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West Virginia

West Virginia Wednesdays

IMG_7620Over Memorial Day weekend, I went with my parents and kids to place flowers on the graves of my grandparents and other relatives.

My mother’s family had lived in Marion and Harrison counties in West Virginia for generations.  We placed flowers on the grave of my grandmother’s brother in a small family cemetery that’s now at the edge of a housing development.  The land of the development once was a farm that my grandmother’s family worked.  Her brother wanted to be buried in that cemetery because he and my grandmother enjoyed playing there when they were children.

IMG_7612It seemed odd to find a cemetery among all these new houses, but I could tell it was taken care of, so at least the graves aren’t neglected.

Next, we stopped at the large cemetery in Shinnston. My grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great grandparents on both sides of my mom’s family are buried there.

As my kids place flowers around the graves, I wondered if my distant grandparents ever thought their great-great-great grandchildren would come to pay respects almost a hundred years after their deaths. It’s a stunning thought.

IMG_7623The next day, we drove into the hills above Moundsville to place flowers on the graves of my dad’s parents.  Both sides of his family had lived in the northern panhandle of West Virginia for several generations. My grandfather served in the Navy during World War II.IMG_7641

I am so glad I got to take my kids to see our family history.  I hope they can feel a connection to the relatives who came before them and the land where our family once lived.

West Virginia Wednesdays

img_20160817_0004Stil Talkin’ Like a Mountaineer

Here are a few more quirks of the West Virginia dialect which I learned from relatives.  Like I said last week, these may be found in more areas than just West Virginia.  And not all West Virginians may talk this way.  West Virginia is a crossroads.  Not North, or South, or West, or East, the state contains a little bit of all those regions.

“push” and “bush” are pronounced “poosh” and “boosh”

“dish” and “fish” are pronounced deesh” and feesh”

“wash” and “gosh” are pronounced “warsh” and “garsh”

Words ending in “ow”, making an long “o” sound, are pronounced “er”.  For example, “follow”“hollow”, and “yellow” are pronounced “feller”“holler”, and “yeller”.

I find myself using “be” and a verb ending in “ing” when a present tense verb works just as well.  For example, if my kids are doing something they shouldn’t, I don’t say, “You can’t do that!”  I say, “You can’t be doing that!”

When writing my novel, I had a hard time choosing between whether my characters would use “y’all” or y’uns” for the plural form of “you”.  My grandparents used “y’uns” and they were from the northern part of the state.  I have friends who lived around Charleston and they use “y’all”.  My setting is north and east of Charleston but south of my grandparents’s hometown.

In the end, I decided to use “y’uns”.  When anyone reads “y’all”, the reader knows the setting is the American South.  Since West Virginia and the Appalachian Mountains are different from the South, I thought “y’uns” would signal that difference and my characters’ rural background.

 

 

 

West Virginia Wednesdays

rafting-2071983_1280Talkin’ Like a Mountaineer

I wrote in my tip about what I learned from Damon Runyon that a writer should only sprinkle in slang or words from a dialect.  Since my book is set in West Virginia, I use words my West Virginian relatives speak.  I use some of them myself, even though I grew up across the river in Ohio.

Just a note: If you are not from around Appalachia, you should understand there’s a difference between a Southern accent and an Appalachian one.  In the book The Story of English, some experts consider the Appalachian accent a cross between Midwestern and Southern. The further south you travel in the Appalachian mountains, the more southern the accent becomes.

The words I list below may not be unique to West Virginia but they are not common in the Midwest where I grew up.

No account — no good, disreputable, unreliable.  The farmer down the road was no account – he let his farm fall down to rack and ruin.

Lopper-jawed (I am guessing on the spelling) — to hang crookedly.  The door to the abandoned house hung lopper-jawed.

heap sight (I am guessing on the spelling of “sight”) — a great amount.  We had a heap sight more tomatoes this summer than last summer.

red up — clean up.  We red up the house before our company comes.country-lane-2089645_1280

fer piece — a long distance.  My nearest neighbor is a fer piece down this road.

pert near — almost or close.  “Pert” is short for “pretty”.  When that dog lunged for me, it pert near scared the pants off me.

I will have some more Appalachian words and patterns of speech next Wednesday.

 

 

West Virginia Wednesday

nypl-digitalcollections-510d47e3-5cd8-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99-001-wFestival of Lights

If you enjoy driving around to see Christmas lights, you should visit the Festival of Lights at Oglebay Park outside of Wheeling.  The Festival was started in 1985.  You follow a six-mile route through the park to see light displays covering more than 300 acres.  My family has visited the lights since I was a kid.  My most recent visit was December 2014.  It’s a lot of fun go with a carload of people.  We didn’t want to get stuck in a huge line winding up into the hills before we ever got to the park, so we arrived right at sunset.  It wasn’t very dark at the beginning of our drive, but it got dark quickly so we could enjoy the displays.  There is a per car donation and lot of other Christmas events within the park.  To visit the park’s website, click here.

West Virginia Wednesdays

img_20161005_0001Dolly Sods

This may be my favorite place in all of West Virginia.  The Dolly Sods Wilderness area is part of the Monongahela National Forest.  Its 17,371 acres straddle the county lines of Tucker, Grant, and Randolph counties, and it is the highest plateau east of the Mississippi.

I have visited twice and want to go back.  Because of its altitude, plants are found in Dolly Sods that you would expect to find in Canada.  Dolly Sods is the southernmost edge of their range.  I took a dirt road up to the plateau, and once up there, I felt like I must have traveled to Canada because the plateau has so little in common with the valley below.  The plateau has a rolling, wavy look as huge boulders break up the ground cover.  I climbed out on the boulders to take my photos.  The most interesting characteristic of the Sods are the one-sided trees.  The wind blows so strongly up there that branches can grow only on one side of the trees.  Those trees alone give you a feeling of being some place wild and special.

Another interesting characteristic that you  won’t find in many national forests are unexploded shells.  During World War II, soldiers training to fire artillery and mortars used the area as practice range, according to Wikipedia.  Even though work has been done to find and detonate left over shells, there are still warnings to stay on existing trails and only camp at existing camp sites.

To learn more, visit this site of the USDA Forest Service.img_20161005_0002img_20161005_0003img_20161005_0004img_20161005_0005

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