Sunday, December 19, 2010

talkin' Appalachian

My friend, John, emailed me the other day to ask if I knew what 'tetched' meant. Of course I did since that is part of the Appalachian language and John is from WV too.

Since then I've been thinking about other words that might not be in everyone's vocabulary since they are probably Appalachian speak.

"Bide"--when you ask someone to spend time with you ("come on up on the porch and 'bide' a spell").

"Fetch you come a wharp"--what you'd say to a child who is annoying you to death, 'beat you into an inch of your life'--("Johnnie if you don't put that shotgun down rite now I'm going to 'fetch you come a wharp'!")

"Igit"--someone not quite a moron, but close ("That Johnnie is an 'igit'.") But then, I've heard the Irish say that too.

"Pon my swanee"--what you'd say if something surprised, delighted or confused you. ("'Pon my swanee' that idgit Johnnie is playing with the shotgun again." or "'Pon my swanee', Doris, I never heard such a thing....") {Actually, as an English major, I found the Elizabethan root of that term: it is 'Upon my Swan Lea', an oath, promise, or mild profanity.}

"That dog won't hunt"--Bill Clinton actually said that once, confusing the press corps, but I knew just what he meant: "That's something that isn't possible, a failed idea...."

"Snake doctors"--what Yankees call 'dragon flies'. ("I saw a whole swarm of 'snake doctors' down by the creek.")

"Tetched" came in two forms where I grew up: simply "tetched" meant 'dody' (confused, a tad senile) while 'tetched in the head' meant certifiably crazy ("That idgit Johnnie is teched in the head to be playin' with a shotgun.")

I thought of a couple more but can't bring them up right now. I am, after all, a little tetched. I'll talk to John and my cousin Mejol and add to the list.

Appalachian ISN'T Southern. Remember that.

We all said "AppaLATCHian" until John F. Kennedy visited the West Virginia (to see if a Roman Catholic could beat HHH there) and he pronounced it "AppaLAchian"--lone A as in 'cake'. Well, we thought if that smart fellow from up north said it that way, it must be right....

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.