Welcome back to part 4 of our look at the Appalachian Language. In part 1 of the series, we explored the history and unique origins of this living time capsule. In part 2 and part 3 we continued our exploration of some choice words and phrases of the region. So, without hesitation let’s dive back into the living language pool of the mountains.
A Spell (Duration)
When someone decided that they were going to visit kinfolk, they may have announced that they were going around the hill for a spell. A spell is a given unit of time, which had an exact duration based on the common-sense idea of whatever was going on at the time.
For example, a person visiting sick relatives for a spell would not be back for a few days. But when a man went fishing for a spell, you could expect him showing up around supper time. Spell was one of those words that fit the situation as needed when it came to a timeframe.
But that wasn’t the only kind of spell you could find in the mountains.
A Spell (Attack)
A spell could also be an attack or a condition that a person experiences. When an elderly person got dizzy from standing up too fast, they might say they just had a dizzy spell. And if you found someone face down on the floor – it could happen – a fainting spell may have been the culprit.
It is interesting that a person could be suffering from a dizzy spell for a spell, but you wouldn’t hear it said that way. Mountain folks tended to keep it simple, instead of confusing the issue. Instead, they were probably just sick for a spell.
If you were suffering a dizzy or fainting spell, it could leave you feeling skittish.
Have you ever felt nervous or at odds with your surroundings? If so, you were probably feeling skittish. Some skittish folks avoided crowds, preferring the comfort of their own company. Today we call that anti-social behavior, so many nerds are probably skittish by nature.
A person could become skittish without warning. Many a time a student suddenly became skittish when it was their turn to discuss homework they may not have done. And when it came to matters of the heart, many of us have had our skittish moments.
Of course, if someone was plainspoken, they rarely needed to be skittish.
If a person was plainspoken, they were usually considered honest or genuine. It’s easy to see how this phrase came about, especially if you have spent any time around someone that was not plainspoken.
When some people go to tell a story (that’s a lie, we covered it in part 2), they will go out of their way to construct an elaborate foray into the fantastic. They will create an entire world to explain the fabrication that they are selling, complete with colorful descriptive phrases. And sometimes it works, especially if you are busy being entertained instead of thinking about the lie they are telling.
By comparison, a plainspoken person will tell you the facts, and you can count on what they say. It is a point of honor for them to tell you the truth. Unfortunately, they are just not as much fun at a party, which is ironically one of the sadder truths about human nature.
That wraps up our look at the Appalachian language this time around. Join us next time as we cover more of the word fun found in the mountains. We’ll be away for only a short spell, so there’s no need to be skittish. And while we’ve been known to spin a story or two, perhaps even excessively, we try to be plainspoken when it comes to spending more time with our readers. See you soon!