Definitively Not( James )


Regional Dialects are something of an interesting topic for me. It’s not just an indicator of your originating geography but also the cultural upbringing you had. Over the next few weeks I’ll be picking out a few different language dialects to both learn about and write about.

To start with, a dialect that’s near and dear to me: Appalachian English, also known as Smoky Mountain English or Southern Mountain English. This is the dialect that’s most often attributed to the inland Southern United States and has many features of 18th-century colonial English. I’d often encounter this dialect with my family in Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Viriginia.

Some of the words I’ve picked up over time that I can think of:

  • afeared - to be afraid
  • buggy - a shopping cart
  • britches - pants
  • crick - this may be either a stiffness of joints in the body or a creek
  • fixin - this can also be a few things - either to say something is soon to happen, or a portion of food
  • holler - the steep valley between two hills, because you can “holler” across to the other side
  • plumb - completely
  • reckon - suppose
  • skifting - a dusting, usually of snow on the ground
  • sody-pop - carbonated beverages
  • spell - either a duration of time or the state of being lightheaded
  • yonder - somewhere distant, away from where we are currently

Appalachian English has many other archaic phrases, words, and prefixes.
Most of the above fall into that - either from older English words like breetches or the a- (such as afeared or a-haunted) prefix which comes from Early Middle English. right can also be used with adjectives and adverbs such as right fine or right quick.

Southern drawl is also an important aspect of this dialect. Sourthern Drawl - considered different from the Southern twang - is a common pattern in how the vowels are prolonged making the speech sound slower. To many, this leads to the incorrect assumption that an individual with a drawl is uneducated or dim-witted. Part of this is from a lack of exposure to Southern accents - people that don’t hear it can immediately hear the other-ness. However, even people that grow up with the accent are told that a Southern accent is “wrong” via pop-culture and media. How many celebrities speak with a Southern drawl?

Dialects like this might sound strange to people that aren’t part of them. However, to those that are within that dialect outsiders without it sound foreign. To quote my cousins in regards to my differing dialect, “Yew talk real funny! Y’all spake all fast-like. Yer a yankee from up yonder, aintcha?”