I was recently introduced to a podcast that really hit home: the Bear Grease podcast with Clay Newcomb. He travels through the mountains interviewing old timers who have lived close to the land through hunting, fishing, farming, raising livestock and such. The first episode I listened to was interesting, funny, full of facts and really hit home with me.

It was about how we pronounce the fruit of the oaks that are so abundant throughout our woods. Do you say “acorn,” or “akern?” I immediately felt guilty about this issue. You see, I vividly remember consciously changing from “akern” to “acorn” in the fifth grade. We were on the playground, and I commented about all the akerns on the ground and was immediately assaulted by my friends.  They said, “What? Those aren’t akerns, those are acorns.”   

From that day forward, I always said acorns when I was around city folks. But when I was with my dad and my uncles and cousins hunting, I would still call them akerns. I still feel ashamed for so quickly abandoning my way of speech just to save myself from a little bit of harassment.  

It is estimated that about 20 percent of the U.S. population says “akern” instead of “acorn.” I think I am the only male in my family that switched the way I pronounced “akern,” a fact of which I am not proud. I allowed peer pressure to change my Appalachian heritage.

Ok, did you say “Appalachian,” or “Appalaychian?” City folks always say “Appalachian,” but those of us from Appalaychia, say “Appalaychian.”   

I remember similar assaults for my use of other words.  Every Friday, when they took our lunch orders, I would request “extree” pizza, and everyone would laugh. I tried a million different pronunciations of “extra” and never got it close enough to where it did not produce a round of laughter from my fellow students. Nevertheless, I was willing to face ridicule for another piece of pizza. 

In sixth grade, I remember telling my friends that I got a “gitar,” and was learning how to play it. Once again, I was laughed to scorn. It’s not a “GITAR,” it’s a guitar. Ain’t it funny how we ain’t supposed to use certain words? I mean, “isn’t” it!!! 


God bless you all, RHM.