Welcome back to part 5 of our look at the Appalachian Language. We kicked off the series with an exploration of the amazing history of the words and phrases found in Appalachia. Without wasting any more time let’s look at some more linguistic mountain treasures guaranteed to entertain and inform.
The phrase “a mite” just means “a little.” For example, you may know somebody a mite too pleased with themselves after finishing a tough job. Or if you were feeling a little let down, you could be a mite sad.
But many an enterprising young man that had been out all night sangin’ (covered in part 3) probably looked a mite peak’ed the next day.
If you are sick or pale, you were probably peak’ed. Now, you pronounce this word in two very distinct syllables, as in “Peak Ed” instead of its root word piqued. If someone thought you were sick, they probably said you looked peak’ed.
But do you know what could really make you look peak’ed, especially if you had misbehaved? The threat of getting your hind end tanned.
Hind End Tanned
Getting your hind end tanned is just another way of saying “getting a spanking.” Hind end is just another name for your butt. With that said, it’s easy to see how getting a spanking involved your hind end changing color a shade or two.
Many times, just the threat of a spanking did the job. But if you saw someone with a switch, you knew to behave before things got too real.
A switch was the tool mountain parents used to deliver corporal punishment to misbehaving offspring. They made a switch by cutting a branch of a birch or hickory tree and stripping off any smaller branches or leaves. Once finished, this left a durable yet flexible medieval torture device that was feared by many a misbehaving young’un.
A good switch could bend and return to its original shape with a snap. This action delivered a stinging blow that got the point across. A mountain parent of several children could yield a switch like Obi Wan Kenobi did a lightsaber. It even made a similar sound as it sliced through the air. I know this only from casual observation, of course. But I did have a few cousins that were worldlier than myself when it came to the finer details about switches.
But a word of caution, getting a hand in front of a swinging switch could cause it to stove up.
When you have a hand or a finger to stove up on you, it was sore and stiff, often to the point of not being usable. The phrase comes from the word “stave,” which is to smash into a boat, causing significant damage. Stove is the past tense of stave, and the phrase certainly describes something that feels damaged or incapacitated.
One time I hurt my finger and my grandmother told me that it would stove up. At the time I didn’t know what the word meant, but I found out the next day. I still remember the pain of trying to move it, despite having experienced many other worse injuries since that day. It’s always your first ones that you remember.
Once again, we have come to the end of another installment in our series about the Appalachian language. We look forward to your visit next time, where we will discuss more unique and colorful phrases found in the mountains. In the meanwhile, feel free to comment below if you are a mite curious about a particular phrase or two.