Probably the one aspect of the Appalachian Culture that is ridiculed the most and is misunderstood the most is the way we talk. I have seen many movies where the actor or actress is trying to speak with a mountain dialect. More times than not, the attempt was not met with success. I can remember when I first went to college, I was labeled the hillbilly because of my strong Appalachian accent. During my last semester at college I did my student teaching. On the last day, during my evaluation conference, my supervising teacher told me that the only problem he could see with my performance was my dialect. He suggested that I work on losing the hillbilly way of speaking. I could have understood if I was using incorrect grammer but this was not the case. That event happened over ten years ago and I still have my "hillbilly accent" and I have no plans to try to change it.
Many people attribute the lack of education to the dialect of the Appalachian people. This could not be further from the truth. Our dialect is a direct result of the merging of four British cultures when America was in it's infanacy.
Not long after the first settlers landed at Plymouth Rock, Europeans began flocking to the new land. It didn't take long for the east coast to become heavily populated and the move westward started. The Appalachian Mountains were rugged and hard to cross. Many people found that the mountains were abundant with wildlife and the valleys were rich in minerals and were perfect for farming. Several of these early settler's decided to stay in Appalachia to start their lives.
People came from all parts of Europe to settle in the new land. In the book, Albion's Seed, David Hackett Fischer describes four main cultures that migrated to the new world. It is the merging of these cultures that make up the Appalachian Culture and contributed to the Appalachian Dialect. By studying the dialect in different regions of Appalachia, one can find subtle differences in the pronunciation of words and phrases. Even the meanings of words and phrases will vary from region to region. In his book, Mr. Fischer describes the Appalachian dialect as Scotch-Irish dialect. He gives examples such as: Whar for where, Thar for there, sartin for certain, and winder for window. These early settler's had to invent new words that described some of the new surroundings they were living in. Because the Appalachian landscape is very similar to the landscapes of Scotland and Ireland, the imigrants from those countries were the first to settle in Appalachia. The dialect of the Scotch-Irish has been passed down from generation to generation and eventually became know as Appalachian dialect or hillbilly dialect. It is a fact that many of the people living in Appalachia have Scotch-Irish ancestory.
Below is some common phrases that Appalachian people use and there meaning.