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How to Speak Appalachian

I’ve lived in Virginia all my life. The way people talk varies across the state. When I moved down to the area of Virginia where I live in now, I picked up a lot of new words and phrases. But others are ones that have been ingrained in me since birth. So today, I thought it would be fun to share a bit of my Virginia/Appalachian vernacular with y’all! (see what I did there)

Before we get started I need to clarify one thing. The word “Appalachia” is often mispronounced. It should be pronounced “appa-latch-a,” however many people pronounce it “appa-lay-sha.” Now that we’ve got that out of the way…

1. A little birdie told me
A phrase used when you don’t want to reveal your source (my Nana uses this one a lot…)

2. Bless your heart
Mainly means “sucks to be you” but it’s also used when someone seems sweet but misinformed

3. Folks

4. Hiney
Your rear end

5. It would behoove you
It would benefit you

6. Fixin’ to
Getting ready to do something

7. Fixin’s
A serving of food, or a topping (like a salad or sandwich topping)

8. Samich

9. Is it any count?
Is it any good?

10. Beats the heck outta me
I don’t know

11. Holler
A valley between two hills

12. Nabs
A package of crackers with filling in the middle (e.g. peanut butter crackers)

13. Snug as a bug in a rug
Warm and comfortable

14. Yonder
Over there

15. I’ll be back directly
I’m coming right back here, although the time can vary

16. Kin

17. Buggy
Shopping cart, usually at the grocery store

18. I’ve got a mind to
I’m considering doing…

19. It’s pouring down rain
It’s raining really hard (…as opposed to pouring up, I guess)

20. Don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya
Get out.

American Flags

**Bonus: Redneck/Appalachian-American Words
Initiate: My sister ate a hamburger, initiate some French fries
Witchyadidya: You didn’t bring your truck witchyadidya? (Guilty.)
Juhere: Juhere about what happened to Kenny? (Ahem…Guilty.)
Mayonnaise: Mayonnaise a lot of people in here! (I’m guilty of this one all of the time.)
Aorta: There’s a bird in the restaurant. Aorta do something about that. (Again, guilty.)
Jew: Jew run all the way up that mountain? (Yep, guilty of this one, too.)

What are some common words or phrases for where you live/where you grew up?
If you grew up in Virginia, what did I miss??

15 thoughts on “How to Speak Appalachian”

  1. Let us not forget “Poke” – which is a bag, commonly used in the statement buying a pig in a poke, meaning you don’t know what you have until you get it home and open it up.

    Also, not sure if it would be classified as a phrase or terminology, but some historical periodicals improperly refer to the war of northern aggression as the civil war.


  2. Ha! I’ve heard most of these, but never 9 or 12. Nabs? Where does that come from? I grew up in Florida, which is just a big melting pot so I never really think of it as having it’s own culture or dialect.

    But now that I live in Minnesota…completely different story! My favorites are “oh yea, you betcha!” and “uffda!” Uffda is just like “phew!” or “oh man!”. You betcha is mostly used to agree with something.

    1. Nabs comes from an old trademark for Nabisco/Lance snack crackers – specifically the peanut butter filled ones 🙂 But today it just means any sandwich-style snack cracker.

      Yea Minnesota has some good ones, too! I traveled to a training for work recently and ended up hanging out with three people from Minnesota for the week. They were super friendly (a common Midwestern trait, so I’ve heard) and one of my favorite phrases they used was “don’t ya know.”

  3. I moved to rural NC when I was 11, so all of these are familiar to me.

    Everyone eats Nabs there 🙂

    Another word that was new to us was “toboggan” meaning hat or ski cap. Our neighbor called and asked if we had any toboggans she could borrow and we thought she was asking about sleds..

    Also, they cut lines on and off whereas we turn them on and off.

    Fun post 🙂

    1. Toboggan is a new one for me!

      So I realized I also say “cut” the lights on/off. Didn’t realize that was different until I asked Kim about it this morning and she said she “turns” lights on/off. I wonder where that comes from.

      1. I don’t know, but I remember thinking it was strange the first time I heard somebody ask me to cut the lights off.

        I wonder if toboggan is a NC thing.

  4. First off, I had NO idea I’ve been pronouncing Appalachia incorrectly all these years! Thanks for clearing that up. Also, a few of those words are also common here in the Midwest, but several aren’t. So funny!

  5. I recently had a little girl correct me when I pronounced Appalachia correctly, but not the way she was used to hearing it pronounce incorrectly. I couldn’t believe it, and set her straight.

    I’m familiar with most of the words/pronunciations except for #8 and 17.

    1. P.S. If memory serves me correctly Appalachia was pronounced “Appa-latch-a” until President Kennedy pronounced it “Appa-lay-sha” in a speech. Many people though the president must surely know best, so they changed the way they pronounced it as well.

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