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Language & Folklore

Appalachian language and folklore are woven into all her books. Today, many of the colloquialisms are unique to rural Kentucky and still commonly used today. How many are you familiar with? Which phrases do you use?

Frontier Phrases

"Light and tie."

Short for "Alight and tie." Janice used this frontier phrase as a greeting between friends in The Kentuckians series. Alight means to dismount from a horse. "Light and tie" is an invitation to hop off your horse, tie it up, and chat for a while.

"I'll lay you six-forty to a coon skin."

A bet. In the frontier era, coon skins were extremely valuable.  So what other commodity matches that is value? Two possible answers have emerged in our search:

1. A six shot, forty caliber firearm OR

2. Six hundred and forty acres of land.

"We spit on a stick and tossed it to decide."

Presumably a decision making action, similar to flipping a coin or drawing straws.  However, we aren't quite sure how the spit plays a role.  If you know, let us know!

The Language of Adair County

In rural Kentucky, especially Adair County, we use unique words and phrases to describe people, places, things, and relationships.  They are used freely and commonly today; most people have been raised using these colloquialisms, from the hills to the hollers.


"Y'all" - You all  

ex. Are y'all going to the concert tonight?

"Youngin" - A child or young person

ex. Tell those youngins to stay away from the creek.  That water is running high.

"Man" - An individual's boyfriend or husband

ex. Where's your man at, Linda?  I though he would be here.

"Woman" - An individual's girlfriend or wife

ex. Cindy is George's woman.  They've been together since high school.

"Boy" - An elder resident's son.  A grown adult could still be called someone's "boy".

ex. That's Bob and his wife.  You know, Mr. Smith's boy.  

Descriptions / Responses

"Untelling" - Uncertain about the length of time since an event.

ex. It's untelling how long it's been since I went to the fair.

"Enduring" - A thing that lasts.

ex. Grandma's china hutch is enduring.

"Clever" - A capable person.

ex. Jim's clever.  He can plow a field better than anybody.

"I reckon." - Agree to something or share a sentiment; indicate intentions to do something.

ex. I reckon I should finish mowing the lawn before it rains.


"Dry land creases" - A wild green similar to watercress, best picked when they are young and tender.  It is cooked in the same way as other greens: parboiled, then sauteed or fried in bacon fat. 

"Dry land fish" - A morel mushroom.  This variety has a slightly fishy taste.  They are harvested after a good rain.


"Talking to..." - Early stages of dating.

ex.I've been talking to Stephen.  We have a date Friday.

"Kin to..." - Related by blood or marriage.

ex. Sandra is kin to my Dad. They're second cousins.

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