Chapter 23: Mountain Talk, Part I

[Popcorn Sutton] Talkin' about like that like we had some wood out in the yard, instead of saying carry it in the house, she'd say tote it in the house, and like if she'd have something that she wanted to put in a paper bag, you'd put in a paper poke, you know, instead of a paper bag. Well, the way people talks around here I guess it'd be what more like you'd call hillbilly style or something I guess, I don't know, just mountain talk.

[Birds chirping]

[Male speaker] Most your local people have your mountain talk. That's the way you can tell the mountain people from your outsiders, by their language they use. Say "I'll see you over yonder," it means, "I'll see like in Waynesville," it's the mountain talk calling.

[Carl Presnell] Never nothing stops, it's like a singing, you know, we're kind of like we're singing, [Name] said "we're singing, not talking."

[Jim Tom Hedrick] Yeah, I like my moped.


[Jim Tom Hedrick] Everybody hears about Graham County, don't they? How good the people is. How they'll help you. I'll run into people I don't know, I've never seen in 'em in my life and I help them any way I can. Somebody once said, "You'll get knocked in the head." I said, "Well, if I do, I'm just knocked." They're just good hearted. Everybody you meet, just 99% of 'em. If I didn't live here, I'd move wouldn't you?

[Male speaker] Well, where do you want to go on vacation?

[Male speaker] If I was going to go on vacation, I'd stay right on here. It's where my mind is all the time anyhow.

[Kyle Edwards] We are 20 years behind the whole country. But I wouldn't swap places with nobody. I feel much more comfortable here being 20 years behind everybody than I would be a-sitting in a lot of other places and being so miserable. You don't like your neighbor. You don't speak to your neighbor. You're bitter with the world. Atlanta is a good example or Raleigh. You drive down the street and everybody is wide open blowing their horns and don't know nobody and don't want to know nobody and don't care about nobody. It's quite a bit different up here.

[Bertie Berlson] I lived in Washington D.C. about 4 and a half years and I just assumed been in hell with my back broke than live there. People are so good to each other here.

[Narrator: Gary Carden] Many of the words and expressions in mountain speech are unfamiliar to outsiders. Scots-Irish settlers brought much of the vocabulary from Europe. But many new words and expressions were invented here by their descendants.

[Male speaker] There's just somebody coming up with a strange word. Is what it means, I mean, let's say you're trying to get something done, you're building something. You'll take a look at it, like the word si-gogglin, uh-, you're looking at it and it's all out of line and you might just come up with the word si-gogglin. I do that myself. Can't think of anything right off, but I come up with a lot of new words myself. And so you get somebody standing around, and they hear that, and okay, it's si-gogglin.

[Male speaker] Say a carpenter does a real poor job, and then you say that's all si-gogglin', you know, he didn't have his wall straight or...

[Jim Tom Hedrick] They'll stand back and look if something isn't righ- and say, "that thing is si-gogglin" They'll say, "I want you to look." Say, "What is it?" if you're building some kind of- and say "that thing is si-gogglin right yonder" and said, "that whole road going up there," said, "that thing is si-gogglin."

[Narrator: Gary Carden] My grandmother is always talking about people being stout or gaint. She used words like peckerwood. If it's somebody she didn't like she'd call him a peckerwood. Or if there's somebody she didn't know, but he's probably alright. She didn't have any animosity for him, she'd say, "he's a jasper." "there's this jasper come by here this morning and knocked on the door." You know, but if it was a salesman, "there's this peckerwood out there on the porch."

[Carl Presnell] Lots of people used to, you know, like you go in a store and say, "put it in a bag." Old people says you put it in a poke.

[Male speaker] That's a bag. I used to go to the store, walk two miles to the store, and when I was a kid and carry a twenty-five pound poke of flour home, that's flur by the way not flour.

[Jim Tom Hedrick] And me and my two sisters and one brother, we'd be a-waiting on them at the house to get our candy. Sal, the older man I was talking about, had a little poke of candy and he'd say, "Well, I forgot to get anything." But, we'd scream, "Oh, here it is!"

[Narrator: Gary Carden] Plumb was a common word when I was growing up. Plumb this and plumb that and plumb over there. And well, he was just plumb wore out.

[Delmas Crisp] And that copper mine, that vein, they tunneled under the ground, plumb out through here to Snowbird.

[Mary Jane Queen] Like the wind was a-blowin'. You know, a lot of air. They'd say it's very airish outside.

[Male speaker] Airish, it means it's a little bit chilly outside.

[Female speaker] Really.

[Male speaker] It means, it's airish, it means it's chilly today. It's airish today, right now as we speak. The air is blowing and breezy.

[Carl Presnell] They go, you know, they go to the store and buy a Coke and they call them dopes back then. I don't know if you ever heared anyone say that or not.

[Male speaker] That's what we'd drink when I was a kid. An' it was called- they had Nehi, they had Pepsi Cola, Royal Crown Cola. A lot of 'em. That was dope.

[Vester McGaha] Oh a dope, you're talking about like a sodi pop, sodi water,

[Dot McGaha] Yeah, sodi water.

[Vester McGaha] Yeah, yeah, sodi water, yeah dope.

[Henry Queen] That's all they'd call them around here as a kid, I mean,

[Female speaker] Yes.

[Vester McGaha] Now if you go up toward Ernestine's place up there, stop along there about where you turn up to Tony's around those pine patches and along with that log house, you'll probably see a boomer right there.

[Orville Hicks] A lady come through and she said, "Oh,"- I said, "that's a pretty boomer." She said, "a boomer, what's a boomer?"

[Ernest Woods] You know what a boomer is, don't cha? You ever seen one?

[Mary Jane Queen] What's a boomer? [laughs]

[Male speaker] They make a lot of chatting noises. They're about the size of a wharf rat.

[Male speaker] A wharf rat?

[Ernest Woods] Yeah, a wharf rat, a big ol' rat.

[Female speaker] A boomer is like a little squirrel. It's not a squirrel,

[Male speaker] It's a mix between a grey squirrel and a chipmunk.

[Vester McGaha] Except it's red.

[Male speaker] Can you eat 'em?

[Ernest Woods] Yeah.

[Orville Hicks] She said, "That's a red squirrel." I said, "Well, to me it's a boomer." We always called it boomers.

[Carl Presnell] Says old scald, that mean that's old dead land that won't grow nothing, you know, we call it scald. I don't know if you've heard that or not, I know you have. Call it a scald, poor land.

[Male speaker] That's like a carburetor in my van, all gaumed up, with all that old dirty stuff.

[Male speaker] Gaum, mean like all cluttered up. Gaumed up.

[Male speaker] Yeah, that mean it's in a mess. That's what I would say.

[Male speaker] They didn't know they taught them such educated folks, did they?


[Vester McGaha] Instead of saying yonder, you know, over yonder, it's over yander. Did you ever hear that word, yander?

[Orville Hicks] Yeah, I say way over yander, yeah. My mama used to come up to us when we was little. And she'd say "goose or gander?" And she'd pull each ear. If you'd say "goose" she'd say, "pull it you loose" and for gander she'd say, "pull it over yander."

[Jim Tom Hedrick] [Unintelligible] they all know me, they say yander comes him a-riding that Harley Davis. They think it's a Harley.


[Narrator: Gary Carden] Every region of Appalachia there is usually, if you come there even from another county, you don't have to come from another state, you can just move from the adjoining county. People use expressions you don't understand. And it means something only to them. And that is one of the delights of mountain culture.