CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – Appalachia is full of unique dialects and jargon. Even within the region, there are debates on which word to use. For example, whether to put sauce or chili on your hot dog, or if you’re drinking a soda or a pop.
One word that Appalachians use has multiple meanings, one of which you’ll find outside the region. The other, you may have to explain to an out-of-towner.
What is a holler?
A common definition of the word is to yell, shout, cry, call, reach out, etc., as in “give a holler.” However, a holler can also be a place.
A holler is more commonly called a “hollow” outside of Appalachia. Merriam-Webster defines a hollow as a “depressed or low part of a surface, especially: a small valley or basin.” Another definition from the University of South Carolina defines it as “a small, sheltered valley that usually, but not necessarily, has a watercourse.”
The mountainous and hill-covered regions of Appalachia are full of those small valleys, which many people have made their home for generations.
The Appalachian region stretches across 13 states including counties in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. Of those states, West Virginia is the only one completely inside of the Appalachian region.
Why do the people who live in Appalachia speak differently? There are several theories behind how the dialects of Appalachia came to be.
Some folks say the dialect comes because the mountainous and hill-covered terrains made the people of the region being more secluded from societies in other parts of the country for decades before infrastructural and technological advancements helped to connect Appalachia to the rest of the United States.
Because of this, some researchers believe the Appalachian dialects are closer to Elizabethan English or even older forms of the language. A 2018 article from JSTOR references an essay written in 1978 suggests this could be due to the Scots-Irish immigrants who brought their own ways of speaking to the isolated region when they arrived in America before they had “assimilated” into using the dialects spoken throughout the colonies, later the States.