Appalachian Thursday — Getting Language Right

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 and some of it, I suppose, is pure Loudin. I found this poster of Appalachian words that includes several of my favorites.

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.

What are some of your favorite, colloquial words?

13 thoughts on “Appalachian Thursday — Getting Language Right

  1. Pamela Frey

    Some I learned from my fourth graders in the 70’s: filth( brush or weed , needs cutting); physic – probably spelled wrong-( laxative, to take a physic); holler ( homonym, to yell or a small valley)
    Not necessarily favorite but they bring memories of my early classroom.

  2. Leslie

    I grew up in east Texas saying “wallago” instead of “awhile ago”. Lol. I love that you discovered that cattywampus has a legitimate history. My grandpa lived in Oklahoma his whole life, but he always said “you’uns”.

  3. My Aunt used tarnation when asking us (me and her 4, my Coy’s in what in Tarantino are yu’us doing). “Bumit” was a substitute for an ugly word and my Mawmaw wouldn’t let me play at the crik because of snakes or if a pole cat had been in the area! This us from N E Alabama on Sand Mountain.

  4. Patricia Eggert

    In our family we “rench” (rinse) the dishes, sit in a “cher” (chair), and water the plants with a “hose pipe” (garden hose). We say you’uns too. We live in eastern-middle Tennessee.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s