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West Virginia

Posted by ESC on December 14, 1999

In Reply to: Phrases from where you live posted by Gary Martin on December 12, 1999

: Are there any phrases that originated where you live?

: Here in Sheffield the phrases 'nose to the grindstone'
: comes from the early steel industry, where grinders lay
: face down on platforms over grindstones to sharpen and
: polish cutlery.

: 'The Full Monty' has also become associated with
: Sheffield as the eponymous film was located here,
: although that's a much earlier phrase of course.

: I see lots of traffic to the site (2,000 people/day)
: and wonder where you all come from. Many from the
: USA of course. Looking at the log files it seems
: that the most common location is (if memory serves)
: Vienna Falls, Virginia. I'd guess that this is
: where an ISP like AOL hangs out rather than where
: any of you are sitting.

: Anyway - where are you, and what phrases come from
: there?

: Gary
: Virginia

I am living in Kentucky, but if anyone asks me, I'm a West Virginian. I was "born and raised" in the mountains of southern West Virginia - Raleigh County, W. Va. - to be exactly. There are several expressions that I think are common, but have to explain to my city-born husband and friends. They ask me the origins of these strange sayings and I have to take a guess. Here's some I used recently:

HOLD YOUR TATER -- Slow down, wait a minute. "Just hold your tater." Tater meaning potato. Maybe little kids were given a roasted potato to stave off hunger until the meal was ready.

FLY MAD - Get angry suddenly. "I didn't expect her to fly mad over that." Maybe this expression is related to "madder than a wet hen." A mad hen tends to fly around and flap her wings.

SPLITTING THE MUD - Running fast.

CUTTING A RUSTY -- Getting angry and throwing a fit.

Here's a couple of mountain expressions that I was discussing the other day on Phrase Finder:
TIGHT AS DICK'S HATBAND - Someone asked: Any clues as to origin? Used in the southern US to mean very tight. It is in fairly common usage in Alabama. Mostly by 50+ age bracket. This one has always bugged me.

My response: West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky are the only places I've heard this expression.
Here's a theory: From "Heavens to Betsy" by Charles Earle Funk : "as queer (or tight) as Dick's hatband -- Absurdly queer, or as the case may be, inordinately tight. The 'Dick' alluded to in this metaphor was Richard Cromwell, 'Lord protector' of England for a few months, September 1658 to May 1659. He had been nominated by his father, the powerful Oliver Cromwell, to succeed him in this high office, and was actually so proclaimed. But whereas the father had served, at least from the death of Charles I in 1649, as quasi-king of England, king in fact if not in name, Richard would gladly have accepted both title and crown, had not the army been hostile to such action and, indeed, to Richard, who was shortly dismissed from office. The crown was the 'hatband' in the saying, which was deemed a 'queer' adornment for the head of one so briefly in highest office, and too 'tight' for him to have worn in safety. (Let me add, however, this account is not accepted by the Oxford English Dictionary, though no better substitute is offered.)"

And we also "talked" about LICK YOUR CALF OVER -- And have you heard the expression "You're going to have to lick your calf over again," meaning you're going to have to do a task over. I've never heard it outside of southern West Virginia.
Response: This is a common saying in this part of Alabama. It is commonly used by small businessmen to mean having to go back on a job again. A warranty. Usually it is just said "I'll have to lick my calf on this one". I have always assumed that it meant a disagreeable task required by honor or duty. A cow licking its calf after giving birth.