This page was last updated on: 4/17/06
Logan County "Phraseology"
(Mostly taken from the WVLOGAN list discussion group... authorship as indicated)
I'd like to know where one expression my Mother (Boone County born and reared) use, "Gommin'") An example--"you are gommin' up the table" which meant making a mess. Where could gommin' have come from? "Gommy" was another
~ Sharon Lee Gates
Possible from the biblical name; Gomorrah. When God destroyed the evil city, it left a mess., Called a Gom by mountain people. "dreckly " was a mountain word ; " I will start supper dreckly( directly ) meaning a short time later on. " spoondiken" was term used to signify courtship
of a couple.Also called "courtin".
~ Shelby Burgess
Hey You Fellow Mountaineers,
Lets not confuse our mountain talk with that other language sometimes spoken in these here United States, namely English. Muck is a common word in the English language, and all the definitions presented here are derivations, such as cleaning the barnyard and cleanup in the mine.
Check Webster. Remember the term "muckrakers" applied to investigative reporters? Now thats appropriate slang considering that they usually go after the ---- in Washington.
I guess we Appalachian folk understand about gom and gum in our vernacular. They both have definite but different meanings. I suspect gom and gommin are distinctly Appalachian, but gum and gumming (like gumming up the works) seem to be common everywhere. I suspect the
usage in the context we refer to comes from the idea of how otherwise smooth running machinery is impacted if the oil gets thick (like gum). (It's all MESSED UP.)
A few years back, I found a website that listed hundreds of mountain expressions like these and it requested people to add their own memorable phrases. I submitted several, but have lost the address as I changed computers. Those in my approximate age bracket will understand
this expression that is similar to what I so often heard as a boy: "If you don't get this "GOM" cleaned up this instant, I am going to WEAR YOU OUT." Did your parents ever threaten to wear you out?
~ Stan Browning
Lambang was an expression for for a loud noise, used by the old timers. Muckin is term used by coal miners; means removing rock,dirt,etc from the salable coal.
~ Shelby Burgess
I am a coal miner's granddaughter from Boone County and found your web site on the rootsweb Logan listserv. I would like to add to it, though I see it has not been added to since 2003.
"Ninny" is short for nincompoop!
My mother, Chloe Gunnoe Gates, would say, "Clean up this gommy (adjective) table" if I had made a mess. She would also accuse me of "gommin" (verb) around in the mud" or some such. Interesting word I've never heard anyone use otherwise.
Another thing Grandma Clara Dolin Gunnoe used to say was "this milk is blinky" when it was spoiled. They say it comes from the old time belief that a witch could blink and make milk go bad.
If there was a large amount of something, Grandpa Cuthbert Gunnoe said, it was "right smart" (adjective). Example: "Grandpa, how did you all do pickin' tomaters?" "We got right smart of 'em, Sharon."
My hill country cousins pronounced my first name, Sharon, to sound pretty much like "Sherrrrn." In fact, they still do. They have television, radio, electric lights and telephones (still no cell phone service) in Brushton, but they still talk exactly as Grandma and Grandpa did.
Some of the talk I heard then has been repeated living on the Florida/Georgia border at Fernandina, but an awful lot of it is reserved just for the mountain folk. When I went out to Maggie Valley, NC, I met a Caldwell girl, and could have sworn she came right out of Eplin Holler!
"Beer garden" comes right from our German heritage! The Biergarten is where you go to drink in Germany, Bavaria and the Alsace-Lorraine region of France which used to be Germany. Many of our ancestors are German-look at the names: Eplin (Ebbelin), Harless (Horlasch), Price (Preiss), Fillinger, Kessinger, Kinder. Workman. so it is no wonder we had "Beer Joints" with signs out from that said, "Beer Garden!"
My friend's father is from MA and he used to say, "You can always tell when you are in WV without ever looking at a map because there are neon signs that say, 'Beer Eats'" which always made me laugh (because it was true in the 1950's and 1960's, but I don't know if it is now.)
"Yonder" is a word I don't hear much down here in Florida, but is sure was common from my mountain folk ancestors--"Run down yonder a piece, Sherrrrn, and fetch me a mess of corn from the garden." I do hear "mess" for a bunch here--"we caught a mess of fish," "we picked a mess of greens." Down here we have collard greens (called just "collards") mustard greens (called just "mustards") and we can buy watercress at the store, just nobody called them "Creasy greens" as we did when we were picking them out of lick creek. We had "Crawdads" in the creek, too, but they were too small to be eating like they do in New Orleans.
I lived my first 8 years in up Eplin Holler off Lick Creek not far from Rumble and Ashford. Then I moved to Charleston where my father, grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great grandfathers were born. Charleston was farther away from the dialects of Boone/Logan/Fayette/Lincoln/Mercer Counties than I could have imagined. Instead of being in Rumble School with coal miner's children, I was now in school with coal mine owner's children! I treasure my 1800 holler ancestry just as I treasure my 1820 Charleston ancestry and my 1700's Greenbrier County ancestry. It is wonderful that I learned so much from so many!
~ Sharon Lee Gates
Gommin and muckin are Turkish expressions. I've read two of Dr. Brent Kennedy's books on Appalachian people and their ancestry. In one of them he mentions gommin ("gaumin'") and muckin' as being straight from the Anatolian dialect of Turkey.
Full of spunk------------ spirited
Atter wile-----------------after a while
Gittin too big for his britches-----conceited
Shirky--------doing a job poorly
Made the riffle------ completed a business deal
Poor as Job's turkey----------without funds
Dead dog tired--------- weary
Three sheets in the wind----------intoxicated
Sober as a judge-------sobriety
Fast as greased lightning------------speedy
Too slow to stop quick---------- pokey
Back door trots-------------Diarreah
~ Shelby Burgess
This discussion got started on the E. KY list and I thought it was interesting. I often have the opportunity to use the term "woods colt" when talking about my ancestors....but I never knew where it came from.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.
NOUN: Virginia; A child born out of wedlock. Also called Regional: "woods colt." Also called regionally: "catch colt."
ETYMOLOGY: From the unsupervised breeding of horses in unfrequented fields.
REGIONAL NOTE: "Old-field colt" is one of several old-fashioned regional euphemisms for a child born out of wedlock. The term is native to the Virginia Piedmont. Old-field is the Southern term for an overcultivated field allowed to lie fallow. Being isolated and usually undisturbed, these fields provided a place for unplanned breeding of horses and, figuratively, of children. The term is sometimes shortened to "field colt." A related Southern expression is "woods colt." The Western U.S. equivalent is "catch colt."
The Thesaurus comes up with the following synonyms:
Synonyms: bantling, colt, come-by-chance, illegitimate, love child,
mongrel, natural child, scoundrel, spurious issue, whoreson, woods colt
Concept: family entity
Source: Roget's Interactive Thesaurus, First Edition (v 1.0.0) Copyright
© 2003 by Lexico Publishing Group, LLC. All rights reserved.
Gotta love the regional phrases we discover in doing family history! Now I can hardly wait to work "bantling" into a conversation.
~ Passed on from Dianne Gilliam of the E. KY list by Carole Hammond
We have in the past had some discussions here about "West Virginia" speak.
Words we have grown up hearing, but when some of us moved to Yankee land, we were laughed at. And were we ever laughed at!!
But they held truth.
Folks actually did buy a "pig in a poke".
You did not know the size of the pig in the Bag/Poke.
Some thought that the store owners knew, and made sure that their friends got the large and best hams.
~ Judi Clark
I sure enjoy this talk of the old phrases. How about "snake oil"? As a child I had a lot of "growing pains", also had Infantile Paralysis/Polio while living in WV, and I remember having my legs rubbed with snake oil and have often wondered what that was? Actually I have a deep, life long fear of snakes, so I hope that wasn't really where the oil came from? Does anyone know?
~ Vernia Brooks
Heres some more :
Can't put an old head on young shoulders--intelligence differences
Gumption-- drive or spirit
With--tree branch, used for punishment
Jerk a knot in your tail--parent to unruly kid
~ Shelby Burgess
My grandfather, Lloyd Howard Peyton once told me to cure rheumitism, put earthworms in a sealed mason jar. Set it in the sun and the worms will melt. When they do, take the liquid and rub on your rheumitism. Never tried it but now I'm getting older that that story keeps poppin' up in my thoughts.
~ Judy Peyton Marks
My deceased wife Norma, had the Measles when young. They wouldnt break out on
her skin,so an old woman gave her some tea. She drank it and the measles broke
out on her skin.The ingredient was sheep manure. Strange but true.
~ Shelby Burgess
My father had measles in the 30's and they would not break out on him either. My grandma sent for her grandpa, Mitt Nelson and he came with a bag, made tea from it and made my daddy drink it. It contained sheep manure too! I always thought it may have been some type of herb the sheep ate that helped? Wonder if my Grandpa Mitts wife could have been the one who made it for your wife? Where did she live at the time? Grandpa Mitt supposedly had a cure for skin cancer. None of the family recorded the recipe but his daughter said she remembers it contained sulpher, camphor oil, along with other things. He also made cough medicine from Mullein which my family continues to make today. It is the best thing for Asthma in the world! Those old people knew what they were doing!
Daddy was born in 1919 on Buffalo Creek. When I was young he had quite an accent. And he used words and phrases that I have never heard anyone else say.
One of the most unique was a phrase that meant "Don't you ever doubt it", but he would say, "Don't you never think it". It simply meant "It's the truth for sure!"
Daddy called my toys "Play purties". I found that one in a book about the southern highlands.
Daddy used the words "Don't never" to add emphasis very often. He would say the word "never" slowly and with special emphasis. "Don't N-e-e-e-v-e-r do that!"
My grandparents had wonderful accents, I loved to just listen to them talk. Daddy made a tape recording of his father at Christmas in 1962. I still have it, and actually transferred it to a CD so it is well preserved. It's really fun to listen to.
One of the things that I have noticed about my grandparents and other relatives is that they use the word "Buddy" a lot.
My mother is not a native of West Virginia, and sometimes she will tell me that she didn't understand what someone said. I have no trouble understanding it at all. When I hear someone from Logan County I feel like I'm home.
~ Lee Belcher, Maryland
Thats what we used to call toys too.
One that I used to hear my cousins say a lot was and I am spelling phonetically here, "herrit" and it meant Hi.
~ Robin Bell
I was often laughed at down here in NC for calling a paper bag a poke.
I can't seem to find a gosh dern beer garden over here, not that I would be allowed to drink one. But it would be nice to think that one was available if the dang opportunity should arise. My grandfather Robert Hager, who lived up Buffalo Creek, had a few beer gardens in his day, I think in Lincoln County before he moved to Buffalo Creek. He even planted beers in his farm field during the prohibition. I wonder if this is where the term beer garden comes from? As to my replacements. Yawl come now. Ya hear! Don't be dilly dallying around at that there Fort Leonard Wood. I'm a waitin. I'm just funnin ya!
My father-in-law called tires cassins. He would also say fetch alot, such as "fetch me a glass of water" meaning to get.
My granny Dempsey called food vittles. She also called skinny, sickly looking people a shite poke (have NO idea where that came from or what it means!!!) Or she would say they were skinner than a black racer (snake).
When we went to the hand dug wells, we would "draw up" a bucket of water. And if someone was really ugly my daddy would say they had to slip up on the dipper to get a drink.
Other words are-
Thar meaning There
Fixin as in "I am fixin to go to bed" or getting ready to (we tend to drop the g's on alot of words, like goin, doin, needin. comin.....) Far as in "looks like something is on far" or burning
We also combine words to make one big easy word like-
shouldoughto as in " we should go" but it comes out "we shouldoughto go" gitoutaheah used to shoe a dog away while stomping your feet
There are so many words we say with an accent it would take a month of sundays to record them all!!!!
Actually some have talked about our accents but we don't have any trouble understanding each other. Now let a city slicker come in these hills and you will hear an accent!!!! LOL
I have heard that one, it refers to a bird that lives near water that has real skinny legs. It is ugly too. What about youfellers, like you fellers come back again. I also remember Granny Webb picking what she called rabit weed out of the cow pasture rolling it in a brown paper bag and making me smoke it when I had an astma attack..........it worked better than what the doctor gave me but I don't know what it looked like. Or they used to bake an onion in the oven then take a few drops of the juice and give it with the baby's milk to help stop collic or settle ones nerves.
How about a slop jar referring to the bucket used at night if you know what I mean.
One I always wondered about was how they came up with picking tangle gut, dandelion sprouts and poke in the spring then cutting up new onions with it which they would heat grease and pour over the mixture to make fresh greens to eat with cornbread.........it was soooo good.
~ Jennie West
I love to listen to folks from West Virginia talk. They sound so easy-goin', and it reminds me of my grandpa. Last "Sundee" I called two people in Logan County, and I enjoyed listening to their voices so much. One was in Accoville, but I didn't mention the name of their town to them because I couldn't remember how to pronounce it. Could someone tell me? I know that Pikeville is pronounced "Pikev'l". (I live out west, in southern Oregon.)
~ Vanessa, Oregon
My great grandparents had a lot of good ones too. Pime blank- exactly (I look pime blank like my daddy) I ain't got nary a one. (I don't have any at all) Did you all have water doggies in your well? My great grandparents did and you had to be careful when you drew the water up. If you got one, you had to throw him back. They cleaned the well, kinda like an algae eater in an aquarium. Sounds nasty, but Granny and Poppy lived to be 93 and 97 so they must have done something right.
~ Robin Bell
Tangle gut is a green that resembles violets,but it is like ivy,as it makes its own roots as it stretches out on the ground.very good greensthere was Poke, Shawnee, lambs tongue, crows foot, dock and creases
~ Shelby Burgess
Don't forget Ramps...
~ Lawrence Dillard
I recall saying things when we moved to Yankee-ville and being made fun of. I guess I adjusted my speak, although my longest time friend in Indiana said(I was 4 and she 3) that she remembers she could not understand a word I said with my accent.
But, we did change "reach me that" and using "big" for high, as in on a swing, "don't swing so big". Dad never changed the "big".
Of course the common one was "not worth two hoots in a holler" Dad at 84 had not lost all of his accent. We sang gospel music until he was 80 and his flavor never changed from "Southern".
If you were going to do something "directly" you were doing it "dreckly" and yet, that really did not mean anytime soon. It could be next year. Like "running slow as Molasses in January"I suppose.
And no matter, W.V was always referred to as "home".
And I really do still like the old way as Judy Marks does. "W.VA."
I have little ditty's I guess you would call them in my head. Short songs of W.VA. that my parents sang.
Some were homespun of Logan co. places.
This one was not though.
OH THE HILLS, THE BEAUTIFUL HILLS
HOW I LOVE THOSE WEST VIRGINIA HILLS
WHEN OR SEA OR LAND I ROAM
STILL I THINK OF HAPPY HOME
AND THOSE FRIENDS AMONG THE WEST VIRGINIA HILLS
Any Logan town folks remember the "Black Bottom" song? (not meant for anyone who lived there to be offended, please know that)
~ Judi Clark
My grandfather Fred Carol WHEATLEY was born and raised in Logan County. He had
a few sayings that I liked.
"Lord willin' an' the creeks don' rise" as in: "I'll see you in Sunday school
lord willin and the creeks don't rise." Apparently it was common for floods to
prevent people from getting around on the rural roads of the day. The bridges
would wash out and you couldn't get out of you area. My uncle remembers going
to visit family and the waters were so high that all they could do was stand on
each side of the rain soaked creek and holler at each other...
"A little past plum" As in: "That boys a little past plum." It is usually a
derogatory term meaning someone is a little slow or not quite right. I believe
it comes from the carpentry trade. With a plum line being used to make sure a
line is straight and level. So if you were a little past plum you were not
"The WHEATLEY way" as in: "Get out of the way, your doing it all wrong, let me
show you how to do it the WHEATLEY way." Now this is most assuredly a family
colloquialism more than a regional one but oh well I liked it just the same.
~ Lawrence Dillard
When cousin Joe Hastings first came from Whitesville to Florida and offered
to take us to get a POP, we thought he was taking us to see fireworks! He
never let us forget that.
When I told my Tampa boss I had to carry my son to the doctor, she froze
and asked, "Where are you from?" I said, "Georgia." The biggest smile came
over her face and she said, "I thought so! What part, honey?" We were
friends from then on.
I was born at Holden.
We went to church in Cherry Tree Addition (bottom).
Sometimes we had to go back home because the bridge was washed out. So the
creeks don't rise did originate from a truth. I think I will borrow the "a little past
plum" one. I like that!
~ Judi Clark
Yarrow would grow wild everywhere and we would harvest what we needed
and hang it upside down on the porch to let it dry. If anyone in the family got sick
some of the yarrow was taken down and boiled. Yarrow tea was a cure-all that
was good for what ailed yah. I cannot count the number of times I drank Yarrow
tea as a child...
I remember growing up in West Virginia in the early 70's we had the foxfire
series of books and the whole mother earth catalog. Both were a collection of
mountain traditions and was a guide to remind us how be self sufficient. Some
of the best books ever written to guide people who have forgotten the old ways
and want to relearn a cleaner way of living with nature...
~ Lawrence Dillard
I was born and raised in the coal field, at Whitman, and I remember many
unique terms used by family and friends. There was always much gossip in the coal
fields and I, as a very young lad, remember many heated conversations "across
the fence." How many of you remember the wooden fences built between the coal
camp houses at Whitman and Holden?
I certainly don't want to be abrasive or nasty, or be morally and ethical
incorrect, but I can remember the terms "weed monkeys" and "jazzebells" normally
being associated with "beer gardens!"
~ Jim W.
I was born at 21 Holden, if you drilled through Lyman Terrace(Terrie) Hill that we lived on you would have came out in Whitman. Of course dad worked for Island Creek coal. I met a friend of dad's back in 1991 when dad died here in Indiana. This man, a minister, and with a BA and MA from higher education was giving me directions to his home. He, born and raised in Logan, left for college at age 25, said, you turn at the "beer garden".
Can't take the mountain out of the boy!
~ Judi Clark
My great-aunt would be downright insulting, but before she said the words
she would first say "Bless her heart" Another was "she or he was as ugly
as a mud fence." Have you ever seen a mud fence. I haven't.
~ Judith Marks
Tangle gut is a form is small weed that the closest I can describe looks a little like a bean sprout maybe only skinnier and has a small flower on it.........it sure helps make greens taste and look good. I have to giggle over the uglier than a mud fence....that too I still use.
~ Jenny West
Just a quick note- My late husband was born in Shamrock, in Logan County. But was raised in Michigan- He never lost his accent, or his country ways. He was a twin- he and I stood up for his twin brother's wedding and they stood up for ours. His sister-in-law just loves to tell the story of our wedding vows. It was a small wedding- just the 4 of us and the minister. The sister-in-law swears that my husband never said "I do". She says his reply to the minister when asked, "Do you take this woman?" My husband replied, "I reckon". To tell you the truth, I don't remember- I was too nervous! I do know he used to say that allot- "I reckon"- when he was asked a question.
My mother-in-law used to make a 'sugar-tit' for the crying grandbabies~ I had never heard of such a thing before I married into the West Virginian family!! I loved them dearly and miss them terribly.
~ Gloria Damron
OK...I'll add 2 cents to the discussion about odd phrases (which, btw, I'm
My father, born and raised in Logan, used to call me (and my sisters) a
"ninny" when he was very, very angry. I still feel ashamed just thinking about the
word (it was a VERY strong word).
I suppose it's a shortened version of pickaninny which Arizona's infamous
recalled governor once used in public.
My Mom, being from Logan Co, told us as children that 'Ninny' was meaning you weren't using your brain if you did something stupid or wrong, and 'knew better' than to do that stupid or wrong thing. Shortened from nincompoop (sp?).
" Don't be a ninny !" for example.. She used to say, "Use the brain God gave you".
When I was a young girl of about seven or eight, my grandparents came from Logan to California to stay with us when my grandfather was diagosed with cancer / black lung. I remember my grandmother hiding behind the wall, apparently playing a game with my toddler brother. She'd look around the corner and say "Pee-Pie!" and then she'd hide her head behind the wall. She did this over and over. I remember sitting there, realizing that she appeared to be playing peek-a-boo with him, but I had no idea what a Pee-Pie was. I can remember giving this much thought, but eventually dismissing it. It wasn't till YEARS later that I thought about this and realized she'd been saying "Peep-Eye"!
That was an interesting time for a little California girl like me... I used to lay in bed at night and try to figure out HOW you jerked a knot in a person's tail, what it felt like, and whether this was better or worse than spankings. The other thing grandmother used to say was that she'd "rap" our heads. Of course, she never did either. The worst punishment was of course doled out by Dad, who'd send us out back to cut a switch from the tree, and we knew full well it was going to be used to spank us with. The lengthy anticipation was the worst. If the switch wasn't good enough (too thick, too short, whatever) we'd likely get whacked with it and sent out for another. And when the spanking finally came, whether with a switch or a belt, it always followed the directive to "Hold your ankles!".
~ LuAnne Gayhart Baker