The Appalachian Language = Music To My Ears

My life in appalachia off is anywhere but here

Anyone who reads the Blind Pig and The Acorn will quickly figure out I'm crazy in love with the unique colorful language of Appalachia. 

I've never been embarrassed about my accent, even when someone pointed it out in a critical or mocking way. Pap instilled the need to be who you are in myself and my brothers from an early age and I guess that's why I've never been bothered that I don't use correct English or that I say words different than most folks.

I think Appalachian accents are like lovely music. You don't hear them as often these days, even here in my area the accent has diminished somewhat.

There is something so comforting about the Appalachian accent to me. I'm sure folks from other areas fill the exact same way about the accent they're most familiar with. 

I used to sit at a reception desk at work. I greeted everyone who came in the door and directed them to the appropriate area in addition to answering the phone. One time a middle age man came in and after we spoke for a moment he headed on to complete the business he had come to take care of.

On his way out he stopped and asked me who I was-you know who I belonged to. He said "I can tell you're one of us. Who's your family?"

One might think the gentlemen was being exclusionary or rude by saying he could tell I was one of us. But he wasn't.

What he meant was that he had come into an intimidating sort of place in a pair of pointer overalls and that it was nice to hear my voice there. How do I know that? Because I've been in that very position before.

More than once I've found myself in a strange or frightening situation far from home and been comforted by the voice of someone talking that sounded like me. They might not have even been talking to me, but hearing that accent still gave me a feeling of a warm hug or a pat on the back.

Lonnie Dockery, who was a faithful Blind Pig reader until his death, once told me a story about being homesick and hearing a familiar voice.

Lonnie was in the Marines and he hadn't been home in good long time. He was flying from one place to another and was in an airport in California. He said he noticed a jar of sorghum syrup sticking out of another man's bag. Lonnie pointed at it and asked him if he liked syrup. Lonnie said in one of those small world ways it turned out the man was from the mountains of Appalachia too. Lonnie said hearing the man talk of syrup and home made him feel like he was back at his own home sitting at his mamma's kitchen table. 

One of the sweetest stories I've ever heard about the Appalachian accent was written by a fellow blogger back several years ago. 

This is what Jen had to say about the Appalachian accent:

My dad was proud to be a “hillbilly” from West Virginia and quite enjoyed referring to himself as such. He loved his native state and often spoke (in his southern drawl) of Appalachia’s rugged mountains and rivers (and cricks and hollers). Growing up (in Arizona and then Michigan), I never knew anyone else from West Virginia and hadn’t met my dad’s relatives. So I never made one particular connection – I had no idea he had an Appalachian accent.

I was about 22. My dad had already died (cancer), and I was on a college trip to rural Appalachia with Habitat for Humanity. We were deep in the hills of Tennessee, and an older local gentleman who was helping our crew stopped to ask me a question. That moment is still vivid in my memory, because out of his mouth seemed to come my dad’s voice. Only then did I have the revelation. My dad was not the only person to speak with his peculiar dialect – he was one of many and belonged to a people that I suddenly felt connected to.

I hope you've been fortunate enough to hear a good many Appalachian accents, and if you've never heard one then let me know and maybe I'll give you a call so you can hear mine!


p.s. Chitter is having a great sale over in her Stamey Creek Creations Etsy Shop. 25% off everything in the shop, no minimums and it even counts on the existing sale section as well! Go check it out! Christmas is just around the corner 🌲  

p.s.s. The Pressley Girls will be performing Friday September 22, 2017 @ 7:00 p.m. at the Historic Courthouse in Blairsville, GA. 

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Fail Not

Fail Not

"When I was helping clean out my great-aunt's house after she died, we found an envelope with a lock of auburn hair in it. On the envelope, she had written, "my mother's hair." It was especially touching because her mother had died suddenly of the "apoplexy" when my aunt was 8 years old. There must have been something special about a lock or strand of hair.

I really loved the last two words in the not. I'm sure their life was hard with all the back-breaking work of living in 1870. But, what encouraging words. Fail not."

Donna Wilson King - January 2016


Since Donna left the comment above, I haven't been able to get the simple phrase out of my mind. 

Fail not.

When studying on the phrase the first thing that comes to mind is: don't fail! You know like: "Don't mess up." or "Do it exactly like it's supposed to be done and it will be right and if you don't it will be wrong."

The other thing that comes to mind, which is what I've been thinking about, is a hopefulness or a source of encouragement. Fail not: "I know you can do this and you will. or Fail not: "I know you will make it through to the other side and everything will be alright."

How could so much meaning be conveyed in such two little words?


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Finding A Place To Quit In Junaluska - Cherokee County NC

Alvin Yonce and Tipper - Junuluska - Cherokee Co - 2017

Alvin and Tipper - September 2017

A few days back I had the great good fortune to spend a little time with Albert Yonce. Albert is 95 years young and as you can see from the photo he's still spry as a young man. I can assure you he's pretty charming too. 

Albert told me he came from a family of long livers. He said his daddy lived to be 92 because he just couldn't find a good place to quit along the way.

Albert said his daddy was a logger and he moved the family all over Long Branch until he finally moved them to Junalusk'ie and the children told him they weren't moving again! His daddy was also an old time Baptist preacher who quoted long passages from the Bible right up until his death. 

Albert's family is famous for another thing besides longevity - growing Yonce Beans. If you missed my post about Yonce Beans you can go here to read it.

After that first year of growing the Yonce Bean we fell in love with it. We grew two plantings of the bean this year. The first planting produced at least four good pickings. The second planting didn't do as good and we only got one picking from them because it was during the driest part of the summer.

Alvin told me his grandpa was the first to have the bean seed that he knew of.

Five generations later, the family is still planting the Yonce Bean and saving the seed from year to year. And if you hadn't already guessed, Alvin is still growing the Yonce Bean and saving the seed for next year too. 


p.s. The Pressley Girls will be performing Friday September 22, 2017 @ 7:00 p.m. at the Historic Courthouse in Blairsville, GA. 

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Harricun in Appalachia

hurricane noun
A variant forms harricane, harricun, herrycane
1942 Hall Phonetics 42 [harik'n].
1 A severe windstorm.
1834 Crockett Narrative 150 In the morning we concluded to go on with the boat to where a great harricane crossed the river, and blowed all the timber down into it. 1966 DARE = a destructive wind that blows straight (Cherokee NC). 1969 GSMNP-38:135 A windstorm, we called it the young hurricane. 1982 Powers and Hannah Cataloochee 421 He said that he wished they'd come a herrycane and blow the cranberry bushes out of the ground. 1995 Montgomery Coll. (Cardwell, Shields).
2 A growth of cane or other plant in an area where trees were appar leveled in the past by violent windstorm.
1834 Crockett Narrative 151 We cut out, and moved up to the harricane, where we stop'd for the night 1918 Combs Word-list South 34 = a thicket of cane or other underbrush. 1996 Montgomery Coll. (Adams, Cardwell, Ledford); = also refers to laurel thicket (Ellis).

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


Pap said the word hurricane like the noted variation harricun. I've heard other old timers say it like that too. A man I worked with back in the day in Haywood County NC said it that way and now that I think about it he was about the same age as Pap. 

When The Deer Hunter and I were first married and still living with Pap and Granny harricun Opal screamed through our surrounding area. 

With all the talk of hurricanes during the last few weeks the subject of Opal's damage has come up more than once at work. One lady's husband works for the electric company, she said Opal was a 500 pole event for Blue Ridge EMC. Pap's power was off for several days after the storm and if I remember right it was in late September or early October. 

I'll never forget the first time I walked up the creek after Opal. The trees were just laid over in places like a giant pushed them as if they were weeds in his way. There wasn't nothing to hurt up there, but down in the settlements a lot of trees fell on houses, cars, and of course power lines. 

Our area isn't expecting a lot of damage this go around and I'm thankful. But my heart sure goes out to all the folks who have been in the path of the recent hurricanes. I send them all God Speed. 


p.s. The Pressley Girls will be performing Friday September 22, 2017 @ 7:00 p.m. at the Historic Courthouse in Blairsville, GA. 

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Appalachian Vocabulary Test 103

Unusual words used in the south

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

1. Lord's bread wagon: Thunder. "I hear the Lord's bread wagon a making its rounds. It'll rain before long."

2. Look for: to expect. "I look for her to come up here quarreling once she finds out, but there ain't nothing to be done about it now."

3. Little Noah: a heavy rain. "It come up a little Noah and washed the gravel plumb down to the pavement."

4. Like one thing: in unusual or exceptional fashion. "Chitter can play a fiddle like one thing!"

5. Line out: a leader sings or speaks a line of song before the others sing it. "I don't know remember the words to that one. Line it out for me and we'll give it a try. 

My thoughts about this month's words:

  • I've never heard anyone call thunder the Lord's bread wagon. Someone told me thunder was God moving his furniture around and I used to tell the girls that when they were little. I read that the reference to a bread wagon was used because thunder almost always brought rain for the crops which help make sure there'd be cornmeal and wheat for bread.
  • I've heard folks refer to a heavy rain as a little Noah, but no one in my family says it.
  • Look for and like one thing are beyond common in my area of Appalachia.
  • The technique of lining out a song was used back in the day when most folks couldn't read. It is also used in Shape Note Singing. Some of my favorite videos of Pap and Paul are the ones where Pap has to line out the words of the verses for Paul because he can't remember them. 

Hope you'll leave me a comment and let me know how you did on the test. 


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The Kudzu Man


The Kudzu Man

The Kudzu Man is dead asleep,
But soon he'll stir, and move his feet.
His skin will turn to green from brown,
As his fingers reach along the ground,
Down the hill and around the pond,
Under the fence and over the barn.

He shakes his head to see how he's paid,
Squirted with poison, cut with blades.
What kind of crime could make them so vexed?
He just loves sunshine and seeing what's next. 

written by Mike Norris


I hope you enjoyed Mike's great rhyme about kudzu as much as I did! When I think of kudzu my mind immediately goes to the Nantahala Gorge. The green vine drapes the trees along the roadside making it look like it's guarded by green giants.

Between here and the folk school there's a patch of kudzu growing in the towering trees. I've often wondered if it will ever reach Wilson Holler.

Mike also sent me a great link to an article in the Smithsonian Magazine. According to it kudzu isn't nearly as aggressive as what we've been led to believe, but I still don't think I want any of the stuff around my house. 

If you'd like to read more of Mike's Appalachian Rhymes check out his book Mommy Goose Rhymes from the Mountains. You can purchase it from The University Press of Kentucky


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Look the Beans

My life in appalachia look the beans

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English

Look transitive verb To examine (food), inspect for dirt or foreign objects.
1982 Slone How We Talked 62 Some of the greens we used were not cooked, but eaten raw. They were "looked" (checked for bugs and rotting spots), washed, sprinkled with salt and wilted or "killed" by pouring real hot grease over them. 1990 Bailey Draw Up Chair 12 I told her, "Now you be sure to look the beans," 1933 Ison and Ison Whole Nuther Lg 40 Look the beans = to inspect dried beans or other food for foreign objects. 


2017 Brasstown "Why those beans were so pretty you didn't even hardly need to look them."


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Appalachian Vocabulary Test 102

Word usage in north carolina

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

1. Look over: disregard. "Every time they hand out raises they just look over him and that man does more work than anybody there."

2. Loafer: to loiter or go about aimlessly. "Granny was always accusing Pap of loafering off somewhere with out telling her where he was going."

3. Liked to: almost; nearly. "I liked to have broke my neck on that bicycle in the yard. I've told them and told them to put them things up when they're done riding them."

4. Leader: tendon. "He pulled that big leader that runs up the back of your leg. Why he can't even walk today. Don't know why in the world a grown man thinks he needs to play ball."

5. Leastways: at least; at any rate. "I"m tired as all get out but leastways I've got that chore done for another year."

Hope you'll leave me a comment and let me know how you did on the test. All of the this month's words, except leader, are common in my area of Appalachia. 


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How Bad a Liar is He?

Funny sayings from appalachia

"I'm telling you he's such a liar he's got to get somebody else to call his hogs!"

Other noteworthy liar sayings from Appalachia:

Liar liar pants on fire
Don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining
If his lips are moving he's a lying
That dog won't hunt
Lie like a dog

Please leave a comment and add any liar sayings that come to mind-I know I left out a bunch. 


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Dinner Time in Appalachia

Silver queen corn in brasstown

"Yep, dinner at noon and supper late in the day.

My Grandma W. Cooked dinner everyday on the wood-burning cook stove. In summer she cooked by burning corncobs left from shelling corn for the livestock. Corncobs make a quick heat and burn out fast, letting the kitchen cool down a bit after cooking.

The meal is much as you described, the pork was grown, processed, and cured right on the farm. Much of what we ate was called side meat. It was greasy and it was quite tasty. The grease was saved to make lye soap.

Leftovers were sometimes put in a hollowed out piece of stone called the spring house. It was outside the smokehouse, about the size of a bathtub. No spring ran through it. We pumped cold well water to put in it. There was no electricity until well into the 1950s, then a refrigerator called a Crosley Shelvedoor assumed leftover duties.

Some leftovers stayed on the table til supper. After dinner everything was covered with a square white cloth, nothing fancy. I am guessing it was made from flour sacks, there were always seams in it.

In summer sliced tomatoes and fried corn were delicious additions to dinner."

June 2016 ~Eldonna Ashley 



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