Appalachia Wednesday — Local Language

archaic wordsI try to use the language I grew up with when I write my books. Much of it is distinctive to the mountains I love. Recently I found this poster that includes several of my favorites, which got me to thinking about word origins.

I will point out that the poster lists “ya’ll” at the top, which is NOT Appalachian. It’s southern. In the mountains they say, “you’uns.” Several of the others, however, are right on. Including “piddle,” a favorite word of mine that I’m pretty sure I got from my mother. I refer to things (of little consequence) as piddling all the time. And one of my favorite things to do when I have a day off is just piddle around.

Then there’s persnickety, which I hadn’t thought of as being particular to a region, but apparently it is. Turns out it’s a variant of an old Scots word–pernickety. It means overly fussy.

Cattywampus is Scottish, too, perhaps derived from cata (diagonally) and wampish (to flop to and fro). I like that because cattywampus isn’t as simple as catty-cornered (diagonally opposite), it’s more about something that’s wildly askew. Like a child with a shirt on wrong-side out and one arm out the neck hole–now that’s cattywampus.

Learning about words like this can lend real flavor to writing (not to mention talking). Of course, you’d best use the words right or a persnickety reader might have a conniption over it.

14 thoughts on “Appalachia Wednesday — Local Language

  1. Mom

    Yes, you got piddle from me, but I had 2 meanings… the one you quote and an oath of frustration!
    What is tump (never heard that one)?

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