THE CONVENIENT and pithy term for the mountain people of Kentucky, "our contemporary ancestors," does not indicate the origin of the customs, beliefs, and peculiarities which persist among them. For they too had ancestors. These were, for the most part, British, and of the soil. Just as today many a mountaineer has never been ten miles from his birthplace, so also his forebears remained at home. They were sturdy men and women, steeped in traditional ways, independent and as little humble as possible. The mountaineer is that way too. He cares neither for ease nor for soft living. He is hospitable. "Welcome, stranger, light and hitch," is the salutation, and the stranger is bidden to take "d -- n near, all" of whatever the table offers. A hunter by race, he is first of all a poacher, in arms against such as would deny him the right to take game where he may find it, a trait dating back to the time of Robin Hood in England. His speech is reminiscent of this older land and people. Labeled as "a survival," the mountaineer in reality is on the defensive, protecting himself against later comers and strange ideas. "I wouldn't choose to crave this newfangled teachin' and preachin'," he says. "All I ask is to be let alone. I was doin' middlin' well. The hull kit and bilin' can go to the devil."
Mountain dialect reflects the Anglo-Saxon origin of the mountain people; obsolete forms found in Shakespeare and the King James version of the Bible are in common use. "Clumb," "writ," and "et" for climbed, wrote, and ate are sound enough if you go back a few centuries. "Buss" for kiss, "pack" for carry, and "poke" for pocketbag and the like are pure Elizabethan.
Shakespeare said "a-feared," as does the mountaineer today, and "beholden" is common to both. "His schoolin' holp him mighty," says the proud mountain father; King Richard of England said, "Let him thank me that holp to send him thither.""Hit's right pied," shouts the mountain boy when the snake he has stoned puffs up and mottles.
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: Kentucky:A Guide to the Bluegrass State. Contributors: Federal Writers' Project - OrganizationName. Publisher: Harcourt, Brace. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1939. Page number: 89.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.