On this week’s episode of Filthy Riches, ginseng hunter Billy Taylor and his family trek deep into the Appalachian Mountains for a late season haul. While the frustrating nature of ginseng hunting requires patience, the Taylors turn the trek into a celebration: roasting pork on the fire, capturing rattlesnakes and getting into mud fights. And when the family gets together, their colorful, lively accents come out even more than usual.
The family’s rich, distinctive dialect is a strain of Southern English referred to as Appalachian English. Although the Appalachian Mountains stretch all the way from Alabama to Canada, Appalachian English generally is heard in the mountains’ central and southern areas, including parts of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, West Virginia, Eastern Kentucky and Tennessee. A linguistic derivative of the Scottish and Irish settlers who originally populated the mountains in the 18th century, contemporary Appalachian English broadly describes many regional dialects, with many local flavors and innovations. Despite linguistic erosion due to global communications and the internet, the dialect remains a foundation for a proud cultural heritage.
To many Americans outside of Appalachia, the dialect is defined by the accent. The final g is omitted from many words ending in -ing. Many vowel sounds are held longer, and some are even added: “Tell” becomes “tey-ul,” “said” becomes “say-ud.” “I” sounds are flattened – “pen” and “pin” are the same sound. “Th” sounds are occasionally dropped, and sometimes even replaced with a “ch” sound, resulting in “chare” rather than “there” for some residents.
Beyond pronunciation, Appalachian English is also defined by colloquialisms unique to its territories. Like other regional dialects across the US, Appalachian English has many inventive slang terms which have evolved to represent activities and topics relevant to the area. Where outsiders may describe Billy Taylor’s job as ginseng hunting or digging, Appalachians have a much more concise term for this: sangin’.
And don’t think that this is a niche dialect. According to the 2010 census, over 25 million Americans live in what what the federal government classifies as the Appalachian region.
Here are just a few other particularly unique terms which you may find in Appalachia:
Airish – chilly outside (adjective)
Cathead – a large southern biscuit (noun)
Gaum – to clutter, make a mess (noun)
Liketa – almost, nearly (adverb, sometimes)
Poke – a bag (noun)
Scald – a dead thing (noun)
Sigogglin – unusually crooked. (adjective)
Skift – light covering, usually referring to snow
Whimmy-diddle – a contraption, object or toy. (noun)
Work-brittle– in some Southern regions this can mean eager to work or energetic, while in other parts of Appalachia, this term can mean quite the opposite, synonymous with laziness. (adjective)
Don’t miss this week’s episode of Filthy Riches on Sunday at 10P.