Tuesday, March 5, 2019

The Spread of the Appalachian Dialect

In an attempt to add authenticity to stories, authors often sprinkle colloquialisms throughout their writing. As a South Alabama native, I grew up exposed to a unique accent. For example, my grandmother called the sink, a "zink." My mother's name was Esta, and yet her family called her "Estee." Her sister was "Velmer," instead of Velma. My Uncle Andrew became Uncle "Ander." 

Recently, I discovered my ancestors migrated from Tennessee, from the Appalachian region. Like the people of Appalachia, my family pronounced wire, tire, and fire as "war," "tar," and "far." Pillows were "pillers," tomatoes, "tomaders," and windows, "winders." Even the pronunciation of the state of Alabama ended with an -er sound--"We're from Alabamer." 

Scholars disagree on the origins of the Appalachian dialect. Some have suggested it's a holdover from Elizabethan English. Others point to the relative isolation of the mountain people.
Perhaps it "led to" is too strong a word although it did ensure the survival of it until recent generations. With the advent of television and the internet, accents are being lost.

Fortunately, we still hear it here in South Alabama. We, too, are relatively isolated and not easily influenced by others, but it is less noticeable in our young people. Still today, it is not unusual to hear phrases like "young'un," "he got a whupping laid on him," "I reckon you're right," "we're fixin' to eat supper," "she's right pretty."

And we often read these phrases in western books. Many historical western novels are set in Texas where this dialect was used. Why? Stephen Austin, Sam Houston, Davy Crockett, and David Bowie were originally mountain men who helped form the state of Texas. And we see this in western books. You will find, for example, the heroes of Louis L'amour were originally from Tennesse, the same as my own ancestors. 

My Brokken romances are set in the east of Texas, in the small town of Brokken. The novel I am writing now is set in Lonely Grove, Texas. Sprinkled throughout will be these colloquialisms I picked up as a young'un. 

Slowly, the dialect is slipping away. Fortunately, our books keep it alive and well.

My Brokken books are on Amazon. Click here.
And my latest Lockets & Lace book is up for pre-order, here.


  1. Loved your post, Abagail. I love to write a character (sometimes two, if one is really minor) in a book. I may not have the Appalachian accent down pat, but love to use some of their unique words and phrases. Even though my husband was adopted by his paternal grandparents who were raised in the Oklahoma Texarkana region, he speaks very similarly to the Appalachian accent. I just write how he usually talks, and I've pretty much got it. Thanks for the additional insight to these people.

  2. Thanks, Zina. My husband, too, has a great accent. Isn't it great having a living example?