Mountain speech revisited

Published 6:15 am Tuesday, July 9, 2019

By Steve Roark

Tri-State Outside

In an earlier column I wrote about our version of English I like to call Mountain Speech, a unique and very old dialect that has been retained through mountain isolation to this day, though much has been lost. I’m going through a book called Smokey Mountain English that has thousands of words and phrases collected from mountain people throughout our region by linguistic experts. I’m looking for words that I heard my parents and grandparents use and thought you might enjoy seeing how many you’re familiar with. I’m going through the book alphabetically, and here is another installment.

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Airy: any, a single; “We didn’t get airy drop of rain.”

Asafedita: the dried resin from a plant called asafetida that was worn around your neck in a small bag to ward off or cure sickness. It was mostly used on children who were made to wear it all winter. It did not smell pleasant.

Atter: after; “What’s that dog atter?”

Awful: good, excellent, extraordinary; “She’s awful good at that”.

Awful to: something done that is disapproved; “That dog is awful to bark”.

Baccer: tobacco; “I grew a half acre of baccer.”

Backards and forwards: to be undecisive; “She’s backards and forwards on what to wear to town.”

Back door trots: to have diarrhea

Backed up: to be constipated.

Back sass: to talk back rudely; “Don’t you back sass me!”

Back of: referring to an earlier time; “I heard back of this that he was married.”

Backset: a relapse of an illness; “He took a backset and wasn’t able to come.”

Bad off: very sick; “He’s too bad off to come to church.”

Baldface: a despicable person: “He’s a baldface liar!”

Balk: the space between furrows in row crops such as corn or tobacco;

Babdist: a version of pronouncing Baptist. I still catch myself using it.

Baptizing: a baptismal service; “They’re having a baptizing down at the river.”

Bark: an injury where skin is torn: “I fell down and barked my knee.”

Barn Raising: where neighbors and family work together to build a barn for someone’s farm.

Bat: to blink; “He stood there and didn’t bat an eye.”

Bawl: the cry of an animal, especially cattle; also to cry emotional tears; “He bawled like a baby.”

Steve Roark is a retired area forester from Tazewell, Tennessee.