting wet!) made the animals fall through the roof and land inside the hut. Therefore, "It's raining cats and dogs!" We still say it. But who has ever lived in a thatched-roof house?"
  • Bill Burnett shared a saying he had just heard and his thoughts on it:  "I heard one yesterday that was new to me "I'll be the son of a Motherless Goat."  just what does that mean? A lot of these are used in place of some vulgar swearing but why do they catch on and pass from generation to generation?"
  • Rachelle had a cute comment: "We are forever more telling Landon we are gonna jerk a knot in his tail, and he says "Nannie, I not have a tail."
  • PinnacleCreek shared one I've never heard but loved:  "I learned a new one from a lady I once worked with. She used to say to coworkers "Don't sit there like Ned in the Primer!" I sure hope these are forever preserved."
  • Ron Banks had one I have heard in the past but had forgotten: "In regard to a good church sermon: Now, if that don't light your fire son, your woods wet!"
  • Bradley had this one: "The one that used to make all the young boys mad was when he would act like he was trying to cheer someone up. He would put his hand on their shoulder and say, "Now son don't worry its always darkest right before it turns pitch black, besides it could be worse it could have happened to me."
  • Martina had some good ones: "Grandma said of her grandson, an extreme procrastinator: "He doesn't ride the horse the day he puts the saddle on" Mom used to have comments while driving of "great grandmother's corset stays" and "stars and garters". I don't know if they were substitutes for naughty words or were just vintage expressions."

 I shared your comments with The Deer Hunter who believes strongly in using sayings to spice up his conversations. A few of his favorites:

  • deader than 4 o'clock
  • happy as a pig in slop
  • drunker than a 9 eyed spider

One of my very favorite sayings came from one of you. Back in February Linda left this comment on one of my Appalachian Vocabulary Tests: My mother used to say: "Your milk of human kindness has turned to bonnie clabber."

That saying has stuck with me ever since she left the comment. I'm not sure if its because its probably really old,  if its the firm sound it has, or because its so descriptive. Whatever the reason- I love it.


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Long Johns - Long Handles - Drawers

Long johns long handles long underwear unionsuits

 Last February Barbara  left this comment on the Blind Pig:

Just wondering...what do you know of the different names that folks call these clothes I'm wearing under my street clothes these cold days? You know...long underwear, thermal underwear, Long-handled underwear, etc.  (I own a pair of red one-piece with the back flap, but that darn flap won't open as quick as I need it to!) I would love to hear your name for them! My best to you and your girls!


Like Barbara I've heard the clothing called long handles, long underwear, and thermal underwear. I call them long johns so we can add that to the list. I've also heard them called long drawers so thats another name. 

I've heard the one piece ones called union suits and union-alls.

With the chilly temps we've been having the girls wore their long johns to school under their regular clothes at least once this week. I can't stand to wear long johns unless I know it's going to be brutally cold or I'm going to be tumbling off a sled into the snow. Oh I get cold-anyone who knows me will tell you I'm extremely cold natured-I've been known to get cold in July. But I also get itchy and wearing tight clothes under my clothes sometimes makes me want to go running into the hills screaming. I guess I don't like feeling restricted or confined. 

Pap and Granny have an old oil heat stove. Its outdated and seems to be giving them trouble more and more each winter. The other day it tore up and it took Pap all day to get it to running again. Granny said "We got so cold in the house that both of us had to go put our long handles on before your Daddy got the stove fixed." In recent years I've noticed Pap wears a long john shirt under all his button up shirts in the winter. He's gotten to be cold natured in his old age.

When the girls were little they had some of those union suits Barbara was talking about, in fact they had a red Oshkosh one. Funny how certain pieces of clothing sticks in your mind. Every time I put that red union suit on one of the girls to sleep in I thought they were the cutest thing I ever saw. 

So what do you call them? And do you wear them often?


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It's Ooshie!

Ooshie means cold

A good while back Blind Pig reader Lorie Thompson left the following comment:

I read your blog with delight! Your Appalachian sayings surprise me, since I did not know most of them are specific to this area. It is just the way we have always talked. How about "ooshie"?

I emailed Lorie and said "Ooshie means cold to me is that what it means to you?" She was in agreement-that's what the word means to her too.

I checked for ooshie in my various Appalachian word dictionaries and found nothing. Then I did a quick google. I found ooshie in the manner that Lorie and I are familiar with on this page. In addition, I discovered that ooshie is also a high end fashion line-who knew?

I thought ooshie was a word that was only used for cold around Granny and Pap's house, but Lorie's comment and the website word list made me realize the word usage must be more common than that.

How about you - does ooshie = cold?


p.s. The snowy photo of Chatter is from last winter. I'm still hoping for snow this winter.

p.s.s. The BEGINNING STORYTELLING Class at the JCCFS taught by Keith Jones is coming up quick! Go here for full details!

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Appalachian Sayings - Tough as a Pine Knot

Tough as a pine knot

The saying tough as a pine knot means, well it means you're tough! It's a saying I've heard all my life and I still hear it often in my area of Appalachia.

The saying contains a vote of confidence from the speaker. I mean who wouldn't want to be tough as a pine knot? Even if the phrase is said about someone the speaker may not care for, it is said with a grudging respect of recognition that the inidvidual does have at least one redeeming quality-being tough as a pine knot. When I was young if someone said I was tough as a pine knot I could feel my spine straighten a little and my resolve to be even tougher solidify. 

If you'd like to read about the photo above-go here


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Appalachian Vocabulary Test 85

Words used in appalachia today 2

It's time for this month's Appalachian Vocabulary Test take it and see how you do!

  1. Agg
  2. Aggravatingest
  3. Akinned
  4. Amind
  5. Astraddle

  Words used in the south

  1. Agg: to egg on. "She would have already forgot about it, if you didn't quit agging her on. I told you both there ain't nothing she can do about it so you just need to quit dwelling on it."
  2. Aggravatingest: aggravating, annoying. "That boy is the most aggravatingest person I've ever had to be around. I don't know how he can stand hisself."
  3. Akinned: related by blood. "So you're a Pressley. Reckon your akinned to any of those Pressleys that live over in Jackson County? I used to know some of them."
  4. Amind: to have in  mind. "I've amind to take that old car down there and see if somebody won't buy it. I keep seeing ones just like it on that tv show and them people talk like they're really something to have."
  5. Astraddle: having legs stretched across the top of; to straddle. "When I come down the road yesterday I saw him astraddle that big ole hemlock that fell across the creek a few years ago. Don't know what he was doing out there. It was cold as whiz and he didn't look to even have a coat on."

I'm familiar with all of this month's words and I hear them on a regular basis in my area of Appalachia. More than that, I hear them in my own house! 

The last 3 are often lumped together along with a lot of other words that we put an 'a' before. But if you hear the words actually spoken they're said as a single word instead of a word with a strong a prefix at the beginning. Or maybe my ears just hear it as a single word because they're words I've always heard.

Do please leave a comment and let me know how you did on the test!


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Appalachian Sayings - Gussied Up

Gussied up

The girls got gussied up on Christmas day for me to take their picture in the sweaters Granny made them. Hopefully winter will hurry up and get here and it'll be cold enough for them to actually wear the sweaters.

gussied up = dressed up 


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Appalachian Vocabulary Test 84

Words used in appalachia 2

It's time for this month's Appalachian Vocabulary Test take it and see how you do!

  1. Weak trembles
  2. Whoop and a holler
  3. Whopper-jawed
  4. Wonderly
  5. Wooly bugger

Words commonly used in appalachia

  1. Weak trembles: a dizzy weak feeling. "I was working like fighting fire until I got the weak trembles and had to go sit in the shade."
  2. Whoop and a holler: a short distance. "It ain't no trouble to run him home. Why he only lives a whoop and a holler down the road."
  3. Whopper-jawed: lopsided; stunned. "When Pap saw what I had done to his truck with a can of red paint and a brush he was whopper-jawed." (true story from when I was about 4)
  4. Wonderly: wonderful. "1936 Justus Honey Jane 108 But I have been thinking what a wonderly sight it will be to sit by the fire and look at the snow through all them new glass winders!" (Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English)
  5. Wooly bugger: anyone who is frightful looking. "I wish you'd shave that beard off. You look like such a wooly bugger nobody will want to come near you at the party."

I'm familiar with all of this month's words except wonderly, which I aim to make part of my regular vocabulary. I mean who wouldn't want to go around saying wonderly

I hear all the other words on a regular basis in my part of southern Appalachia. How did you do on this month's test?


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By words from appalachia
by-word noun A favorite expression of an individual, esp a mild oath or exclamation used to avoid profanity. Examples collected by Joseph Hall in 1937 include aye the gosh, by gosh, dad burn it, dad gone it, laws a massy, laws a mercy, Lord have mercy, Lordy yes, mercy, my country alive, why law yes, and yes Lord. 1937 Hall Coll. Emerts Cove TN By-words [are] slang, like "hell!", "Damee" [=damn ye]; not cussin', takin' the Lord's name in vain. (Nora Bell Vance) 1939 Hall Notebook 9:41 Saunook NC One of his by-words is "I grannies." (Bill Moore) 1940 Haun Hawk's Done 76 And it's a funny thing-his byword was, "God, He knows."

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


A few other ones that come to mind:

  • by ned
  • by gum
  • ding dang it
  • by the Lord
  • hell in the morning
  • confound it
  • dadjimit
  • dog gone

When Pap was growing up, a man that lived over in the next holler used "si hell" as his by-word. Another elder from Pap's childhood, was fond of saying "now I hell". 


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Twinkle = Pine Needle

Pine needles are called twinkles in appalachia

twinkle noun A pine needle.
1913 Kephart Our Sthn High 285 In some places pine needles are called twinkles. 1929 Chapman Homeplace 313 = pine or spruce needles; balsam leaves. 

~Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English

twinkles: n. pl. pine needles. "I'll go git a load o' twinkles to bed the cow" (A). In some places pine needles are called twinkles 

~Smoky Mountain Voices A Lexicon of Southern Appalachian Speech


I have never heard pine needles called twinkles have you?


p.s. The winner of Granny's Hat and Scarf is B.Ruth who said:

"Tipper, I've heard the sayings also...However, I'll just betcha that if you ask "Deer hunter" or "Pap" they will tell you that some trees have bark a lot tighter than others...Some you can just knock loose with a good whack of a "go-devil" others you couldn't get a razor blade between the bark and trunk... I remember my Dad picking out a little piece of 1/2 inch or so diameter twig, cutting around each end, shortening it too somewhat, and taking his hands and twisting it until it loosed around itself...He cut a notch on one end, and a notch in the loose bark piece. We watched as we wondered what he was doing with that pocket knife he carried faithfully...All of a sudden he put it to his mouth and blew and slid the bark on the little branch back and forth...he made us all a whistle that day...I tried to make one for my boys when they were little, when we took one of our walks in the woods. I told them they would just have to get their Granddaddy to make it...I just couldn't get the bark twisted off that little branch...It probably was birch...not sure! Love the hat...Great Job Granny! Thanks Tipper, PS....Jim beat me to the one about "tighter than a tick on a mongrel dog"....ha"

And the winner of the first issue Songs of Christmas cd is Ron Stephens who said:

"I had never really thought before about how people felt as they saw the Civil War drawing near. It must have been especially hard in the border states where the choice of which side ran through families, between friends, through church congregations and through communities. Perhaps it is a saving grace that's given that those who have fought can put away bitterness and live in peace with former enemies. I have only gradually come to appreciate Christmas as a time to look higher, think higher and reach higher than we do in the day-to-day."

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