Bless it, y’all (or you’uns). Here in the foothills of the Appalachians, we have more ways to say the same thing than you could shake a stick at.
DYK: The Appalachian dialect varies depending on where you are in the region because the language evolved from many different influences — think the British Isles, German + African dialects, and some Native American. Some words you might hear more in the mountains of Western NC won’t be uttered as frequently in the Scenic City, and vice versa.
One reason for that gorgeous diversity? Our region’s geography, which ranges, literally, from the mountains to the sea. But while our linguistic diversity is unmatched, experts worry it’s also on the way out — as migration patterns bring new folks to the state, a process of leveling happens that reduces variety.
Other factors include urbanization, media, and the development of communication technologies. And while there’s often a sense of pride in using local terminology and vocabulary, it’s also been stigmatized by people who aren’t familiar with our rich linguistic traditions or who speak differently from us, making us locals less likely to use our unique voices.
Today, we want to hear the Southern Appalachian words + phrases that you or your family use, if you’re a longtime local, or that surprised you most when you arrived here. Editors Chloé and Trista love using the word “y’all,” (who around here doesn’t?) and sometimes we find ourselves teaching each other different words from our respective dialects since we’re from different areas in the region. Here are a few of our favorites to get your brain tickin’.
Britches – pants; garment that covers the lower body
Dagummit – A cussing workaround
Fixin’ to – going to do something; about to
Gom – a mess
Holler – a small valley
Hootenanny – a party, typically with folk music and dancing
Might could – might be able to; maybe could
Reckon – to suppose; to calculate
Smack – to chew loudly on food
Yonder – over there (can be used to show the direction of something that is anywhere other than here)
Now we’re a-turnin’ it over to you. What ya got, Chattanooga?