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Stove up

Posted by Graham Cambray on January 22, 2009 at 01:59

In Reply to: Stove up posted by ESC on January 19, 2009 at 12:27:

: : What are the origins of the phrase: 'stove up'?

: I have heard it in West Virginia. "I'm all stove up." From the references below, it sounds to me like it has to do with the strips of wood used to form a barrel, etc.

: STAVE --- Verb. To act recklessly or heedless, rush, drive, stick, smash, etc. See also "fall to staves" and "stove." 1904-07, Kephart "Notebooks," "I stove a nail into (my foot)."

: "Many common English words are used in peculiar senses by the mountain folk, as stove for jabbed." 1913, Kephart, Our Southern Highlands.

: STOVE - Verb, past participle of stave. Adjective, bruised up, crippled up so it's hard to get around, sore or stiff from overwork or injury, worn out.

: FALL TO STAVES - To collapse, fall apart. 1914, Raine, "Saddlebags. "We had a cedar churn, but it fell to staves. "Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English" by Michael B. Montgomery and Joseph S. Hall (University of Tennessee Press, 2004).

: STOVE UP - Broken down. Stave, to break to pieces, splinter, shatter. "Southern Mountain Speech" by Cratis D. Williams (Berea College Press, Ky., 1992). Page 110.

: Another reference has the expression under the "Yankee Talk," New England, section. STAVE UP - To break up. "She staved up the whole place." "Facts on File Dictionary of American Regionalisms" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 2000). Page 305.


I ain't rightly mountain folk (I live in Wiltshire, England) but I would (and do) use this word, although I would say "stave in" (as when I careless drove my car into a fence post, and stove in the bonnet / hood). I don't know the "stove up" useage over here (or the "worn out / crippled" meaning).

"Stave" (the noun) is basically the same word as "staff" - in the same way that the plural of "wife" is "wives", the plural of "staff" was "staves", and so "stave" was originally an erroneous back-formation). It's a word with a pedigree, then, going back to the Old English "staef" and thence to the older Germanic tongues.