Mountain Talk

As I was growing up in Asheville, I'd spend a great deal of time with my great-grandmother, Little Granny (she was 4'10"). Here's a picture of her mother, Granny Mehaffey, who was born on September 9, 1867, and fought a bobcat to the death in her 30s.  If I remember correctly, she was in her 90s when she died, and she had one tooth her head that she would use to eat apples! It's true that the Scots-Irish folk of the mountains are tough as goddamned nails. Nowadays, I'm thinking she would have to go a bit further into the Blue Ridge Mountains in order to be fully understood, since a lot of the language has faded over the decades. Granny Mehaffey probably sounded more like she was speaking a bastard version of Gaelic and German than the modern Appalachian dialect of today. Here are some words I used to hear her use, and some I even have used myself throughout my life. Those I've put in bold.

  • Afeared - afraid
  • Ary - any
  • Bald - a treeless mountain summit
  • Blinds - window shades
  • Blinked or Blinky - gone sour, usually in reference to milk
  • Brickle - brittle (Little Granny always called peanut brittle "brickle".
  • Cat-head - a giant ass biscuit
  • Clean - used as an adverb meaning "all the way."  "I'll knock your damn head clean off your shoulders!"
  • Coke - any cola, be it Coca-Cola, Pepsi, or RC.
  • Cornpone - cornbread (I had a dog named Cornpone!)
  • Directly - soon, later, after a while, when it's convenient.  "I'll call you back die-RECK-lee."
  • Fit - fought, as in (and I'm not lying here) "I'm so tired, I feel like I fit fire (pronounced far) all day."
  • Haint - ghost, spirit, hideous woman
  • Holler - for hollow, the valley in between mountains
  • Hull - shell, as in a nut hull.
  • Ill - bad-tempered
  • Jarfly - cicada
  • Kyarn - carrion.  Anything that smells rotten.
  • Lay out - to skip school or work
  • Meeting - religious service, as in "Sunday-go-to-meetin'"
  • Nary - none
  • Peckerwood - someone you think is an asshole.
  • Piece - distance, as in, "You'll find the gas station up the road a piece."
  • Plum - completely.  "I'm plum wore out!"
  • Poke - satchel (see its origins for real and true. ----->)
  • Poke sallet - a salad made from the boiled leaves of the poke bush.
  • Quare - queer, as in the original meaning of the word, which was strange.
  • Reckon - suppose
  • Sigogglin - wonky, crooked, out-of-whack
  • Sop - gravy
  • Swan (or Swannee) - swear, as in "I swannee!" usually said as you shake your head in dismay.
  • Toboggan - a toque, knit cap
  • Tote - to carry.  Also can mean a sack.  So you can tote a poke or tote a tote.
  • Tow sack - a big burlap bag
  • Yonder (Little Granny said "yander") - there, as in "over yonder."
Do you use any of these words?  If so, you may have been influenced by us crazy hill folk.

In case the word "sigogglin" just blew your mind, here's a fine example. Just look at that wonky face!


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Oh my! I do remember a decent amount of these! My parents were from the south (Kentucky) and yes, these terms were used fairly regularly. My mom especially got a kick out of comparing the southern dialect to more "common" words.
Re: giggle!
Yep, Kentucky is definitely part of the "family". What I didn't realise until just a couple of hours ago is parts of Pennsylvania are too!
I know most of these. Many are heard fairly commonly, in media, at least.

Never heard "ary." I like that. Nary and ary.

Never heard blinky, cat-head, jarfly, kyarn, lay-out, sigogglin, sop, swan.

My paternal grandmother's family came from deep in the hills of Kentucky, but I doubt if I learned many of these words from them. But who knows?
I actively use about 50% of these words, but know them all. I need to add "yuns/yuins" and "carry" (as in to take someone somewhere), as In carryin' someone to the grocery store.

I'd heard "fixin' to" my whole life, but when I moved to Georgia, I heard a new iteration of it: Fickina.

I'm fickina hit post comment on this.
I use "fixin' to" but not "fickina", but I never lived in Georgia, so there you go.

Guess you'd know exactly what it means when someone says, "I'm fixin' to carry Toby to the vet directly."
Did 'flicted ever make it over your way?

Someone excessively stupid would be 'flicted. I assumed it was short for afflicted, but it's another one I only ever heard in Georgia. Some folks bastardised it to deflicted.