Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Appalachian Word of the Week -- NANNER

It seems, from a couple of comments I've received lately, that some of my dear readers are not reading the stories before commenting. Please make sure you're not one of them. Also, if you are insulted by our wonderful Appalachian heritage -- including our history and dialect -- then don't bother reading. Just allow those of us who love being from Appalachia to share the love and respect for our people. We're about love, not hate. No feuds allowed here.

Is the word NANNER spoken in your house? Do you know what it is?

Although we usually used the word banana instead, NANNER did sometimes slip out when my mom and dad talked about them. My grandmother used it often. My brother, Larry, used it all the time. Of course, he often used certain words and terms just to be different. I think it was his attempt at being humorous -- like the time he answered the phone and said, "President speakin'." It happened to be a call for me from the leader of the American Legion. His face drained of color and he started stuttering. I may tell you another time why the American Legion was calling a high school girl.

NANNERS were a staple in our house.

I often took a peanut butter and NANNER sandwich to school for lunch. I loved the fragrance of warmed NANNER, peanut butter, and Bunny bread as it cooked inside the classroom (We had no air conditioning in those days). Ahhh. I can smell it now.

NANNER split
Of course, NANNERS weren't only for sandwiches -- or sammiches as most of us called them. A special warm-weather treat was a NANNER split. The best of everything sweet. I loved the ice cream, chocolate syrup, butterscotch syrup, coconut, and peanuts sprinkled over the whipped cream. I mustn't forget the cherries on top. The healthiest thing in it was the NANNER itself.

My brother enjoyed slicing a NANNER for his bowl of cereal each morning. His huge bowl of cereal. I think he ate three boxes of corn flakes a week.

I prefer my NANNERS dark yellow, but without dark spots. I like them firm and sweet. If they're too green, they make you pucker and if they're too ripe, they are mushy and remind me of squash. Like Goldilocks, I like my NANNER just right.


Just right NANNER

Too ripe NANNER

Way too ripe NANNER (squash NANNER)
It does seem a bit strange that a tropical fruit was so popular in the mountains of Kentucky. They had to travel a long way to get to us. The trip was worth it if you ask me.

Did you call them NANNERS in your house? If not, what did you call them? And what is the best way you liked to eat them -- then and now? Also, what degree of ripeness do you prefer? Green, yellow, spotted, or nearly black?

I love to hear your stories.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Appalachian Memory of the Week -- Arthur Johnson

Arthur Johnson amazed me when I was a child in Harlan County.

He tuned the pianos at Loyall High School, sang and played guitar, and worked as a cashier at the Harlan Appalachian Regional Hospital Gift Shop.

Normally, most people would not consider these gifts/skills worthy of amazement. However, you might change your mind if you considered Arthur Johnson was blind.

Arthur Johnson tuned our pianos
I don't know a lot about Mr. Johnson, but I know from experience how he tuned the piano in the Choir Room one day during my class. I watched carefully as he moved deftly inside the piano with his tools and adjusted each string, then tested the correct key on the keyboard. How did he know which string was attached to the correct key?

I don't recall him using any device to determine the correct pitch, so I imagine he also had perfect pitch. I'm guessing though and don't know for sure.

As much as his piano tuning impressed me, his job as cashier flabbergasted me.

I spent hours over my early years waiting in the lounge for one of my parents to visit someone upstairs in the patient area. Kids weren't allowed on the floors in those days. So, I sat downstairs and watched Mr. Johnson as customers came up to him and made their purchases.

At least he didn't see me sitting there staring at him for hours.

I never understood how he knew from touch what a person had chosen. Or how much it cost.

Making change
Then came the monetary part of the transaction. He knew what denomination each bill was -- just by touching it. Then he made change.

Dad said he never made a mistake. I don't know about that for sure. I do wonder, though, how many naughty boys tried to fool him. I'm sure there are some stories there.

Arthur Johnson's ability to live above his blindness motivated me to not give up just because I don't have all my faculties or the resources to easily become successful. We all need to resolve to overcome roadblocks to fulfilling life's successes. Or our dreams.

If you grew up in Harlan County, did you know Arthur Johnson? Do you have any stories about him? I'd love to hear your memories.

*The photo of Arthur Johnson (above) first appeared on a historical site. I have no idea where it originated. If you know, please tell me in the comments. I'd like to give credit to the photographer.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Appalachian Word of the Week -- APPALACHIA

For anyone from the southern region of APPALACHIA (Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina), a major bone of contention is the pronunciation of the word APPALACHIA.

When someone pronounces it, you know immediately whether they are from APPALACHIA -- or somewhere else.

Even though I grew up in the heart of southern APPALACHIA, I rarely heard the word APPALACHIA to describe where I lived until my teen years. We referred to our area in southeastern Kentucky as THE CUMBERLANDS. When I left the area, APPALACHIA and APPALACHIAN were usually paired with words like poverty, hillbillies, illiterate, and ignorant. The people who used those terms generally mispronounced APPALACHIA.

As APPALACHIAN author Sharyn McCrumb stated, your pronunciation of APPALACHIA makes it obvious to anyone from the area whether you are an outsider and whether you can be trusted or not. The pronunciation announces whether you are one of us or one of them (government types who want to control us and take our limited resources or the snobby academic types who consider us inferior merely because we are not like them).

That's why a lot of APPALACHIANS get a bit testy or ticked off when someone mispronounces APPALACHIA.

So what is the proper way to pronounce APPALACHIA?

Imagine I pick up an apple and I throw it at you if you say it wrong.

I will throw an APPLE-AT-CHUH.

There is no "sh" sound.

So there you have it. No excuses for mispronouncing it again. It doesn't matter where you live, your education level, or your vocation. Respect our right to determine the correct pronunciation of our homeland.

Best not even attempt to argue the point with us.

If you are from APPALACHIA, does it irritate you when someone pronounces it incorrectly?

Do YOU pronounce it incorrectly?

Remember, if you desire to be considered a friend, not a foe, pronounce it APPLE-AT-CHUH.

There's only one way to pronounce it correctly.

Do you agree with the pronunciation? If not, where did you grow up?

Comment below and let us know your story.

By the way, how do you pronounce Houston in Texas? How about when you visit Houston Street in New York City?

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Appalachian Word of the Week -- MASH

There are several definitions of the word MASH. However, today, I'm going to talk about one use of the word I remember from my childhood.

Of course, we've all heard about the kind of MASH when we're cooking -- like MASH taters. Some people even mash turnips. Pretty disgusting when you serve someone mashed turnips without telling them they are turnips and not taters, though. I remember the first time I bit into a big bite of mashed turnips. I thought the potatoes had either gone bad or they'd been poisoned.

Many of us are also familiar with corn MASH -- used in the making of white lightning or moonshine. Needless to say, I have no first-hand knowledge of that process.

The kind of MASH I'm referring to is when you take your finger and MASH something.

Way back when our light switches didn't have a flip switch to turn the lights on and off. They had two buttons. And we would take our finger and MASH one button to turn the light on or MASH the other button to turn the light off.

MASH the button

Basically, any time we used our finger to activate something with a button we would MASH the button. Some examples are ringing the doorbell (if you were citified enough to have one), selecting a pop in the Coke machine, or choosing a snack in the vending machine.

For push-button phones, we MASHed the buttons to make a call. When computers came onto the scene, we mashed a button to turn it on or off. TVs also had a button to MASH to turn it on or off. Today, we can do that from our easy chair by way of a remote or cell phone. At least our finger can still get some exercise.

MASH the buttons on the phone

There are so many things to MASH today. But, the term MASH is not heard as often. I guess we have so many options in technology that we've re-learned the lingo. We push, tap, click, or press nearly every gadget we possess.

I suppose we can still MASH a bug, though.

Did you or your family use the word MASH? What word do you use today?

I'd love to hear your stories.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Appalachian Word of the Week -- MADDER THAN A WET HEN

Have you ever met a wet hen?

How about a hen that's wet because you just dunked into a bucket of cold water?

If you have, then you know exactly how mad a wet hen can be.

For those of you who have never experienced a wet hen, you may be wondering why in the world someone would torture a hen by dunking her into cold water. Obviously, she doesn't like it.

There is a reason. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work the way intended.

Brooding hen
Sometimes a hen gets it set in her mind that she needs to sit on her eggs until they hatch. That's called brooding and she is considered broody. Whether it's hormones or some automatic response that kicks in to the bird's tiny brain, it is a problem.

It may be a problem because there's no rooster and the eggs are not fertile -- making her effort to hatch the eggs futile.

Another problem is that she gets really testy when she's broody. Even with the hens who would normally lay eggs in the coop with her. Breakfast can get a bit lean when the hens don't lay their quota.

When the chicken keeper realizes the hen won't come out of the broodiness on her own, a dunking in cold water may be in order to shock her out of her broodiness. Some say it is to cool off the skin where she was sitting on the eggs and reverse the compulsion to keep the eggs warm.

Sometimes this works. Sometimes it doesn't.

Either way, it definitely produces the MADDER THAN A WET HEN response.

The hen will probably go nuts squawking, kicking, pecking, and destroying the nearest human being around.

Have you heard the term "flogging?" Well, a wet hen can be like flogging on steroids.

My mom had a hen that became broody. She was determined to break her from her broodiness and make life in the backyard pleasant again. Mom dragged a washtub into the yard and filled it up with water. Creeping up to the nesting site, my petite mother grabbed the hen between her hands and carried her to the tub of water.

As soon as the hen's feet hit that water, she went into MAD HEN mode. Mom held on tight and was nearly as wet as the hen as she was dragged behind the chicken. I thought they might both take flight. Finally, the hen wrestled herself out of Mom's grasp and started flogging her. I've never heard a chicken make so much racket. The rest of the chickens scattered and left Mom to fend for herself.

Okay, so I left her to fend for herself, too. I hid inside the house behind a screen door. Mom finally made it to the house and got inside the door, doing a bit of kicking and flogging herself to keep the hen outside.

Watch out for wet hens that remember you
Thankfully, I've never seen anyone MADDER THAN THAT WET HEN. But I've seen a few rivals. Mad humans tend to make a crowd scatter for safety, too.

For your information -- that hen never forgot what Mom did to her that day. They may have a brain the size of a pea, but that pea remembers. Every time Mom stepped into the backyard, here she came, squawking and flogging.

Mom had the last laugh, though. The hen made a mighty fine Sunday dinner.

Have you ever known anyone who was MADDER THAN A WET HEN? Have you been MADDER THAN A WET HEN yourself? I'd love to hear your stories.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Appalachian Word of the Week -- ACTIN' UGLY

How many times have you been accused of ACTIN' UGLY? Hopefully, you were only guilty of ACTIN' UGLY when you were a kid -- not last week.

For those of you who have no clue what I'm talking about, mothers, especially, pointed out those occasions of ACTIN' UGLY. Sometimes they employed a pinch or a smack. You were really in trouble, though, if you were ordered to fetch a switch from the bush outside.

ACTIN' UGLY usually involves behavior similar to a spoiled brat. Whining, crying, screwing up your face, hitting someone close-by, throwing things, stomping your feet, refusing to follow commands from those in authority, and making a lot of noise.

A lot of the time, such behavior is influenced by hunger, being over-tired, or being fed up with someone else's behavior. Of course, ACTIN' UGLY can be a direct effect of being spoiled rotten. A boy who's ACTIN' UGLY was often called a "rotter."ACTIN' UGLY is the normal behavior of someone with a mean streak in them. We've all known a few of those for whom ACTIN' UGLY is a way of life. For others, it visits us rarely and is regretted when the instigating factor is resolved. Or we experience the stings from the tip of a switch.

Actin' ugly or a rotter?
In this age, switches are rarely used, so ACTIN' UGLY is becoming a way of life for way too many people -- youth and adults. One of the worst offenses is bullying. The unfortunate victims of UGLY behavior suffer severely. Some develop a lack of self-confidence or self-worth, and some bear resentment or even hatred toward anyone who ACTS UGLY to them.

ACTIN' UGLY today can be quieter than in our youth. One of the main methods is through social media. I have even experienced people ACTIN' UGLY with their comments about my beloved Appalachian heritage on these blog posts.

People also use social media to blast their hatred to anyone who thinks differently than they do. Religion, sports, politics, the value of kale on the planet. They also use social media to belittle and intimidate those who are different from them.

We must realize, however, that the most common way people are ACTIN' UGLY is their silence as they hold a cell phone up between us as a wall to prevent person-to-person communication. I see it often when I eat out. Several people sit at a table staring at their cell phones instead of getting to know each other and enjoy talking and laughing. It's an insult. We should care more about our friends and family than a screen on a phone.

Texting to some else instead of talking to each other

The most dangerous way to ACT UGLY is texting while you drive. Here in Georgia, it is now illegal to have your phone in your hand while driving. It hasn't stopped the people from still ACTIN' UGLY and take everyone's lives at risk just so they can text when they should be watching where they're going. A new law hasn't stopped the texting and driving at all. I continue to see it as I drive around town.

Certainly increases my prayer life.

So, have you been ACTIN' UGLY? Or have you been the victim of someone ACTIN' UGLY?

I'm interested in hearing your stories. Just don't name names.

And make sure you don't ACT UGLY with me because I stepped on your UGLY toes!

Be kind to your friends and family. And potential friends. Don't be ACTIN' UGLY. Go take a nap. Or share a bowl of ice cream. Relationships are important.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Appalachian Word of the Week -- YONDER

People are always asking how far YONDER is.

Unfortunately, YONDER is one of those terms that's a might hard to specify. The meaning varies according to how you use it.

If you're sitting on the couch and you want to change channels on the TV, but you don't have a remote, YONDER might only be few feet from you.

He lives over YONDER.
If you're standing on the mountaintop, looking out at the smoky blue mountains in the background, and you know your cousin Jim Bob lives on the third mountain over, then Jim Bob lives over YONDER.

If you sit at your desk to get some work done and realize you forgot to bring your cup of coffee from the kitchen, YONDER is way in the kitchen and you hope there's somebody else in the house to run and fetch it for you.

YONDER, whether it's a long distance or a short one, means the distance between you and the object you desire is further than you want it to be. It also intimates that anything past your fingers is too far over YONDER and somebody besides you needs to hop up and retrieve it for you.

Go over YONDER and change the channel.
YONDER can also signify when something is too far away for you to even consider going to it or retrieving it. For some lazy bums, that can be two inches past their noses.

I'm sure we all have heard the old hymn, "When the Roll is Called Up YONDER." Heaven is about the furthest distance we can imagine. Even further than the stars and planets that we can't see without a high-powered telescope.

Right now I'd like to grab my sweater because the air conditioning is blowing on me and making chill bumps pop out on my arms--but it's over YONDER on my Lazy Boy and I'd have to stop typing, get up, and walk over YONDER to get it. I might decide to shiver instead of going after my sweater.

Go over YONDER and get my phone.
I seem to think YONDER refers to the things we don't want to bother to get ourselves. I remember many a time when my mom directed me to go over YONDER or in YONDER and get something for her.

So, how far is YONDER? YONDER is any distance you can't reach by stretching out your hand to touch it.

What's your definition of YONDER?

I'd love to hear what you have to say.