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Neal Hutcheson
North Carolina State University / North Carolina Language and Life Project
Date created
North Carolina
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Excerpt from the documentary Mountain Talk, a portrait of the language and life of the Southern Appalachian Mountains, produced by Neal Hutcheson and the North Carolina Language and Life Project.

This video is one in a series that also includes:


Talking about like that we had some wood in the yard, instead of saying, “carry it in the house,” you’d say “tote it in the house.”  Like if you had something you’d wanted to put it in a paper bag, you’d put it in a paper poke, you know, instead of a paper bag.  The way people talk around here I guess it’d be more like you’d what you’d call hillbilly style or something, I guess; it’s mountain talk. 
Most of 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,” that means I’ll see you like in Waynesville, it’s a mountain talk, kind of.
Never nothing stops, it’s like a singing, you know, we’re kind of like we’re singing, Lisa just said we’re singing, not talking you know.
Yeah, I like my moped. 
Everybody hears about Greyhound County, don’t they? How good the people is, how they’ll help you.  I run into people I don’t know, never seen them in my life, and I help them any way I can. Somebody says, “One day you’ll get knocked in the head.”  I said, “Well, if I do, I’m just knocked.”  They just good-hearted.  Everybody you meet.  Just 99 percent of them.  If I didn’t live here I’d move, wouldn’t you?
Where you want to go on vacation?
If I was going to go on a vacation I’d just stay right on here. ****
We are twenty years behind the whole country.  But I wouldn’t swap places with nobody.  I feel much more comfortable here being twenty years behind everybody than I would be sitting in a lot of places being so uncomf — miserable.  You don’t like your neighbor, you don’t speak to your neighbor, you’re bitter with the world.  Atlanta’s a good example, or Raleigh, you drive down the street and everybody’s wide open blowing their horns, 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.
Well I lived in Washington, D.C. about four and a half years, and I just seemed to be in hell with my back broke, just living there.  People are so good to each other here.
Many of the words and expressions in mountain speech are unfamiliar to outsiders.  Scotch-Irish settlers brought much of the vocabulary from Europe, but many new words and expressions were invented here by their descendants.
It’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. And you’ll take a look at it, like the word “si-gogglin.’” You’re looking at it and it’s all out of line, and you just might 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, they hear that, okay, it’s si-gogglin. 
You say a carpenter has done a real poor job, and you say, “That’s all si-gogglin.”  You know, he didn’t have his wall straight, or…
There stand back and look, if something ain’t **, “That thing’s si-gogglin.” There say I want you to look, and say what is it, if you’re building some kind of, and that’s si-gogglin right yonder.  And you said, well that road’s going up there, you say “That thing’s si-gogglin.”
My grandmother, she’s always talking about people being stout, or gaint.  She used words like peckerwood.  If there was somebody she didn’t like, she’d called them a peckerwood.  If there was somebody she didn’t, 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’s a salesmen, it’s just “Peckerwood out there on the porch.”
A lot of people used to like, you go in the stores, say “put it in a bag,” old people says, “you put it in a poke.”
That’s a bag.  I used to go to the store, walk two miles to the store, when I was a kid and carry a 25-pound poke of flour home.  That’s flahr, by the way — not flour.
And me and my two sisters and one brother, we’d be a-waiting on them at the house to get our candy.  Saw that older man I was talking about had a little poke of candy.  He said “Well I forgot to get anything!” Boy we’d scream, “Oh here it is!”
Plumb was a common word when I was growing, plumb this, and plumb that.  “Plumb over there!” “Well he was just plumb wore out.”
And that copper mine, that vane, they tunneled under the ground, plumb out through here to Snowbird.
Like the wind was a-blowin, you know, a lot of air.  They would say it’s very airish outside.
Airish, it means it’s a little but chilly outside.
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.
They go, you know, they’d go to the store and buy a Coke, they’d call them dopes back then.  I don’t know if you’ve ever heard anybody say that or not. 
That’s what we drank when I was a kid.  And it was called — they had Ne-hi, they had Pepsi Cola, Royal Crown Cola, a lot of them, that was dope. 
Oh, a dope, you’re talking about like a sody pop, sody water, yeah sody water, yeah, dope. 
That’s all they ever called them around here as a kid, I mean.
Now if you go up toward Ernestine’s place up there, stop along there about, where you turn up to Tony’s there in them pines**, and along with that log house, you’ll probably see a boomer right there.
A lady come through, I said, “Oh, that’s a pretty boomer.” She said, “A boomer, what’s a boomer?”
You know what a boomer is don’t ya? You ever see one?
What’s a boomer?
They make a lot of chatting noises, they’re about the size of a wharf rat.
A wharf rat, big old rat. 
A boomer is like a little squirrel, it’s not a squirrel, it’s a —
It’s a mix between a gray squirrel and a chipmunk.
Except it’s red.
Can you eat them?
She said, “That’s a red squirrel?” I said, “Well to me, it’s a boomer.” We always called it boomers.
You said, “That’s an old scald,” there’s a dead land, won’t grow nothing, you know, call it a scald.  Don’t know if you ever heard that, I know you have.  Call it a scald.  Poor land.
That’s like the carburetor in my van, all gaumed up, with all that old dirty stuff. 
Gaum? Mean like it’s all cluttered up. Gaumed up.
Yeah, that mean it’s in a mess. That’s what I would say.
They didn’t know they talking to such educated folks, did they?
Instead of saying yonder, you know, over yonder, it’s o’er yander.  Did you ever hear that word? O’er yander?
Yeah, I say way over yander, yeah. Our momma used to come up to us when we was little, and she’d say, “Goose or gander,” she’d pull each ear, she’d say, “Goose,” she’d pull at you, loose, and you’d say, “Gander,” she’d pull it way over yander.
Little ** they all love me, they say yander comes him a-riding that Harley Davidson.  They think it’s a Harley.