Saturday, April 30, 2016

Mountain Talk

Lessons on talking like the natives

It's a true fact. I know you are not from these parts by the way you say the name of the school where I graduated all those years ago. Appalachian State University. Appa-lay-chian? No, It's Appa-lat-chian.

We just don't talk southern around here, drawling out the words, turning one syllables into two. We also talk mountain, using ancient words passed along by the ancestors who first pioneered these hills and kept their language pure by isolation and little interaction with others. And when the two intersect, it makes for wonderful catches for a storycatcher like me.

Like in my earlier post on sarvis trees, so named because they bloom at the same time in the year as the ground thaws enough to have the burial service for those who died over the winter.

Which brings me to a story I heard at the local county retired teachers' meeting last week. One man who spoke is now working with student teachers at that very same aforementioned university. Appa-lat-chian. Social studies teachers, to be more specific. The student teachers met earlier this month to catch up with each other and share their experiences out in the field.

One important detail, although this is a state university, many of the students are from "up north," which makes student teaching in the backwoods of the mountains even more challenging. Imagine your first job teaching ever is a lesson on vowel sounds (pat, pet, pit) for a kindergarten child who has never pronounced those words differently, and what's more, can't hear the difference when someone with a strange accent pronounces them.

Or imagine, like in this situation, the student teacher grabbing the attention of a cynical group of boys one generation removed from bib overalls, engaging the class in a discussion of the first battle of the civil war when the women and families followed the troops dressed in their finest, dragging their parasols and picnic baskets.

After what she thought was a most excellent lesson, one boy in the back raised his hand. No wait, I'd bet he didn't raise his hand, just blurted out. "You're a-lying."

The student teacher froze, innocence about to be challenged. "It did happen that way. The citizens thought the war was more like a pageant to watch, to wear their best dresses and bring their parasols for an afternoon in the outdoors."

"You're a-lying," he repeated.

She shook her head. "How so?"

"Because powersaws weren't even invented back then!"

Catch of the day,


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