Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: Biography – Staff/Personnel

TAGS: Appalachian speech, manner of speaking, English language, language phrasing,

CONTENTS – Margaret Motter Notebook

The parlance of the Kentucky mountain people, chiefly Elizabethan English and Scotch-Irish in origin, evidently interested and perhaps even delighted Margaret Motter. She recorded their unique manner of speaking in her notebook and often quoted their words and phrases in her promotional talks for the School. In her notes, Miss Motter arranged the quotes into the following categories:

Quaint, Attractive Expressions

Figures of Speech

Good Expressions

Humorous Expressions

Sixth Grade Letters


  • Made a bauble (bobble?) of hit.
  • Ef I providentially hindered I’ll be back day after tomorrow as early as I can git cheer.
  • Granny — “It was dusky dark, free-hearted (generous) Bonnie said of Antonio.”
  • Clever – Hospitable. She was sharp but clever.
  • Bessie — “Lor’ God Almighty, Miss Gaines [Ruth B. Gaines] , and why would a body be homesick when she cried for months to come?”
  • Corn all a-silky and a-tasselly.
  • Mrs. Duncan — “I’m awful proud to be here with Jane.”
  • Mrs. Creech — “I’m powerful proud to have five young’uns in school.”
  • Hazel — “My parents has labored hard that they might educate their children. I hope that I can repay them some day. I would like to be a semestra (seamstress). I do delight in sewing.”
  • Georgia Nolan and Evelyn Creech — “Me and Evelyn is right smart kin.”
  • Alice — “Ragly clothes (of peasants before French Revolution).”
  • Mrs. Til Harris — “Roxie’s ears back.”
  • Your horse hit looks awful ill.
  • That one back thar is the kickingest horse I ever seed.
  • Is it books? Is it book time?
  • Latch pin (safety pin) sprigs for tacks.
  • A body need never be so old as to gump down and never sing love songs.


  • Assimilation — repetition of same sound.
  • Onomatopoeia — a bird personifercation.
  • Along by yourself.
  • Rhythm — an old tale meter.
  • [?] — a shooting star.
  • A perfect woman never planned she could eat every day food and not be too graceful.
  • Man elexecuted (electrocuted) .
  • Moses was found by Jesus in the weeds of a pond.
  • Mr. Johnson’s rug — He said he was goin’ to send the example of what he wanted and hit was to be all green.
  • Judy _____ — Joe ______ — “Tell you how [?] of it was. Tom ___, he married Judy’s sister (died). Brother took chilluns to raise. Ellie she married Hasku _____. Ellie tole Judy she couldn’t live with Hasku (cusiour kind of man) [who] beat her. Ellie stayed t’other room house all night. Judy left lamp burnin’ when Joe went to work. Hasku waylaid the house, shot Joe when he came in. When Lucy ____ (there for night) heerd shot she rared up in bed and he shot her brains plumb out. Judy come running in and he shot. Saw wife and planned to meet her next a.m. Ellie put on overhalls (he taken all her other clothes) and she went to meet him. Had told sheriff where she’d meet. Little boy run to Enoch ______ said Dockery killin’ ’em all. Little boy had cotridge.”
  • She had one child — nicest boy. Measles kill him.
  • Lots a shooting. It a sight, Miss Motter! Hit’s the awfulest thing I ever seed. Did he refuse to get arrested? He jes’ jobbed up his pistol right against him. Wal, Day he’d git drunk and try to kill his pap. Take him out of whiskey he was a nice boy.
  • Little black headed chit of a boy.
  • John — “New teeth, new glasses, never shed his baby teeth.”
  • Mandy — “Right smart favors Oscar, Mandy does.”
  • I took notion we had black sheep, spinning black wool, kinder black and white mixed dyed. Hit made white blue and black blacker.
  • They went on to me terrible like.


  • He does not sull up and thinks he is ahead of everybody. He is just common and good.
  • Roscoe after exam in Gin’l [General] Science: “I bet you a quarter I aint got ary one of ’em right.”
  • Roman legion — light infentery sholders.
  • Fra Angelico — free and jello.
  • Believing he saw a way to convict the heathen, Columbus made four voyages.
  • M. Magdalene was a friend of Jesus; he stayed with her a lot.
  • The Pharisee and the republican went to the temple to pray. The Pharisee’s [prayer] was a whole lot o’ braggin’ — but the republican he didn’t think so much of hisself, he prayed kindly simple like.


  • Polly Anna — Asking about the junction: “Miss Reitz, is it junction or conjunction?”
  • Mr. Causey — How did the floods and destructions serve you whar you was at?
  • Water was mighty nigh knee-cap high to that mare thar.
  • Mighty nigh everybody has had the flus [flux] over whar I lives.
  • Bailey — “If you don’t mind me a sayin’ so I wouldn’t give a dime (pronounced ‘dam’) for hit.”
  • Morgan — “History is a grate help to us to tell us how the world youst to be and to let us know how the world change and lets us know what has happened many years ago. We would not know what the wourld youst to be like or nothin’ like that.”
  • Mr. Philemon (story of Miraculous Pitcher)  — “Hermes he was awful light-footed. He tuk the pitcher and found thir was milk in hit and he filled both thir bowels (bowls) with hit.”
  • Morgan telling story of Perseus: “This here king got him a chist and put Persau and his mother in hit and tho’t he’d git shet of them. But they was cotched in a fisherman’s net and he tuk them to this island whar Persau growed.”
  • Rankin — “I want that big book that starts out ‘A, B, C’ and goes plumb through (dictionary).”
  • Winfield — “That kind of book you look things up in, ‘cycopea.'”
  • Essay on Music — R. Pennington — “Some nashions has bright music and others has sad moumful music. Thir arn’t to kind of music alike like folk dancing. Rusica music is in French, Fenland music is in Norway, Sweden. Why they have sad music is because some people like hit and because we have the American folk dancing is cause people like it and the people likes to dance it.”
  • A verb is a word that denotes action or strange feeling (state of being). A word that exerts (asserts) action. We have reguliar and irreguliar verbs. I have red the story of Theseus who was grate man.
  • Merchant of Venice: The play has explained how clost and crule he was (Shylock).
  • The qualaty of mercy is not strange. It is twist blessed, hit is blessed. He that gives it becomes the thrown monarch.
  • Jessica were ashame because she were blood kin to her father. Wipon barin men had a thirsting place. (Lays of Rome)
  • Marius was son of a phasant (George in Roman history).
  • Christmas Carol — The gohests visited him 3 times before he would believe that thar was any sich thing as Christmas.
  • (Morgan) Brit — “Leonidas was the man like a line that bilt the pass at Thermoply and was a Spartain King.”
  • In Athenian history:
  • Choice by lot — Means everyone drad lots for office and every one had a chanct, even those that was uncullified had a chanct. (Carl)
  • Alexander rode his father’s horse which no one had rode. He learned that the horse was afred at his shadow.
  • “The morage (marriage) betwix the orint and the occident.” (Winfield)
  • A nomous liburaby at an island near Alexandry.
  • They were tard of kings in Roam.
  • The Romans worshipped their ansessors.
  • “Portia shows her love by how that she wants to know what is the mater with Brutus.” (Brit)
  • A cropious at Athens [was] the cort house of where they tryed murder cases.
  • Higher glifect [hieroglyphic] writing.
  • Pericles is give credit for butifying Athens.
  • Sappho — Poetiest woman (woman poet).
  • Pindar wrote 44 odds.
  • Gold was valuest thing therefore they called the age golden.
  • They had just coming (common) houses nothing fancy.
  • “Pericles stayed at home only when he went to the Assembly.” — Hazel
  • Socrates talked about the immoritality of the sole.
  • Winfield — “I got the pullin’ bone (wishbone in chicken).”
  • “That’s the sorriest bunch of young-uns I ever saw.” — Brit.
  • A letter from a father about a tonsil operation for his daughter: “The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord. Geneva can’t have her tonsils taken out.”
  • Bill — Letter to his father:

My Dear Father,
I have committed a great crime. I stole some envelopes in the office. I am very sorrow I done this and I will never do such a thing again. (My punnishment is to write and tell you this and to earn money to pay for the envelopes.) I promise you never to do this again. But you know Satin will attempt a boy now and then in life.
Your son — Bill

  • Mr. J. — Asking Miss Taylor for calomel: “What do you want with it?” she asked. “Oh, for worms and the like of that,” he replied.
  • Mrs. Burns talking of Dr. Withington — “I think we should go down to see her often for life will get so anotomous for her.”

Mrs. Burns [Martha Burns], “I want you to take a picture of the cows all in a huddle.”

Mrs. Burns [Martha Burns],”Bad boy fraid he’ll immortalize (demoralize) the rest.”

Mrs. Burns [Martha Burns], made speech — “Someone insinuated (insisted) upon it.”

Mrs. Burns [Martha Burns] — Boys “impudented” to her.

  • Recipe — Mix and sift all the dry immigrants (ingredients).
  • Poetry is a joy of life from which we get beautiful sceneries and wonderful thoughts.


Dear Miss M.
In regrets of having the assembly being discontinued. I think all the students injoy having assembly very much. By thoughtfulness and carelessness being disorderly. The music and art, also when have ballads, I enjoy them very much. I am sorry that we have been so disordly that the assembly has been disconitunued. We enjoy the plays Miss Semones’ children have been giving us. I also enjoy the art Miss W. has been speaking about. Miss Esther music she has been speaking in assembly. I have enjoyed assembly ever since I have been here.
Sincerely yours, (H. Napier)

  • Ha’s remark: “I wrote mine 3 times and then I written a poor one!”
  • Millie: “I am sorry to my heart about the way we acted.”

  • Lizzie —

Ain’t had naryun by this un (father, no child by 2nd wife).

Hit’s the peacefulest place I ever seed.

Speaking of her father’s drinking — I ain’t never seed him plumb gone but onct or twict but I’ve seed him pretty fur down.

Hain’t had but 2 licks (whippings).

Two whippings — Uncle Willie — Once just settin’ by far (fire) not washing dishes. Other time tuk notion when rained to stay somewhare and didn’t go home.

After gathering flowers arranging in bouquet, “Lord, aint them purty!”

Every feller rootin’ for hisself.

A fellow that obeys the laws ain’t got nothin’ to be afeard of but this feller that breaks the laws has to be dodging.

See also: H.D. Norman, “The English of the Mountaineer,” Atlantic Monthly, 1910, in the