Below are the answers to our Appalachian English Quiz 2. A bit of information about each word is given, using the following dictionaries:
Oxford English Dictionary (OED)
Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE)
Dictionary of Smoky Mountain and Southern Appalachian English
Other resources are linked within the definitions and information. Appalachia Bare would love to hear from you. Leave a comment about your encounters with these words.
Sometime in the 1930s, the word was used as Appalachian slang for several meanings. For example, “queer” could have meant something very good or it could’ve meant “‘demented,’ or ‘unbalanced,’” or “‘large,’ or ‘unusual.’”
2. Up & under
“Up and under” is used today in Rugby Football and means “a high kick intended to give the kicker and some other members of his team time to reach the point where the ball will come down.” The use of this phrase as “under” in Appalachian English is uncertain.
b. Shopping cart
The word “buggy” is defined as “a large metal basket on wheels provided for the use of supermarket customers,” and is used in this capacity throughout the southern and Midland United States, as well as parts of Canada. The earliest recorded usage is in 1940.
The word is used interchangeably to mean “haunted,” and/or “a ghost.” In late 1800s Kentucky, the word meant places that were haunted, aka “haunts,” and was spelled “hants,” pronounced [hænts].
Documentation for when the word was originally used to describe ghosts is uncertain. In Harper Lee’s book To Kill A Mockingbird (1960), Jem speaks to Walter and Scout about the Radley Place: “A haint lives here,” meaning a ghost.
The word, passel, reflects the “early assimilatory loss of r before s” particularly in southern England and the United States. It was used as early as the 1830s to describe “a small party, collection, or assembly (of people, animals, or things); a detachment; a group, a lot, a set, etc.”
* can also be “wrench”
Perhaps a variant of a 13th century Old French word that meant “to clean by washing in water and rubbing” or “cleaning the mouth.” The French words that reflect the possible Appalachian pronunciation are: rainsier, reinser, rainchier, raincer, rainser. In Old French, the word was recinchier, ressincier, rechinser, or rechincher.
Possible instances for this pronunciation:
- In the English romance Generides (1450), a line reads: “She toke the Shirte . . . And wesht it onys and ryneshed it so clene . . .”
- In 1591, John Florio in Second Frutes 13 writes: “Wash and rench the glasses verie well.”
- And in Randle Cotgrave’s A Dictionarie of French & English Tongues (1611), the word Esbourrer is defined as “to rinch, or wash (a cloath, &c.) lightly, or sleightly.”
7. A time
b. Fun or difficult experience
In the early 1900s, the phrase “all kinds of a time” meant “a very good time.” Somewhere along the way, the phrase was shortened to “a time” and had a few different meanings. Examples:
- “We had a time trying to get the tire off.” (difficulty)
- “Boy, I had a time at that party.” (fun)
8. A big time
c. A lot of fun
Originally found in the United States, the phrase means “an excellent or lively time,” and “to a great degree, on a large scale; extremely.” The first known written instance was in 1855 in Iowa’s Weekly Hawk-Eye newspaper.
9. Fell off
b. Lost weight
The phrase contains a specific word accompanied by the word “off” and varies from word to word. For example: “cool off,” “gone off,” “wore off.”
The phrase, “fell off” means “in the way of abatement, diminution, disappearance, or decay, etc.,” and is found for the first time as “falls off” in William Shakespeare’s King Lear (1608) when Gloucester says, “Love cools, friendship falls off, brothers divide.” [emphasis added]
Given the definition, one can see how the phrase “fell off” came to be “lost weight.”
10. I don’t keer to
*often followed with “a bit”:
“I don’t keer to a bit.”
- Dictionary of Smoky Mountain and Southern Appalachian English:
The phrase means “to be willing or agreeable to . . . especially as a response to a suggestion or invitation.” This dictionary gives varying examples and time periods of the idiom’s usage from 1862 into today. Further, the dictionary states “non-natives to the region tend to misinterpret [this phrase] as a negative response.” How many of us have encountered this? I absolutely have and was oblivious that anyone would take it to be a negative response. (–Delonda Anderson)
c. Joy riding
The spelling “galavant” is an old spelling found in William Henry Pyne’s 1823 Wine and Walnuts, or After-dinner Chit-chat, which reads “Sitting at his ease, galavanting with a publican’s daughter.”
The word is defined as “to gad about in a showy fashion, esp. with persons of the other sex. [or] flirt.” However, I’ve only ever heard it used in the context of driving around with friends having a good time. “Oh, they’re out galavantin’ around town somewhere.”
The term is defined as “originally and chiefly U.S. Trousers or leggings of strong material worn over ordinary clothing for protection against bad weather, wet, etc.”
The spelling and pronunciation overhauls was first found in print within Journal of a tour in unsettled parts of North America in 1796 & 1797 “by the Late Francis Baily, F.R.S.,” published in 1856: “We had each of us furnished himself with a proper dress for travelling the wilderness: it consisted of a pair of coarse brown overhauls, and a shirt of the same materials.”
The word is believed to be borrowed from multiple languages (French, Latin, etc.).
Plumb is defined as “complete, total; entire,” and was used in this capacity starting in the late 1800s. The book Smoky Mountain Voices: A Lexicon of Southern Appalachian Speech Based on the Research of Horace Kephart lists several references:
- “Them hogs are plumb pets.”
- “It was plumb night by that time.”
- “You’re a plumb fool.”
14. Wear out
The phrase to “wear (someone) out” means “to beat or whip (someone) severely – esp. a child as a means of punishment.” This phrase is mostly found in the South.
15. Wore out
In the late 1300s, the phrase meant “to cause to weaken, diminish, or disappear gradually.” One can see how “tired” can apply here.
16. Bob war
c. Barbed wire
- Just a note: Has anyone else heard it pronounced this way? I heard the phrase “bob war” all my life to describe fences. I was an adult when I realized the words were actually “barbed wire.” In my defense, when I heard “bob war” as a child, I imagined the miles of wire upon the vast land between opposing trenches in World War I. It made sense to me, then, that the words were “bob war.” I thought the wire was named after some guy named Bob who fought in World War I and got caught in the wire. Of course, it’s okay to chuckle now about it. Much like Salmonella. I thought this word meant two people named Sam & Ella. So, I often wondered what would happen if I caught Sam & Ella. (–Delonda Anderson)
17. Gulley warsher
c. Heavy rain
“Gully-washer” is a phrase used in the United States that means “a heavy downpour.” The descriptive phrase was used in John Fox Jr.’s 1903 The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come, when the circuit-rider prays “We do not presume to dictate, but, if it pleases Thee, send us, not a gentle sizzle-sizzle, but a sod-soaker, O Lord, a gullywasher.” [emphasis added]
The spelling “gulley” is from the 1600s, found as early as 1637 in Rhode Island Colony Rec: “To run upon a straight line from a fresh spring being in the Gulley.” The word means “a channel or ravine worn in the earth by the action of water, esp. in a mountain or hill side.”
The definition for this word is “hers.” It derived “widely from the midlands and south of England,” and is still used today in the same areas. The word is also used in the south Midland, southern, and New England parts of the United States. “Hern” was likely first used by an anonymous author in the early Middle English tract, Ancrene Riwle in 1230: “Al is hiren Þet hali chirche ret oðer singeð.” [emphasis added] The word is also used throughout John Wycliffe’s Holy Bible, written and overseen by Wycliffe in the late 1300s.
Originally, this word was an Old English Germanic word used for the pronoun him until it became used for the word them “in most varieties of the Middle English period.” The variation “him” was used in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, an Old English history of the Anglo-Saxons beginning in the 800s.
William Shakespeare wrote em in his 1623 Henry V in the king’s voice:
“They shall have none, I swear but these my joints;
Which if they have as I will leave ‘em them,
Shall yield them little, tell the constable.”
Charles Dickens used the word in Hard Times (1854): “It’s policy to give ‘em line enough.” And Zora Neale Hurston wrote it in Mules & Men: “Leave the weeds go. Somebody’ll come chop ‘em some day.”
b. Large shoes
Clodhoppers is defined as “a ploughman’s heavy shoes,” and was used that way in 1836 in Rattlin the reefer by E. Howard: “. . . a pair of purser’s shoes — things of a hybrid breed, between a pair of cast off slippers and the ploughman’s clodhoppers . . .”
Take our first quiz and find out the answers. For more reading about Appalachian English, read Edward Francisco’s “Appalchian English: A Primer.”
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