'I Come to Borry Coals': ETSU Grad Combines Family Folklore with Regional Research for Mountain Dialect Presentation ; ETSU Grad Combines Folklore with Research for Dialect Presentation

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'I Come to Borry Coals': ETSU Grad Combines Family Folklore with Regional Research for Mountain Dialect Presentation ; ETSU Grad Combines Folklore with Research for Dialect Presentation


"I'd be hard-pressed to find a more frightful job than bark crew. You'uz always havin' to be kirful 'bout happenin' on a copperhead. Never was a more cagey creature. We'd cobbled up a little shed to stack bark in, 'n' that's where them snakes love to hide out. Pa got bit onct 'n' some of them reporters come to talk to 'im cause he 'uz a mountain preacher, 'n' they figured him for a snake handler I 'uz tard o' havin' to watch out fer them snakes. -- Tyler King, from his presentation "I Come to Borry Coals"

Even going to high school in the trough of the Great Smoky Mountains, Tyler King noticed differences in the way he and other children of Appalachia were regarded by kids who hailed from outside the region. "There would be other students that moved here that, you could tell, perceived you as a hillbilly," King says of his days at Pigeon Forge High School. "And it had to do with your 'accent.'

"It's something other than 'standard' English, and people think anything other than that is incorrect. And it fosters in their minds an idea that anybody who speaks like that is ignorant, a hick."

A stocky, amiable red-headed fellow of 23, King became passionate about the subject and made it a point of personal exploration as he moved from PFHS into the Parks and Recreation program at East Tennessee State University. He even worked it into his program of study -- he's considering a career path that would allow him to incorporate his cultural interests in the setting of a park like the Smokies. And while he's quick to say he's not a linguistics expert, he's devoted considerable time to the study of mountain culture and how it's manifested in language.

His delvings into the subject resulted in "I Come to Borry Coals," a short story recital and informational presentation King gave recently at the annual Wilderness Week in Pigeon Forge. The story is a breezy slice-of-life narrative about a young mountain man who sets off in search of work, eventually meeting and marrying the girl of his dreams. It's cobbled together from bits of local legend and King family lore, written and spoken in a style akin to that of mountain folk of decades past.

To put together his "Borry Coals" presentation -- King had done other, similar projects on the subject during his time at ETSU -- King employed a combination of genealogical research, primary sources on dialect such as the Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English, and a liberal dose of his own personal resources. "I ran the language by my mom, to make sure that people actually said some of the things in the story," King says. "I didn't want to use phrases or words that weren't common. And I wanted to use language that was common to this area, because some phrases may have been familiar to other parts of the region."

King's research tells that a majority of the early settlers of the Appalachian corridor were from Scotland, and in particular from the Plantation of Ulster, a colony of Scots, plus some English and a smattering of French Huguenots in Northern Ireland, begun in the early 1600s.

The Ulster settlers began immigrating to North America in the 1700s and gradually filtered from the Northeast down into the South. Living in the rugged mountain climes of the Appalachias, their unique customs and language were preserved, almost in isolation from those of their northeastern colonist counterparts. …

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'I Come to Borry Coals': ETSU Grad Combines Family Folklore with Regional Research for Mountain Dialect Presentation ; ETSU Grad Combines Folklore with Research for Dialect Presentation
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