SUNNY CAL JOURNAL - "Oh Mah Gawd, Ain't Ye Learnt Ta Tawk Yit?

By Bob Weaver

One thing I have learned over the years, words and how you say them matters, but sometimes they shouldn't.

In Calhoun County, we still have a broad smattering of what outsiders consider "hick talk."

One popular theory is that the dialect is a preserved remnant of 16th-century "Elizabethan" English, though a far more accurate comparison would be to 18th-century "colonial" English.

Most of the dialect we use around here are Scotch, Irish and German.

Appalachian English has long been criticized both within and outside of the mountains as an inferior dialect, which is often mistakenly attributed to supposed laziness, lack of education, due to the region's relative isolation.

American writers throughout the 20th century have used the dialect as the chosen speech of uneducated and unsophisticated characters, though research has largely disproved these stereotypes due to prejudice, the use of the Appalachian dialect is still often an impediment to educational and social advancement.

As a native Calhouner, I must admit that such dialect brings comfort to my historical soul.

Many years ago before dial and cell telephones, a Calhoun native Foster "Faus" Johnson, who also had a slight speech impediment, was trying to give information about a call to the Grantsville operator.

She had difficulty understanding him, asking him to repeat himself, and after failure said, "Mr. Johnson, can you round out your "O's a little better."

Being frustrated, Johnson exclaimed, "ASSHOLE! Is that round enough for you!"

Many mountain kids have been told, "You need to learn to stop talking like that. It makes you sound stupid."

"Oh mah Gawd. Ain't ye learnt ta tawk yit?"

Most of the mountain dialect I heard over and over again on the bench of our country store or my grandparents home, was passed down to my dad and mother.

She would always say, "We need to red up the table," which meant to tidy it up, or "We need to get shed of...", which meant to get rid of.

When asked about how far it was over to a certain place, oldtimers would respond "It's a fur piece."

"Fetch" was a word asking to bring something.

When people got hurt, they would say "It smarts."

Porch sitters would say something like, "I almost got pizen (poison), before the gully washer (hard rain) came, from some of her vittles (food), but she told me to hesh up (become quiet) because we're goin' to a doins' (event)."

Another might reply, "I bet she got put out (angered) at you for complainin', she's a little biggety (stuck up) sometimes, but she's still afixin (preparing) to go to the shin-dig (event)."

However, as the 21st Century moves ahead, and more people are connected to popular media, the language is becoming more homogenized.

"Here, smackdab in these parts, we are getting a'fixen to change the way we talk, we'll lollygag and hold on to our old ways a while longer."