How to Speak Hick, Part One

30 thoughts on “How to Speak Hick, Part One”

  1. While your cousin apparently sets quite a store by pronouncing words “the way they do in Dayton, ‘BFD’ Ohio”, I don’t believe it’s anything I’d list on a resume, myself.

  2. Your stories are captivating! I was born in Ohio but have lived almost all my life in Georgia. We moved here when I was 7. My mother was from England and always said the hill of North Ga.reminded her of home. She spoke “proper” English as she called it but loved the accent I developed. I love the way I sound and the accents of the south. I live in Cartersville Ga. And have raised 5 babies here and they all have that beautiful southern sound. I find it comforting, gentle. I wouldn’t want to speak any other way. Ya’ll, ain’t, fixin to, done did it…yes ma’am that’s home!

  3. My family is from southwest Virginia- (not to be confused with West Virginia). Our ancestors have been in Virginia since around 1640. They started on the east coast and moved west. Virginia, it is often said, “ends at Roanoke”. Not sure where we belong but Virginia never forgets to collect our taxes. Anyway, I still think of myself as Virginian and am proud of that. I’ve been told that I “have a terrible accent” by Self appointed judges of “proper speech”. My daughter was recently in Ireland. She laughed as she told me about a lady overhearing her talk. The woman came up to my daughter and said that she loved her “accent ” and that , indeed , it sounded “so European”. What she meant by that , we don’t know. Pretty funny and nice,too.

  4. I love your writing and can’t wait for your book! This essay reminds me of a snippet from one of Zig Ziglar’s motivational talks. He was pointing out how people adapt to change. As an example he talked about how when people from the south move up north they eventually start talking like northerners and when people from the north move south eventually they begin talking “nawmully” (pronounced in his best Texan accent) ! : )

  5. This story makes me happy. I come from a long line of backwoods folk. But my momma and daddy, wanting to be “a little more” tried their best to make sure I didn’t become one. Thank God for my Grandparents and weekend visits to the country side. While the suburb kids were leaning proper English (whatever that is) I was admiring my ancestors and turning out just like them. As soon as I could I moved to the backwoods on the land that was meant to be parents. The land they scorned and shunned because of the hill folk bloodline. I always spoke like these folks. And paid for it around those fancy city people. It wasn’t on purpose. It was just who I was. I always embraced the nature of my grandparents and believe me the suburbs tried to ring out of me. To this day I speak the way my grandmother spoke. To the great dismay of my parents and my super snooty brother. Sometimes it skips a generation or two. And sometimes it’s pops back up in the bloodline

  6. When I was a new recruit in the Air Force one one my “buddies” said “Dan just because you are from the South does’t mean you have to talk like you have a mouth full of sh*it”

  7. I’m from Alabama and live part time in Albuquerque, NM. So far, no one has been rude and most love my accent. The place I encountered a major putdown was in my very own state, And it was someone from Mississippi.!!! I returned to college in my late 30’s and had to take a required speach class. The teacher asked me if I could tell where he was from. I could not, but I told him he had a “military accent” which he argued agaeech. He told me if I did not lose my accent, I would never go anywhere in this world (in the intellectual world). He announced to the class that he NEVER gave an A. There were several other encounters and counters back between us during the semester. In the end, he gave one of grades he never gives……I got an A

  8. I really appreciated reading this. I was brought up in a town of 500, in Alaska. My Mother taught us how to speak good English, no aints or gots allowed. No ats behind where have you been or tos after where are you going. She is 1/2 Athabascan Indian and never learned her native language because she was not allowed to speak it outside her home. So her Mother never taught it to her or her sisters.
    What I loved as a kid and still do, is to sit and hear the Indians Elders from Villages speak in what was called broken English, like Luf ( love) you Scoogah (little one)…and the like. This is my heritage and just Luf to be with those people or MY people whenever I return for the summers.

    They make me feel so happy and loved.

    1. Good English is overrated. 🙂 There’s much to be said for conversational talk and all the little nuances of each dialect. Fascinating stuff. Thanks for the sweet message. It’s inspiring.

  9. This is a cute essay, but: “Such thinly veiled prejudice would not be tolerated by another creed or culture of people”–as an immigrant, I can assure you that many other cultures put up with casual remarks like those, and worse. And as much as people mock “hick speak,” here north of the Mason Dixon line, the way they mock the speech patterns of “ghetto” people is equal or worse.

  10. I can so relate to this. My Daddy was from S. KY and my Momma was from South Carolina. Daddy was career Army, so my accent is truly a mish mash, but mostly southern. I was teased in Nebraska for saying ma’am or sir to teachers; the kids there were so ignorant… they thought only black folks used those terms! I had to teach them what good manners are. I’ve lived in Alabama for the last 19 years, so my southerness is stronger now,,,thankfully. Those who know so little about our speech and ways…..well, just bless their little hearts!

  11. I can remember a cousin coming from MI to TN to visit her country bumpkin relations. She looked a fool pokin’ fun at my sister and me. Her y’all sounded like nails on the chalkboard to my hick ears. She left thinking we were inferior to her Yankee self. As it turns out – she is a drug addict in jail for grand larceny. I own a farm on the Highland Rim but it’s not the Appalachian farm coursing through my veins. Not yet. Maybe not ever. They keep calling to me. The mountains. Will I be able to answer – ‘I’m coming.’ Will they take me back? After the generations of snobbery? Or do they no longer want me…a girl who hears the mountains calling from the very depths of her soul, but her parents snubbed them. Are they forever insulted? I wish my grammaw were alive still. She’d have my answer.

  12. Can totally relate to every magical word – – EXCEPT I think you meant to say Daniel Boone instead of Davy Crockett!!! I love love love your writing!!! Can’t get enough. You have a way of pulling the reader right into the scene about which you’re writing. Keep up the marvelous work!!!!!!! (and I really AM a descendant of Daniel Boone)

  13. Your cousin is jelly. I’ll speak like my Momma taught me, till I leave this earth. I’ll NOT compromise it, in any form or fashion, for anyone, anywhere. I have used this a couple of times. When living here in Western NC, I’ve been given the supreme opportunity to hear these words out of a “Yankee accented” mouth, here on MY home turf. “I like your accent” (spoken to me). To which I respond, “Listen. I ain’t the one with the accent here.” Gets them every time.

  14. Love your tales! I’m from East Tn. and I understand completely. I am thankful that I was born at the foothills of the Smokey Mountains. I wouldn’t change a thing!!

  15. As a born and bred “Appalachian American” (read “hillbilly”) with a fairly strong regional accent, it always amuses me when someone discounts my intelligence because of my accent. I have a Master’s Degree from Virginia Tech and taught school for thirty-three years. I think that the fact that over the years movies and television have made fun of the accent and portrayed our folks as ignorant and backward leads to this interpretation of the accent today. Our speech patterns are actually Elizabethan speech and many of the words that are heard here hail from the time of the court of Elizabeth I. When you hear “arn” for “iron” or “put the tar (tire) on the car”, these are words that were used at that time. When the English settlers eventually settled in the Appalachian Mountains, the speech patterns stuck until folks were exposed to other ways of speaking through radio and television.
    Our daughter, also born and raised in the area, works in New York City for a multi-national corporation. They love our accent in London. She has had many requests from the company’s foreign offices to record their answering machine’s messages for them.
    So the prejudice toward our way of speaking seems to be fostered by the entertainment industry and those who choose to believe that others without their speech patterns are ignorant

  16. Thank you for this. I live in the Appalachians in PA and my dad’s family would slip into “Hick Speak.” (Drove my mother nuts! hee hee.) As all but 1 is gone, I could hear their voices again, thank you for the memories. Through your articles I now know where some of our “craziness” and customs come from! and you know what? I wouldn’t change it for the world!

  17. Grew up in rural Georgia in a small community of a small town. I have a true Southern accent which I have never tried to change although I have lived in Florida, South Carolina, New Jersey, Wyoming, and Arizona. Spent many years in Southeast Asia to include Viet Nam, Okinawa, IE Shima (Japan) and some time in Alaska. Have travelled almost all the states and the one question I get asked most often is “Where you from”. Grew up poor and now live a comfortable life without having to ever be ashamed that I was from Cartersville, Georgia. Yall come now, you hear.

  18. Great story – I am an educated person and deem myself somewhat intelligent. However, in any position I have ever held in a company I have been made fun of because of my “accent”. I take great pride from being from the South (KY) where I “learnt” manners, always respected my momma and daddy, had wonderful summers catching lighten’ bugs in a mason jar, running through cornfields playing hide n seek with my girlfriends, and the list goes on…… My so called accent is just as much part of me as my big blonde hair and the hugs I will welcome you with on a Sunday church morning!

  19. I just got around to reading this today. Loved it! I have several cousins in New York and over the years we would go up to visit and sometimes they came here to West Virginia. Our family’s always had fun teasing each other about our accents and trying to imitate them. Neither family ever came close to getting it right. 😉

  20. I wish I’d had such gumption about my way of talking. Growing up in southeastern Kentucky, it never occurred to me that I spoke any different from others–until my family moved to northern New Jersey when I was 12. As the oldest child, it was my responsibility to take my brothers to school that first day. When I saw someone who appeared to be a teacher, I asked where I could find the principal’s office. Her first response was to comment to another teacher about how “cute” my accent was. Sadly, that was the moment I became aware of how I was different and determined to learn how to talk “right” as quickly as possible. And I so wish I had not.
    Oh, I still understand hick (I prefer hillbilly) speak, and I easily regain some of it whenever I visit my family, but it’s no longer natural for me. Too many years had passed before I learned that it was a source of pride, not embarrassment. Thank you for defending it so well.

    1. Your situation mimics mine… Only I went from Martin Co to rural Nevada and it took me 2 school years to teach myself to talk ‘right’. Fighting my whole way through and I love getting relaxed enough to be hick/hillbilly.

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