Appalachia: The Pronunciation Matters

How do you pronounce Appalachia? Do you say Appa-LAY-shuh or do you say Appa-LATCH-uh?

Tomato, tomAHto, let’s call the whole thing off. Or not.

If you are from the Southern Appalachians then you, without a doubt, say Appa-LATCH-uh. If you say Appa-LAY-shuh you are not only identifying the mountain range but you are also announcing to all that you are not from there. You can say a lot in just one word. In my 35 years, I have not met one person from my precious Appalachia that says that they are from Appa-LAY-shuh. Not one.

However, when I travel I run in to folks who argue with me about the pronunciation. Usually the debate ends with, well, “this is the way we say it here.” Does it matter how people say it elsewhere? I feel that the pronunciation of the locals is persuasive in establishing the correct pronunciation. Yet, many folks (probably those holding on to the nonsense stereotypes that all of us are shoeless, toothless, and uneducated) think that they know best, but there are many of us from those mountains who know better.

I was recently introduced to what I believe is the best way to explain why everyone should say “Appa-LATCH-uh.” Southern novelist Sharyn McCrumb says it best . . .

“Appa-LAY-shuh is the pronunciation of condescension, the pronunciation of the imperialists, the people who do not want to be associated with the place and the pronunciation Appa-LATCH-uh means that you are on the side that we trust.” Sharyn McCrumb.

201 thoughts on “Appalachia: The Pronunciation Matters

      • Merriam-Webster dictionary has the pronunciation set as Appa-LAY-chuh. There’s an online sound clip on their website that one may listen to as well. This is the most likely reason a lot of people pronounce it that way. Are you all insinuating that Merriam-Webster has it incorrect?

      • Well I think you should all take into consideration the generations of natives who pronounce it “Lay” instead of “Latch.” Their opinion counts as well. I really think that it is a matter of dialect and not that there is any wrong or right way to say it. It would be imperialistic-minded (in that case) to think that way. If the overwhelming majority of the natives used “Latch” I might agree with you, but they don’t. Thus, the only logical explanation is that there are different dialects. If one did a study, you’d probably find that those who say “latch” and those who say “lay” originated from two very different parts of the mountains. I think it’s a bit intolerant to say that one native is wrong and the other is right just because it happens to agree with what you used coming up. Almost every one that comes from new Orleans pronounces it as (Nawlins) whereas every one who isn’t from there pronounces it as (Noo Orleens) who is right in this case?

      • I’m speaking particularly about central/southern Appalachia and we will have to agree to disagree on how he majority pronounces it. Thanks for commenting and take care.

      • I’ve lived for several years in southern/central WV, western NC, and western PA. The overwhelming majority of folks I know who were born or raised in these areas say “latch”. If you listen to traditional Appalachian music – bluegrass, blues, country – most of them say “latch” as well. Certainly in NC, the Appalachian State, they pronounce it “latch” when they refer to the state’s official nickname. Listen to the addresses at any public even. Same in WV and PA. Those are the areas I’m most familiar with as a lifelong AppaLATCHian 🙂

    • The southern Appalachian folk have it right as rain. The term derives from the Apalachee Indians, who were once part of the Creek Nation. The tribal pronunciation was (the language is now extinct) “Ap-uh-LATCH-EE. No criticism of those from up NAWTH intended. But the argument for the Appalachian folk’s pronunciation is solid.

      • Not sure why you single out people who mispronounce this word as being primarily those from up, er, NAWTH. (I’m guessing you mean “North?”) I have lived in different parts of the same Southern state for years, and have met many local people who pronounce it “App-a-lay-chee-ah.” Perhaps being from the “Nawth” is the reason I have not been rude enough to assume that their Southern origin has anything to do with it.

      • The Apalachee indian origins is persuasive. I was born in north central WV and grew up in eastern Ohio, both part of Appalachia. I have said Appa LAY chee a all my life. It’s not a word that occurs often in everyday conversation. I was a little surprised to hear most people (but not all) in Ken Burns country music marathon say Appa LATCH cha. It will be hard to break a lifetime habit.

    • “Appa-LAY-shuh is the pronunciation of condescension, the pronunciation of the imperialists, the people who do not want to be associated with the place and the pronunciation Appa-LATCH-uh means that you are on the side that we trust.” Sharyn McCrumb.
      You CAN’T be serious! Comparing Appalachia with the imperialist occupation of Ireland is absurd. So is using the pronunciation as a shibboleth to identify “us” vs “them” (with “us” being “the side that we trust” and “them” being the bad guys}.
      I live in the Appalachian Mountains of NJ and try to speak “Standard American English.” I say Appa-LAY-chuh.
      Merriam-Webster online gives BOTH pronunciations. So we’re talking about regional differences or accents and no–the pronunciation DOESN’T matter.

      • “Standard American English” is the language of the Oppressor to us here. Read a little Thomas Wolfe, where he tells the stories of how the people of the South Appalachians were exploited by the miners, the loggers (by 1930, all of the forests in the area were cut down, all of them) and the textile mills, many of them from the “Appalayshians” of NY, NJ and PA. These “bossmen” came here for what they saw as ignorant and cheap labor, and brought their supervisors with them, who also had a low opinion of us, and called us “Appalayshuns”. Trust me, we had names for them too…
        All too often, people come here saying “Appalayshuns”, and love our Mountains, and settle here, and continue to grate on our nerves by simply being disrespectful, as you are being here. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
        Your tone is very condescending. Sharyn has the right of it. I have been living here for 68 years, and know how to use “Standard English”, and no, “Appalachian” is not dialectic (I can use the dialect too), but is an identifier of whether we can trust you or not, whether you respect us enough to change your pronunciation (it is not that big a thing, is it?).
        Honestly, you can come here talking the thickest Yankee accent possible, and pronounce the name of our homeland right, and people will know… Come here talking with a thick Southern accent, and say “Appalayshian”, and we will also know. It ain’t that hard to give people a little respect.
        Try going to Boone NC and pronounce their university “Appalayshian State”. Oh yeah…

    • If Vermont was the center of the universe it would be Lay-sha. Taught in school and pronounced that way for the 60 years I grew up and lived there. Never gave it a thought otherwise until I moved to Florida and heard it pronounced ‘correctly’. I think it is a Northeast or New England-ism…

  1. Several years ago, while engaged in an educational consultancy in Appalachia, I was corrected on the pronunciation of Appalachia by a board member of the institution…”Say it right–it is like throwing an apple at cha.” This is one admonition I have never forgotten.

    • I grew up in the tiny town off Appalachia which consisted of many coal camps. We were a tight-nit proud community. It is a common folk story that Appalachia got its name from two officials arguing and one proclaiming,”I’m gonna throw an Apple atcha”. This is a common story told to us as children.

  2. As a fellow Southerner from NC let me add further validation to your claim. The most beautiful part of my state is the Appa-LATCH-uhn mountain range. If someone tells you they are headed to the Appa-LAY-shun mountains for a weekend, you immediately know they are a transplant (due to our state’s beauty and weather, we have many). Of interest, however, is that no one mispronounces the name of one of our state universities locate there…it is pronounced Appa-LATCH-uhn State by everyone…go figure.

  3. Well, I’m from Ohio but have lived in East TN for 15 years. I learned the “correct” way to pronounce it, from some friends in Ohio, before I even moved down here, and whenever I hear people pronounce it the “incorrect” way, it does have a fingernails-on-a-chalkboard kind of effect. AND YET, there is such thing as regional dialectical variation. And I get uneasy when I see people sorting others into the good and the bad — the sinners and the saved — based on their pronunciation of certain words. That’s actually the classic definition of a “shibboleth” (look that up on wikipedia). Johnny Cash pronounced it app a LAY sha. Is he a bad man? His wife was from Hiltons VA, but until the year he died, he pronounced it the “wrong” way. People in the Ohio-river valley region of Kentucky say it the “wrong” way. People in Central Appalachia–especially western PA–say it the “wrong” way. Are they condescending and colonizing? Not necessarily. Oh, and are Kentuckians wrong to say ver-SALES Kentucky, instead of ver-sigh (versailles). If some French person came to Versailles KY and started berating people for mispronouncing the name of their town, I wouldn’t like that person. Pronunciation varies, from region to region, –even family to family, within a region –and over time, and dialectical variation is a beautiful thing, not a sword we should use to divide ourselves from others. There’s a hint of linguistic despotism to McCrumb’s comments. Oh, also, what’s wrong with being a “transplant”? Are people bad because they migrate, either out of choice or necessity?

    • Kevin, I hear where you’re coming from. I bristle a bit at the “right” vs “wrong” terminology as well. I appreciate that the preferred pronunciation is different in different parts of Appalachia. And I’m not from here either so I don’t like the implication that I’m bad for moving from my hometown.

      That said, let’s not miss the forest. The message here is, “I thought you might like to know that it’s hurtful when you insist on saying the name of my home that way.”

      When introducing myself, men with overly firm handshakes sometimes shorten my name. To me, it feels like an attempt to establish dominance. I could be wrong, but that’s how it feels. So I politely correct them. I don’t think it’s too much to ask that I be considered the expert on my name.

      • I agree, Kevin. The whole idea of correct versus non-correct pronunciation is nothing more than cultural elitism. I wrote a satirical piece about it a couple of years ago. Some people actually took it seriously and wanted to argue about it.
        You’re absolutely right about the too-firm handshake. It IS a way of trying to assert dominance over others, not just other men. More than once I’ve been nearly brought to me knees by some fool trying to establish his dominance. I’m 70 years old, that means I can get away with a lot that I wouldn’t have done when in my thirties. When I find myself in the grip of a too-firm handshake I push the person away and ask if they’re trying to break my hand. The custom of shaking hands isn’t about dominance, it’s about letting the other person know you aren’t carrying a weapon and aren’t a threat.

      • i tend to be a bit ashamed at this entire discussion, which bears no resemblance to the mention of derry. as i posted below, june carter cash – who was born in the area- does not use the : latch pronunciation. & i assure everyone you’ll know nothing of my politics upon hearing that i too use the : LAY shin variant – & i’m also a native. good heavens, linguistics can be a little more complicated sometimes. & it never need be so ugly & divisive. we needn’t cling so bitterly to any pronunciation – or sling arrows at another.

    • We get it. Sometimes I can look over how a person says something, and sometimes i really really care that they don’t try to choose the preferred pronunciation if there is a preferred. When we traveled as a kid, I tried to pronunce the way the locals said it, and I got corrected. But the only question I really see here is would I have corrected Johnny Cash. I love and loved him so much that I don’t even recall how he said the word. I’ll never forget seeing the Johnny Cash and June Carter Family at our local high school in the Appalachian area during Jonesborough Days when I was younger. Johnny Cash had a ticket from me to say it either way it pleased him.

      • Johnny Cash was a flat lander from Arkansas. He grew up a share cropper’s son to the best of my memory working cotton fields and likely just learned the wrong pronunciation. He wasn’t from Appalachia as was the Carter family. i cannot explain how June Carter came by the appalayshuh version nless she picked up in Nashville.

    • No, not bad if they migrate. We love our new friends. But they are not ‘from around here.’ Not a bad thing. Just a true thing. The greatest compliment a transplant an hear is ‘you’re one of us now.’ We don’t mean we are against those that aren’t. Just that it’s hard to be from somewhere when you were born somewhere else. Some transplants just take so well that it seems like they were born here. But we are a loving people, despite the stereotypes.

      • *snort* While I love the Southern state I now live in, I hardly think that being told, “You’re one of us now” is the greatest compliment ever. I may live here, and love living here, but at heart, I will always think of myself as belonging to the region I was born in. Your whole post illustrates the reason why some of those stereotypes you mention exist.

      • But you also can’t assume everyone has had the education to know what locals prefer. I understand the pronunciation, I agree with learning the way locals pronounce their hometowns and such, but don’t be unforgiving if people aren’t educated and don’t assume they are not showing respect, instead, understand they are showing ignorance. It is hard to admit to being ignorant and that is why people fight the way to say things. Instead of arguing or bringing it up as “they are wrong” tie in the reason it matters to yourself and allow them to show acceptance of your reason, instead of ignorance.

      • Oh, I agree and understand if people don’t know. The issue is when people refuse to accept or acknowledge the local pronunciation when shared with them.

      • This is why I joined this group! MY great grandma used to get upset s
        houting there is no long A in Cherokee! Continued through grandma, mom too! last genration find TV weather people disrespectful by not attempting to pronounce it right! Folks get upset and say”what’s the difference?

    • “Oh, and are Kentuckians wrong to say ver-SALES Kentucky, instead of ver-sigh (versailles). If some French person came to Versailles KY and started berating people for mispronouncing the name of their town, I wouldn’t like that person.” I think you just answered your own question. It DOES matter to the natives how their region/towns are pronounced. It is polite and respectful to seek out and use the native pronounciations, and not just assume that you already know better. Just sayin’…

    • Well, the French actually say les Appalaches (appa-lash)… which is closer to the original Apalache/Apalatchin Mountains posts below…

      • There is no dialect in any native American language that I’ve ever heard, especially not Muskogean ones, that pronounces a “CH” consonant cluster with an “SH” sound. That is a French habit, not a native one.

        Furthermore, the term “Appalachian Mountains” is a fairly recent development, as they weren’t known as such until the late 1800s. They were named after Appalachia, referencing the cultural region, and prior to that were known by their regional names (Cumberlands, Alleghenies, etc.)

        This is what makes the “But people in Pennsylvania/Maryland/New York say it the other way and they live in the Appalachians” excuse especially obnoxious, as the mountain chain was named after the cultural area, which does not run the entire length of the mountain chain.

    • Let’s put it this way, if people mispronounce your name, don’t you correct them? People mispronounce my last name every once in a while even though it is pronounced phoneticallu as it is spell. It is as Sharon a signal that you do not know me.

      As for Johnny Cash, he wasn’t from around here and I am sure that June Carter had many issues on which she was trying to straighten him out on. That was just too far down her list.

      • june carter cash says: app a LAY shin.
        please listen to her song: appalachian pride, from album of the same name

    • Yes! I grew up in Appalachia (on the Kentucky side) and myself, my family, and everyone else I know there, pronounces it appa-LAY-shuh. I recently had a West Virginian classmate (we’re in Kansas for school) talk to me like I was an idiot because I didn’t pronounce it appa-LATCH-uh. Apparently he felt he had authority over the pronounciation because somehow he’s more from the area than I am? So, yes, there are most definitely people from Southern Appalachia who do NOT pronounce it the “correct” way. Who gave you authority to decide correct pronounciation anyway?

    • I’m from NE Tenn born, raised here. But I lived in Louisville and Lexington, Kentucky 10 years. My kids went to high school in Versailles. Believe it it or not this ole hillbilly frequently and good naturedly corrected all of the Bluegrass folks’ mis -pronunciation of Ver- sails I reminded everyone its named after a French town and pronounced Ver Sigh . But then I also pointed out that no Kentuckian would want to pronounce Paris, Kentucky Pairee as they do in France. However, I rarely heard Appalachia mispronounced in the Bluegrass. I hear app a layshuh more often in middle Tennessee,

    • Dolly Parton says it that way too and she’s as Southern as you can get. I’m from Louisville, KY and pronounce it LOO-EY because it was named after French King Louis XVI. I laughed at your Ver-SALES comment because it’s so true. But because of accents, people pronounce Louisville in SO many different ways. I get peeved when people, mostly people who either never lived there or did for a brief stint, want to CORRECT me and tell me I’M saying it wrong. I just say, “It’s King LOO-EY, not King LOO-AH.” Because of the dialect from the different regions of KY (and if you’ve traveled the state then you know accents get thicker the deeper you go), people pronounce it differently and they have basically made themselves correct because it is so widely accepted. Louisville even sells all the tourist stuff with the various ways people say it. I don’t correct people when they pronounce it differently. But I will defend myself when I get corrected–especially by Yankees lol. I was even in orientation at work at a big hospital and the head of the hospital tried to tell me I was wrong and I corrected him.

      • Life long Louisvillian, even grew up in the South End, and have always pronounced it Louey Ville as well. I too get berated by non-natives for my pronunciation. I think we’d all be happier if we just live and let live and quit trying to correct everyone.

  4. The mountains were named for a Native American tribe. The Apalache. That should tell everyone exactly how to pronounce the word. Think about the Apache tribe. Would you call them the “a pay she”? Plus, if you look at maps from 16th century the mountains are labeled and the word is spelled phonetically. Labeled as the Apalatchin Mountains….

    • What’s really funny is that if you ask someone how they’d pronounce “Apalachicola”, most all of them, including those who say Appalachia incorrectly, say it with the CH sound rather than the SH one… even though they’re rooted from the same word.

  5. It seems that the name transitions around the Maryland border. From that point north, the alternative pronunciation is local. I love my Southern Appalachians.

  6. I agree about respecting the way people name their places, but I think it’s narrow thing think of the Appalachian Mountains as a strictly southern range. The Appalachians (along with the eponymous Trail) run from Maine to Georgia.

    New England, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania have their own Appalachian identities and history, Can we really say a mountain range that stretches from the far northeast all the way to Georgia is a merely regional thing? Seems to me that seeks to diminish the shared history of much of the eastern seaboard, not just the southern end of it.

    That said, I learned happily to say it the southern way since living here, but I have no problem with my northern brethren who prefer their name for their own mountains too.

    • Exactly. I grew up in upstate New York, where we pronounced our part the “wrong” way. I’m not going to stop doing that. But now that I live in Kentucky, I have no problem pronouncing it the southern way… when I’m talking about the southern mountains.

    • There’s a simple reason for that: The Appalachian Mountains have only been called that for a little over 100 years, and they were named after the Appalachia cultural area… whose name had already been well-established, and which does not cover the length of the chain itself. If you were to ask a New Yorker about their “Appalachian heritage” a century ago, they’d have looked at you like you were crazy. They didn’t have “Appalachian Mountains”, they had the Adirondacks, and the Pennsylvanians had the Alleghenies. They did not consider their mountains to be part of one massive chain.

      So, to put it simply, while they may live in the Appalachians, they don’t live in Appalachia. Using the criteria you’re using, we’d have Canadians talking about their Appalachian heritage.

      • kinda funny…since the appalachian mountain range begins on my island – cape breton island, nova scotia, canada to be exact! and it has been called app-o-lay-shia since it was first found by john cabot (giovanni cabotio)….although it is said, and written that the vikings found our island and called it Markland in various oral and written stories of the vikings. who knows eh?

  7. Grew up in Florida as a 4th generation Floidian and we called it AppaLACHIcola so it seemed right for me to say I was going to the ApaLACHan mts.

  8. My theory is that this business began when Walter Cronkite began doing stories on Poverty in AP-PA-LAAAY-SHUH in the mid 1960s. First time I heard him say it that way (I was a teenager) I was stunned and instantly thought, “Have we been saying it wrong all this time?” Apparently a lot of Indigenous People had the same thought and began saying APPALAYSHUH because they didn’t want to be perceived as Ignorant Hillbillies. When one traces the word back to its origins, the Appalachee Indian tribe, the Spanish Conquistadors who heard about the tribe assumed that they inhabited a land beyond a rumored distant mountain range, which they then proceeded to call (and place on crude maps) the Appalachee Mountains. The Appalachees, by the way, lived nowhere near any mountains–merely northern Florida, but the Spaniards had no idea what topography or anything else lay in the interior they were determined to conquer and loot. Since the Appalachee Indians (as a direct or indirect result of said Spanish Conquistadors and their destructive ways, not to mention certain microbes) along with their language became extinct, there is no way to prove correct pronunciation of “Appalachian.” But “Ap-pa-latch-ion” is the way our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and every ancestor all the way back to the First Hillbilly pronounced it and that is the right damn way to say it. Any questions?

    • I think this theory is doubtful. Aaron Copland wrote the very famous classical piece “Appalachian Spring” in the 1940s, and in the interviews I’ve heard he pronounces it “Ap-puh-LAY-tchun”. Granted, those interviews are largely from the 1970s and early 1980s — I’ll try to find one that’s older — but Copland did do an interview with Studs Terkel in 1961 in which Terkel called it “Ap-puh-LAY-tchee-un”, and he didn’t correct Terkel.

      The piece was actually titled by Martha Graham (it was written for dance), and I can’t imagine that Copland would mispronounce the intended name of his own piece, or change it to accommodate a new, fashionable pronunciation. So the long-a pronunciation seems to have been in circulation at least as early as WWII.

    • I agree and disagree with some of the postings. I thing it may be a north vs south part of the maointsin range thing. I taught in Hagerstown, Maryland where everyone said Appalaysha. And it seems this hold true for PA and further north. So it’s a tomato-tomahto thing. As long as we all know what we’re talking about, I’d stick with what feels comfortable for you. After all what do you use in a grocery store to put your food in? A buggy? A cart? Or a basket? None are wrong and we all understand in context. Everyone’s a winner!

    • I agree and disagree with some of the postings. I think it may be a north vs south part of the mountain range thing. I taught in Hagerstown, Maryland where everyone said Appalaysha. And it seems this hold true for PA and further north. So it’s a tomato-tomahto thing. As long as we all know what we’re talking about, I’d stick with what feels comfortable for you. After all what do you use in a grocery store to put your food in? A buggy? A cart? Or a basket? None are wrong and we all understand in context. Everyone’s a winner!

  9. Both of my parents were born and raised in Southeastern Kentucky and I never heard it call anything but Appa-LAY-shion Mountains. Clay and Laurel Counties. But……….we also warsh clothes, instead of wash clothes. Never-the-less, the clothes are clean.

    • I am from Appalacia – I guess I have been wrong all my life? I was born in 1956. Oh, well, old habits die hard.

  10. The App-uh-latch/e/an mountain was derived from the Native American tribe original called (by translation in 16th cen) Apalchen (Apal-chen) which was later changed to Apalachee (a-pə-latch-ē). The true pronunciation has been a matter of debate which they tried to settle it in the 1960’s but the scholars could not agree on the long “a” and short “a”. Adding the 4 vs 5 syllables makes it even more difficult so it continued being pronounced different ways according to regional and cultural dialect. In addition, another variant is brought into the mix when the “ch” is pronounced as a “sh” (18th cen. French immigrant influence in the north) when the Appalachian Trail Conference (in NY), founders/organizers in the early 20th century pronounced the Trail, the app-uh-lāy-shən trail.
    People in the north will also call the Mountains app-uh-lāy-shən but that’s not truly proper, I live in PA along the mountain and I will even agree to that. To be the most correct, we would all say… I was hiking on the App-uh-lāy-Shən Trail in the App-uh-Latch-ē-an/ App-uh-Latch-an Mountains.
    To ad insult to injury, the southern Appalachians can’t agree on the 2 different ways they say it either, App-uh-Latch-ē-an (derived from Native American tribe name) and App-uh-Latch-an, (derived from the areas known as Appalachia Ap-pa-Latch-uh)… so I added both.
    What is comes down to is, the people in the north hold true to their culture and the same goes for the mid-atlantic and southerners. Though it was once a smaller area, the Appalachian became a huge region encompassing many states and subcultures. There are histories associated with each pronunciation, and to say one is more correct than the other is erroneous. If scholars would agree to “one” correct way, our authoritative educational tools such as my Webster’s Dictionary for the Appalachian Mountains wouldn’t offer 6 pronunciations, but it does and they are: ( 5 syl) a-pə-lā-chē-ən, ˌa-pə-lā-shē-ən ˌa-pə-la-chē-ən, and (4 syl) a-pə-lā-chən, a-pə-lā-shən & a-pə-la-chən.
    As Michale W. said…. ” One should never have the arrogance to tell a local how to pronounce their location names. This just shows disrespect. Period.”

    • This is the most informative and open-minded reply in this thread…thank you for posting! I like your comment: “There are histories associated with each pronunciation, and to say one is more correct than the other is erroneous.”. Well said.

      I am from Michigan and had never heard it pronounced any way other than appaLAYshuh until listening to NPR the other day…curiosity brought me to this thread. Glad to know there are different pronunciations, especially among locals.

  11. I’m from Cabell County, West Virginia born and raised, and my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents have always pronounced it, “Appa-LAY-sha”, and so did my relatives on the other side of the river in Kentucky. So it’s a little bit frustrating to be told that I must be a “transplant”. Remember: there are more dialects in this region than you can shake a stick at…

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  13. I agree one doesn’t tell a local how to pronounce names. However, I grew up in the Appalachian mountains in central Pennsylvania and everyone pronounces it LAY. And believe me, no one in Clearfield PA is being condescending, because that would be above their raising.

  14. Thank you! I’m an Appalachian girl and always FELT this difference, even though no one explained it as well as you have here. Now I have a place to point folks when they doubt me.

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  16. So glad to discover that I have always pronounced it correctly. I questioned myself once when, at a family reunion in my hometown in Kentucky, one of my husband’s cousins from Chicago asked what mountain range we were in. I told him “The App- latch-uns” and was quickly corrected by my husband’s aunt from Virginia. Maybe I should post this to her wall. Lol

    • I live in Appalachia, Virginia right in the heart of the “Appalachian Mountains” (or the Blue Ridge to locals) and graduated from Appalachia High School.

      Your husband’s aunt was emphatically wrong. lol

  17. I am from Harlan county, Kentucky and we say appalatcha, mater, and tater yuns want to know any other word im perdy shore we cant teach yall just how us country folk say stuff and we can also understand you city folk I know what a soda is and I know what a pop is

  18. In my travels I often hear people say “Appa-LAY-shuh. When I do, I tell them an appellation is something appalling and that while natives of the region are many things, we are not appalling — although the way we are often portrayed is. I then admonish them that if I ever hear them pronounce it that way again, “I’ll throw an apple atcha.”

  19. The only issue I have with this is the author’s analogy to Northern Ireland, it makes it seem that the British are distrusted and unwelcome there. Well, the people of Northern Ireland recently reaffirmed their love and loyalty for Britain and their overwhelming desire to remain British. So, like them, I’ll say Londonderry. Besides, you wouldn’t refuse to call London, London simply because the invading Romans names it so, would you?

    • Note, that was not my analogy, that was Sharon McCrumb’s analogy. I’ve never been to Derry/Londonderry. If I did go I would pronounce it the way the locals do. They know best.

    • As an Ulsterman who lives in Virginia, I’d have to wonder when they exhibited their “overwhelming desire to remain British”. Not sure if you’re confusing it with the Scottish independence referendum (which, itself, was not even an “overwhelming” victory) or what.

      There has been no such referendum in Northern Ireland recently, nor is one planned. If there was, however, the notion that the unionists would win any type of landslide is laughable. What would, in fact, happen is that there would be a fairly even split amongst those who want to remain in the UK, those who wanted to join the Republic, those who wanted to be independent from both, and those who just flat didn’t care.

  20. Great post! The same thing holds true in the Far North as well: it’s not ValDEZ, Alaska–it’s ValDEEZ. Even though it’s not the proper pronunciation of the Spanish explorer, it IS the way the locals say it. Likewise for Livengood: It’s not pronounced as in “livin’ good”–it’s long-i, LIE-vengood. Wanna know the “right” way to say it? Ask a local.

    • As a LIE-vengood living in the App-a-latch-ees, I thank you Sharon. Now if I could only convince people that when I speak of Pis-gee I am referring to a mountain in North Georgia, NOT the one between Brevard and Asheville.

      • And don’t forget Albany, GA – a very different sound from Albany, NY

    • I grew up in the Appalachian Mountains outside of Brevard, NC. I was always told that the name for the Appalachian Mountains came from the Spanish and French explorers of the 1500’s, who got the name from the Appalachee tribe. (Appalachee, btw, is pronounced App-a-LATCH-ee. Hence the pronunciation of LATCH in “Appalachian.”)

      In this case, the way the locals are saying it has historical validity. I now live in Maryland, and I find that knowing the origin tends to shut down anyone who condescends to imply that the locals don’t know how to accurately pronounce their own place names.

  21. East Tennessee born and raised, and I have always said LAY-cha… this is mostly due to never hearing the word until I entered school. In all honesty we didn’t use either form, we just said “the mountains” or referred to an area by what it was surrounded by. I think bickering over pronunciation is silly when half of us use different words for things two counties over.

    • Yes, I am from AppalLAYchan Georgia. Only Virginians say Appala-cha- and like everything else, Virginians claim their way is the only way. I mean they produced what is it…8 US presidents and 1 Civil War. So, of course they think they know and will inflict that on everyone else. Thank you, Brandi for pointing this out. This guy is a Virginian. That’s what gives him authority.

      • I’m from GA, and live in NC. I’ve Never pronounced it Appalaysha. NC’ans will never be heard to say ‘Appalyshan State’. It’s Appalatch an State.

      • I live in the Appalachian mountains of western MD, across the Potomac River from WV. Growing up I heard nothing but App a lay shun.

  22. This isn’t a right-wrong divide–in my experience, this a north-south divide. Northern Appalachian residents (such as Pennsylvanians) say “LAY-shuh.” They aren’t wrong They just aren’t southern. The south doesn’t “own” Appalachia and neither does the north, and as far as I can tell neither side is (officially…) colonizing the other. I can appreciate wanting people to pronounce your home correctly, but in this case, “it’s how we say it here” can be pretty valid! Same mountains, different dialects.

    • No it isn’t. There’s tons of southerners who say it the “wrong” way and northerners who say it the “right” way.

      If anything, it’s more of a local/non-local divide, and to add to the confusion a lot of the non-locals aren’t aware they’re not locals. Appalachia is, first and foremost, a cultural division. The confusion arises from the fact that they decided to take all the mountain sub-chains and lump them all into one that was then named after the cultural area, so now you have people in Pennsylvania and New York who mistakenly think that they live in Appalachia because they live in the mountain chain that was named after it, and they use what you call the “northern pronunciation”.

      However, you have to realize that there is an inherent level of condescension in the “there is no right pronunciation” argument, because all of us who live here are keenly aware that we’re the only place where this rule applies. If you went to Beverly Hills and started asking locals how to find “Roh-dee-oh Drive”, someone would inevitably correct you. Now, here’s where the problem arises: When someone DID eventually correct you, what would you say? Would you acknowledge your error, or would you argue that there was no correct pronunciation? I’m willing to bet that you’d acquiesce to the local’s pronunciation without a second thought, which would beg the question: Why does it apply to one place and not another? Are you saying Appalachia is the only place that is too antiquated to know how to pronounce its own name?

  23. The name was not commonly used for the whole mountain range until the late 19th century. A competing and often more popular name was the “Allegheny Mountains,” “Alleghenies,” and even “Alleghania.” In the early 19th century, Washington Irving proposed renaming the United States either Appalachia or Alleghania.
    [Stewart, George R. (1967). Names on the Land. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.]

  24. It’s good to learn how people speak the names of the places they live in. It’s interesting and it’s polite. But if people get it wrong, it doesn’t mean they think you are ‘shoeless and toothless’, as the writer suggested. You seem to be a little over-sensitive about this. It’s language and it’s interesting. People outside of an area will pronounce your place as AppalAYShu just to understand each other. For example I know how to pronounce Paris and Rome and Beijing in the way the French, Italians and Chinese do, but I don’t do those pronunciations unless in those countries or speaking to people from those countries. Be proud of your place and the origins and explanations of its language, and explain to those who want to know. Tell the rest to get lost.

  25. I grew up in the AppaLAYchians in Pennsylvania. Regionally, it’s pronounced with LAY. Not as condescension or derision, or even because I feel I’m right and you’re wrong, but because that’s the way it’s pronounced where I grew up. Quite honestly, I think there are more worthy things to get your panties in a bunch about.

    • I like your take on it. I grew up in NJ, with a family cabin in upstate NY, but currently live in Asheville, NC… and so I prefer your version. I am ‘not from around here’, but that sure doesn’t make me incorrect!! Also, if anyone considers “proper’, a look into a common dictionary list the most correct pronunciation first, as anyone with any level of exposure to grammar understands, and guess which version is listed first?

      • If you’re going to be smug, it would serve you well to note that the first definition listed is the most COMMON one. It is not a reflection of how “correct” it is.

  26. After being gone over 70 years, I call it what I want to….mostly “back home”.”A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”….seems like much ado about nothing!

  27. I understand the part of wanting to have people pronounce it correctly, but that does not mean we side with one side or another. I was taught to say it wrong, so I admit that I say it incorrectly, but that does not mean someone can’t trust me. I was just taught wrong and yes, because the pronunciation was drilled into me, I still say it out of habit, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be trustes.

  28. ideally, you’d want to pronounce it the way the native americans who lived there first pronounced it, followed by the french from which the word originated. speaking of imperialists…

  29. My own mama was born in the same place as me, in the mountains of North Carolina. The rest of us in our very large family say ‘Appa LATCH un’ while she insists on saying ‘Appa LAY shun’. We all say ‘ASH-ville’ while she says ‘AISH-ville’, which, by the way, is the traditional mountain way to pronounce the name of Asheville, NC. We just have to laugh over it and move on- we’re not disowning each other over it- yet.

    • Well said. I’m from Cherokee,Nc which is smack in the Smokies. If we got upset about all the things other people pronounce differently than us we would be pretty miserable.

  30. in the Northern end of Appalachia, specifically in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts, it is pronounced appal-LAY-CHA. Proof that there are regional pronunciations, where one is not necessarily the “correct” one.

    • There is no portion of Appalachia in Massachusetts. There is a portion of the Appalachian Mountains, but that is not the same thing, as the Appalachia cultural region does not include that portion of the mountains… which weren’t even the Appalachian Mountains a little over a century ago, they were just the Berkshires.

      Appalachia is a cultural region, the Appalachian Mountains are the topographical nomenclature for the mountain chain named after said area. The two are not interchangeable.

  31. As someone that was born and raised in the region and has since moved around the country I have to say McCrumb is right. When I tell people where I am from many have corrected my pronunciation. “Hillbillies” and their culture is still fodder for stereotypes and comedy. It would not be tolerated for another culture to be treated as Appalachian culture has been and still is. So yes, pronunciation matters as it reflects a much deeper issue.

  32. Interesting. I lived in the mountains of WV most my childhood and always say AppaLAYsha. There is no other place so sacred in my book ♡ Even passing through any part of the mountains I feel at home. There is something extra special about the WV mountains though. So, I may not say it the same yet those mountains are my home. Ancestry runs deep there as well. (I’ll admit, my grandparents moved to Baltimore and refused to freely claim their home) I will claim it, regardless the pronunciation. 🙂

  33. Eastern Kentucky pronunciation is App-uh-LAY-sha. My mother, who went on a tireless crusade against the word “hillbilly” until her death, even so far as to complain about “hillbilly” novelty crafts (such as a magnet of a foot with Hillbilly Calculator inscribed upon it) being sold at the Appalachian Festival in Cincinnati. She felt that the App-uh-LACH-a pronunciation was the pronunciation of condescension.

  34. I have always lived in south central Ohio in a county the Appalachian Region seems to skip around. My mother was from Kentucky. I make a point of taking pride in my Appalachian heritage and take offense at the common, destructive stereotypes applied to people from Appalachian areas. I do, however, use the pronunciation Appa-LAY-shuh because that is the way I have always heard it pronounced. I understand why some people would feel the “incorrect” pronunciation would be condescending considering the history and still common misconception that people of Appalachia are somehow less capable or qualified to think for themselves. I also feel very strongly against the offensive use of the term “hillbilly”. I am frequently amazed at the number of self-professed educated people that seem compelled to elevate themselves by degrading what they “perceive” to be a hillbilly.

  35. If latch-uh is the correct pronunciation to natives, that’s great. You have your own culture and modern America doesn’t just not understand it – they can’t even pronounce it!

    But Mexico is pronounced Meh-hee-ko. And Japan is pronounced Nee-pan. And Spain is pronounced Es-pawn-ya. Are natives from these countries offended when we call them Mexico, Japan, and Spain? Is it “condescension” every time a news station says eye-ran instead of ee-ron? (Because they do so quite often.)

    I’m not trying to disrespect anyone and I’ll definitely be more mindful of these pronunciations in the future. But food for thought: if you want to call Appa-lay-chuh “condescending”, I hope you’re pronouncing all those other country names correctly, too.

    • Mexico, Japan, and Spain are the correct words for those places in English, just as the Turks correctly say “Ingiltere” for England, and the French corrctly say “Londres” for London, and the Spanish often say “Nueva York” for new york. No one is telling the Spaniards to call their country Spain by using the correct English word for it. (If you were an English speaker speaking Spanish, however, of course you would say España in referring to Spain.)

      • But both pronunciations of “Appalachian” are correct. If you’re in New Hampshire’s and you say “LAY-chian,” you’re not wrong at all.. that is just the way they say the word to describe their region of the Appalachian mountains.

  36. I’m from New Hampshire where the Appalachian mountains are as well. I’ve always heard it as what you claim to be the wrong pronunciation.

  37. I’m from Appalachia and people in my neck of the woods say it either way. I also live by a creek that could be called a crick. I live by a hollow that can also be a holla or holler. I prefer “lay” because it follows general grammar rules. Throwing the T sound in there just confuses people trying to correctly spell, then they do look uneducated. My name rhymes with Katrina but I get a lot of Corinnas thrown at me. Ultimately to me it’s not a big deal even though my daughter and I often disagree on the pronunciation of Appalachia. I do take issue with the author rudely insulting me and mine that we are a snobs and not from here if we don’t pronounce this the way she prefers. And we DO have toothless hillbillies here, but they are still good people with better manners than to judge outsiders like this or insult their own neighbors for their life circumstances or pronunciation. Whose the snob dissing a native culture? Look in the mirror.

    • Well said, Karina! I grew up in the very eastern tip of Kentucky, spent my first twenty years there, and have kept up my ties with my friends there for the past fifty-seven years since moving away. We said AppaLAYsha,, and I will continue to do so. If someone pronounces it differently, although it sounds pretentious to me, I can accept the difference; but I feel frustrated by anyone who insists on putting me on a side just because I pronounce my area the way I have done ever since I learned to talk. Who appoints anyone an authority to tell the rest of us we are wrong just because we use a different pronunciation for an area we all love? A discussion on the differences is interesting and could be fun; but an implication that there is only one “right” way to say it is an insult to our diversity.
      As for “toothless hillbillies,” I live in Illinois, and I see some people without teeth here as well. I also see very few people in my beloved AppaLAYsha without teeth. We need to be more careful of stereotyping, which says something about us.

  38. Well OK it’s like this….I am a descendent from a McCoy, “The Hatfield’s and McCoy’s?” I don’t even say my neck of the woods, I say, “around here” and y’all….. We are as country talking as you get! I don’t know about getting Coronas thrown at me, but I have had a broom thrown at me!!! Lol so if your wanting the correct pronunciation, then your gonna get Appa-latch-uh!!! Lol oh and no I’m not toothless ….but a good person tho!

  39. I’ve hiked sections of the Appalachian Trail from North Carolina to New Hampshire but have never once been on the Appellation Trail.

  40. I am from Pittsburgh originally. We say ApaLAYsha. Check your map please. We are in the same range that extends to Maine at least. There are different pronunciations throughout. I was actually taught that those who say ApaLATCHsha aren’t from there. I have lived in Connecticut and Virginia, both also in the same range.
    Both pronounciations are acceptable. Let’s not fight over this. Pick something more important.

  41. At each moment of happiness…in our correct way…think of the billion Chinese..wearing the Mao Zedong suit-
    Dwells a moment of drama..that heals with a scab of pronunciation…the wound of otherness.

  42. I am very much a proponent of the “pronounce it the way the people who live there pronounce it” rule but it is obvious from this discussion that that rule breaks down when “there” is as huge as Appalachia (even just the “cultural” section of it).

  43. This is a fascinating discussion – I don’t think it’s superficial at all. Regional differences are important and fun. Words and pronunciations are all about the intent behind them, otherwise they are just words. At the top of this discussion I was thinking you could make a county-by-county map of the pronunciations, but even that seems reductive. Seems like it’s not even a coalfields vs. non coalfields thing, since there’s a few weighing in from eastern KY. Thank you everyone for putting these ideas out to the world, there’s lots of truth here in all these posts. It made my evening to read them and learn new things. Thank God for diversity!

  44. I’m born and raised in West By God Virginia (just try and ask me how close to Richmond I live…) and it’s always been “LAY” to this country boy and everyone else I know. The way the we “locals” says it is all that matters and that settles it for me. If you all Deep South folks want to Latch up, that’s fine with me.

  45. Great video, thanks! I live in Nevada, and we do bristle when TV folks and such say Ne-VAH-da, even if it is a Spanish name. We correct them. We even have a bumper sticker that says
    “Nev-AD-a,” not “Nev-AH-da.” Amazing how much emotion can be attached to pronunciation.

  46. This is Pretty cool, but to be honest I grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the “Paris of Appalachia”, and I’ve always pronounced it as app-ah-LAY-sha. Even in West Virginia ive always heard it pronounced that way. I think the further south you go, the more the pronunciation changes. Regardless, we all are blue collar mountain folk with the same background and love for the beautiful hills and mountains we call home. Even though I now live in Florida, and I do love it here, I always will have a soft spot in my heart for the Hills of Appalachia.

  47. Actually, both pronunciations are correct. Words can have more than one correct pronunciation. So the final word is that you can pronounce it either way.

  48. I grew up in Virginia, and we never said either Appa-LAY-shuh or Appa-LATCH-uh. We always said Appa-LAY-tcha. I’m not wrong. Neither is my niece in SC who says Appa-LATCH-uh or my aunt in Massachusetts who says Appa-LAY-shuh. It’s just as insulting for someone to correct me as for me to correct someone else. With all due respect to Ms. McCrumb, whose books I have read and enjoyed, the situations are not the same in Appalachia and Ireland. As we’ve seen here, there are lots of native people who pronounce it all sorts of ways, and if some shopkeeper in Kentucky (or wherever) is going to assume a whole attitude and even character on my part based on my pronunciation of a word which has so many “authentic” pronunciations, well it says more about him than it does about me. I never even heard the Appa-LATCH-uh pronunciation until I was an adult, so it has no condescending connections in my head. But I’m not likely to start saying Appa-LATCH-uh any more than I’m going to start saying CULL-in-a-ry just because the TV folks pronounce it that way. I’m going to keep saying Appa-LAY-tcha and CUE-lin-a-ry, and for the same reason: because I’ve always said it that way. Nor will I start correcting anyone saying it the other way.

  49. I only learned about the alternative pronunciation last year during presentation about the history of Appalachia. I asked my history teacher why the presenter kept saying Appa-latch-uh since I had never heard it pronounced that way, and she, being from eastern Ohio, educated me.

    I’m from eastern Massachusetts, but I’ve spent a significant amount of time in the section of the Appalachian mountain range in western Maine. That region is usually referred to as the Western Maine Mountains, to differentiate it from the coastal regions of Maine. Everyone who lives around there, the multi generation locals and the transplants, says Appa-lay-tchun mountains. No one actually says just “Appalachia” either, they’re always referring to the mountains specifically. I didn’t even know that Appalachia referred to a specific region of the US that didn’t include the northern section of the Appalachian mountain range.

    Even though western Maine is not part of Appalachia proper, from what I know it is a lot more similar to Appalachia than the Adirondacks or Berkshires or other sections of the mountain range. It is very rural and the economy used to rely on the lumber industry, every town in Oxford County was an old mill town, but that is all but gone now. The year round population would definitely be described as “rednecks” by the general population, and even though they are technically from New England as well, they separate themselves demographically and often refer to southern New England vacationers as “Flatlanders”.

    I don’t often have to refer to just “Appalachia”, but when I have to say “Appalachian Mountains” I still always say Appa-lay-tchun, simply because that is how everyone who I know says it. If I ever did travel somewhere where Appa-latch-uh was the norm, I would adjust my pronunciation, but I’m guessing I would slip a fair amount, habits are hard to break.

  50. I am from the hills of northeast Tennessee and I can say we don’t use someone’s pronunciation of Appalachia to determine if they are an outsider or not. It’s in the way they talk, dress, act and it’s in their mannerisms. I am an appalachian hillbilly of Scots- Irish desent and no matter where i go in southeastern Kentucky, western Virginia or western North Carolina other appalachian people know I am one of them and treat me like family. The appalachian people are clannish by nature so slight variations of pronunciations and dialects will exist. We are also very suspicious of outsiders intentions because of events in our past. I am an appalachian american and I am proud of our history, culture and unique way of life.

  51. I am from SW Virginia and I’ve always said it Appa-LACH-un and when I moved over to the western states, I was constantly corrected on the way I say it. I will often get answers like,
    “Well, we call those little hills over there the Appa-LAY-shun mountains, even though they’re barely big enough to be considered mountains. Now say it correctly.” I will always have to respond with something along the lines of,
    “Our mountains are old enough to be your mountains grandparents. Show some respect.” Thank you for trying to teach people the local way to say it.

  52. As it’s been noted here, Appalachia was a much smaller area culturally until relatively recently. Especially when congressional maps were extended in the 1960’s due to Appalachia becoming the nation’s first designated poverty area. The size and breadth of the Appalachian area magically grew by leaps and bounds at that time. The following video was produced in 1968. Pay close attention, if you have the patience to watch the entire video, of who makes what pronunciation. I’ll give you a hint. It ain’t the people living there using a long A.

    The long A is the language of condescension, for many reasons. Your grandparents and great-grandparents did not pronounce it with a long A, because that was not a word. That pronunciation didn’t even begin until the late 1930’s after the completion of the Appalachian Trail. Before that, there was no Appa-LAY-sha. Period.

  53. I found this fairly interesting as I’m of the “AppaLAYchan” group. I was born there but raised in Ohio. My parents are both from the very SW tip of Va where you could possibly stand on the mountain top on a clear day and hit West. Va, Kentucky, and Tennessee all with a rock if you had a good arm. Frankly, I don’t really recall any of my relatives using the word “Appalachia” so I don’t feel like a “traitor” for mispronouncing it. I am however VERY glad that I pronounce my own name “Karen” as we Yankees do. I was stunned to find that I was supposedly named after a cousin who was and is called “CayREEn”. Apparently, that’s how real AppaLATCHans pronounce the name. Sign me…..Northern girl whose family ancestor first appeared in 1715 land deeds when her 8x G-grandpa purchased 800 acres of North Carolina farm land.

  54. Being from South Eastern Kentucky, I have been to AppaLATCHA, VA. BUT I speak with an AppaLAYchun accent!!! We natives of South Eastern Kentucky always traveled DOWN to Lexington (following the flow of the North Fork of the Kentucky river). Hearing anyone say they were going UP to Lexington, we knew immediately they had just moved into our neighborhood or were visiting. Then there is always the question – how do you pronounce LOUISVILLE, KY?

  55. I’m from Pittsburgh, PA (part of Appalachia — and pronounce it the “other” way. “Pennsylvania has the most acreage of any state in Appalachia, with some three-quarters of our commonwealth within the realm of the federal Appalachian Regional Commission. That’s about 50 percent more acreage than West Virginia, the only state entirely in Appalachia.”

  56. It would seem that the “accepted” pronunciation when speaking of the range is AppalaSHia. The central regions most associated with a specific culture would be AppalaCHia. So the question is when one is in AppalaCHia and are obviously an outsider (dialect, mannerisms, etc) and you say AppalaCHia are you going to be looked at as an poser? I having been in AppalaCHia a enough times I would venture the average person couldn’t care less, caring more about your character, while the professional AppalaCHian (the sellf-proclaimed protectors and champions of the people and the region – usually sociologists and other “intellectuals”) will probably have a hissy fit.

  57. Pingback: Say it Right! Appa-LAY-shuh = Nails on a Chalkboard! | Appalachian Magazine

  58. This scenario and many of the comments have made me laugh quite a bit. I’m pleased to know this and pleased to hear the range was named after a tribe – I love to learn. To my mind, of course language has dialects and is endlessly variable and evolving. In fact, the more I learn over the years, the more I know that most of the “correct” ways of using language are either arbitrary, accidental or actually incorrect following socio-economic aspirations. Shibboleths are interesting, of course, but unlike Kevin above, I would say this one is a reverse shibboleth. The violence is done in the walking all over the locals. I can’t tell you how many times I have been corrected over the pronunciation of the place I come from. Members of my family were the first Europeans to live anywhere in that region of Australia. The place is called Jervis Bay, “er”, pronounced as spelled with the “schwa” sound. Not Jarvis Bay. But every single person who is not from there will correct me. It’s soooooo condescending and historically incorrect. It is a form of snobbery in the incorrect assumption that “more correct” English would pronounce the e as an aspiring, aristocratic “aa”. It is utterly wrong and ridiculous and irrelevant to anyone who comes from there. Similarly, Australians pronounce Cannes, in France, as Carne because to their ears it sounds upmarket (and also because, surely, it couldn’t possibly have the same pronunciation as the Australian town Cairns, pronounced, Cannes, I suspect). This makes them sound tin-eared everywhere else, but somehow 90 percent of people will correct you if you pronounce it correctly. I guess in the end it is kind of funny but so strongly felt by people it gets kind of annoying to be corrected when you come from the place.

  59. I know this conversation haw been going on for a few years, but I’m going to add my two cents.

    I happen to subscribe to the southern pronunciation, and will not hesitate to let others know that this pronunciation is the superior one. However I think the argument laid out in the video by Sharyn McCrumb is not only weak but reflects poorly on those who might embrace it. If we automatically mistrust everyone who does not conform to our way of being (or speaking) then we are a fearful and kind of sad bunch.

    I say keep correcting people, because you’re teaching them something about the world and your culture, and because it’s not so bad to engage in a little competitive engagement for control of a word that’s important to you. But don’t confuse lack of conformity with reason for fear, suspicion, or hatred, since the latter sometimes follows the former unwittingly.

  60. Pingback: Franklin Woods Community Hospital Drawings | Katablog

  61. I once heard someone talking about this pronunciation and they had said that it should be pronounced the same way that “Apalachicola” Florida is pronounced with the the “latch” sound.

  62. So… I was born and bred on the border of WV and Eastern Ohio… I have always been from Appalachia, and probably always will be… I love it here. I pronounce it Appa-lay-sha just like a lot of people do where I live. Only recently have outsiders come around to correct my mispronunciation of my home… I am now on the other side of the same silly coin. Say it how you like and don’t be easily offended when someone else does the same… That’d be my advice…

  63. Interesting read. I am from a Southern Pennsylvania valley within the Appalachian range, and here everyone says AppaLAYshen. I didn’t even know anyone pronounced it differently until a few years ago (guess I live under a rock, haha). So I do not think it’s imperialism or a difference between being a part of Appalachia vs looking down at those who are. Seems to be more of a dialect discrepancy.

  64. Interesting article except for one big problem. I grew up in upstate NY. I lived in the Ramapo Mountains and spent my summers in the Catskill Mountain. We never doubted that we lived in the Appalachian Mountains. We pronounced it Appalayshah up there. When I moved to WV at 18 yrs old, I heard people calling it Appalatchah which is how I’ve been pronouncing it since. Neither is wrong, in fact, both are right. It’s just local dialect.

  65. Pingback: Thank you, 1A and NPR, for doing right by Appalachia. | Coalfields to Cornfields

  66. I was born in raised in Kentucky and I have always pronounced it Appa-lay-shuh as do most of my friends. I sometimes hear old people saying it the other way, but they often also pronounce things like tire as tar, wash as warsh, and Vienna sausage as Vi-ee-nee so I’ve never put much stock into the way they pronounce things.

  67. Sorry, born and reared in the Piedmont region of Georgia, and spent many days in the mountains to my west and north. Learned to rappel there, did orienteering meets there, etc. And I never met a person from Georgia who used the short a. In Georgia, where the trail originates, it is AppaLAYcha. We also say “y’all,” and not “yinz.” The most ironic thing about this is how southerners constantly claim they are looked down upon with derision for the way they talk…………..which is exactly what the author here is doing.

  68. Pingback: Appa-LAY-shuh, Appa-LATCH-ah, (and some fiddling) – swordwhale

  69. I don’t agree that pronouncing it contrary to how locals say it automatically means condescension. It could mean you just don’t know any better. However, if, after hearing the locals say it correctly, you decline to follow suit, then you’re being an arrogant imperialist.

  70. I have to say that since my girl moved down to Louisville, I’m keen to pronouncing it the way the locals there do: Loo-a-vul, NOT Loo-ee-vill, thank you very much.

  71. Go to Fries, Va in the Appalachians and try to tell the people there how to pronounce their town name correctly. Then go back to where you came from. Harry King never met me!

  72. I am from Fort Worth TX, and I have always pronounced it the correct way.. Several co-workers said I was wrong, but what do they know.

  73. Hello, I’m from Pennsylvania and live in the Appalachian Mountains, more specifically the Blue Ridge Mountain Range. We pronounce it Appa-Lay-shun or Appa-Lay-Shuh. I never heard your way until hearing sports announcers talk about Appalachian State, and always thought it was wrong.

  74. I’m from Albany, NY. The ‘Latcha” southern version is a “Southern” or “Confederate” version. Up North we have never pronounced “Latcha”, we call it Appa LAY cha. Appalacian Mtns cover the Southern and the Northern eastern USA. Until NPR decided to shove the Southern version down our throats out of a misconception that it was a politically acceptable thing to do for god knows what reason, I never heard the Latcha version spoken or taught up here in the North Country. And the West Coast is also included in the Lay – Cha version. The point is that “y’all” is not used up North. We in New York say “youse guys” or in the civilized North “Get well now” NOT “Y’all get well now”. We have different versions of a lot of things — this is just a Reb vs Yankee thing. Nothing more, nothing less. And we both know the famous trail Latcha or Lay-Cha.

  75. Okay, come south for a brief stint only “youse guys” from up north and learn a little history. The Appalachia Region received its name from an Indian tribe in the South whose name was Apalachee and was pronounced with the “latch” and not the “lay” sound. I guess correct history is not politically correct up North. Cherokee Indian descendant.

  76. Apparently in the coal patch in SW Pennsylvania we were taught Webster’s pronunciation with the long “a” sound. Any other pronunciation is like nails on a chalkboard to me. It’s just how I was raised.
    Maybe it’s a “ridge runner vs. hillbilly” thing.

    • Just because someone calls it Appa-latch-an, does not mean they’re a hillbilly. As a matter of fact, to be called a hillbilly is very offensive just because of the way someone says something or where they come from. The term is very derogatory and offensive. Hillbilly is a term that one uses to put someone lower than them in a sense of calling them dumb or ignorant. In my opinion, to call someone a hillbilly is hurtful unless they intentionally portray themselves as one.

  77. “(probably those holding on to the nonsense stereotypes that all of us are shoeless, toothless, and uneducated)”

    You left out the part where you marry your sisters.
    That’s always my favorite bit.
    (Especially how mama is also auntie, and daddy is also unca…)
    But then, it WAS Appalachia (the Kentucky part) — that beautiful little corner of Apple-Atcha that John Prine sang about; the one that lopped off all the mountaintops and hauled ’em away to heat and light our big-city homes (and to sell to the Chinese; don’t forget that part) — that was polled as loathing Obamacare, and insisting on refusing to accept it for the state — while loving KYnect, and wanting to keep it…
    Because, of course, they are one and the same.
    These are the same people who’ve foisted Mitch Turtle McConnell on our country for 34 years now.
    Tell us again how these people are rocket scientists.

  78. Pingback: Episode 011: I’m Thinking of Ending Things – Time to Read

  79. Western PA. Pittsburgh-Johnstown.
    It’s appa-LAY-shuh to me forever. Feel however you want, but don’t tell me I didn’t climb down from these godforsaken mountains XD

    Anyway, thanks for the insight! Stumbled across this while looking for the “correct” pronunciation and it was fascinating, ever 6 years later!

  80. Silliness. It’s regional dialect, sometimes a bit of education, sometimes even familial variations. I was born in WV, from a family that has roots in WV for hundreds of years. We all say “Lay-Shun”. We don’t even all pronounce our last name the same but five living generations say lay-shun. I personally will go both ways with it and when in company of southern friends I am as comfortable with latch-un as with lay-shun. It really matters naught. We have plenty of things to be divided on but the realness or genuineness of our heritage or culturally based on how we speak surely isn’t want of them.

  81. This is hilarious to me because I was born in south-central West Virginia and come from West Virginians who go all the way back to 1797, my great-great x5 grandfather being one of the first settlers, and hilariously everyone I grew up with said AppaLAYtcha. This is a false division here. Yes, people from D.C. will often say “LAY-sha” to sound snooty, but hahahaha there are also North Carolinians, from near Asheville, WHO ARE NO LESS SNOOTY AND HAVE BEEN SINCE THE EARLY 1900s, who will correct a person to “LATCH-a,” when in REALITY, the mere arguing over the pronunciation of this word is the sign of carpetbaggers and snooty people, lol. NO ONE from central WV ever says that they are Appalachian most of the time. They are by-god West Virginians, not frickin’ Western New Yorkers, lol. And to the NC people saying NC is the true Appy territory, lol: WV is the only state entirely enclosed in the mountains. Movie stars were hanging out in Asheville hipster-town a hundred years ago. By the way, I also left said place, and was educated, and have since learned that it was HIGHLY typical of the ancestors of those who spoke the derivatives of Scotch (no, not “Scots” which is another modern falsehood) Irish ALWAYS had long “As” – you hear it in MANY of their other words. Lol.

  82. Well this is all fascinating. My understanding is that the place name, what we would refer to as the mountain range it’s pronounced one way, and that particular mountain range runs from Maine all the way down to Georgia. So some parts of this mountain range we’re homesteaded buy scotch Irish people who had a natural inclination for mountains. And since there was a lot of isolation in the hollows, many of these folks spoke a sort of Elizabethan English, like Shakespeare, well into the 1960s. Now, i’ll tell you the story of my family, and you tell me how I should pronounce Appalachian. My father is scotch Irish, his mother is pure Scottish and his father was pure scotch Irish. My mother is Lebanese. So, within living memory in my family people married across for bidden religious taboos, and people married across forbidden racial taboos. One of the only reasons why my grandfather on my mother side was able to successfully marry a pure Arabic woman was because he was a veterinarian and was friends with important people like Charles Ave., Kettering who invented the electric starter for the automobile and so forth. So I was born in Dayton Ohio, and as we all know Cincinnati and Dayton was the shortest destination of the Appalacian diaspora that eventually would take appellations like John Prine, the great Nashville songwriter, all the way up to Chicago. So I came to identify my Appalachian heritage later on in life. Growing up in the suburbs you were either white or white, Ha ha ha. It wasn’t till I move to Boston and almost got my ass kicked in Southie that I found out that my last name was not Irish, not at all. My last name is Scotch Irish. In other words my people are orange in northern Ireland and say Londonderry. Now that’s not a very hip cultural reference to come from, but my feeling is fuck y’all if you going to judge my family from 500 years ago. And I suspect my fuck your attitude has more to do with the fact that I grew up in Dayton there anything else! So who knows, I probably was saying Appalacian incorrectly for many many years. Not because of an insult, but simply because that’s how I learned. So when we would travel to Lake Cumberland for some houseboat and skin we probably looked and sounded like the Ohio in flatlanders that we were. And if anybody had ever corrected our pronunciation, we may have told them fuck y’all as well. Depends on how many Budweiser‘s we had under our belt at the time. But seriously I think there are much more important things than arguing over how to pronounce something. But I will always defer to the people from the region and how they pronounce the name place of their heritage. Here’s a quick story. I was a record producer for many years and I had kids from all over the world on the label. We were doing the liner notes for one CD release, And one of the players was from this tiny town in Israel. It was literally spelled 3 different ways on two different maps. What to do? So I called the young man up and I said are you a grandparents living, and he said yes. I asked him, how do you grandparents spell the name of your little town where you come from and he told me. That is the spelling that we used in the liner notes of this particular CD. Later on, my young friend asked me why did you choose my grandparents to be the arbitrators of how we would spell the name of my hometown? And I told him, I always honor the oldest generation, they won’t be around much longer and they represent a past that will literally die when they pass on. So by showing respect to the oldest generation that respect trickles down to your parents and to you and to your children. Sure enough six months later I get a letter from Israel on onion skin paper. It was from this young man’s grandparents and his parents and they were thanking me for taking such care with the memory of their heritage. The fact that they were survivors of the camps probably made it more emotional for all of us, but it was an honor to call them by their ancient and righteous name.

  83. I wonder if there are different ways of pronouncing Kansas. I accidentally found this post and enjoyed reading all the comments. Never too old to learn…

  84. Either pronunciation is considered correct. The Appalachian Mountains run a long way, from Georgia up into New England. The general principle is that the “Latch” pronunciation is used from the Mason-Dixon Line (PA/WV) southward, and the “Lay” pronunciation is used in the North. Since it is a Native American word, and the language was spoken, not written, there is no way to be sure what the original correct pronunciation was. We are hearing it through the dialects of the European settlers, which vary quite a bit from Georgia to the Berkshires. Culturally, Appalachia has come to refer to the southern part of the mountain chain. We don’t hear much about poverty and poor health care in Indiana, PA or Gardner, MA. It’s KY, WV, NC, etc. that is lumped into the Appalachian stereotype. So, in some respects, we are stereotyping people based on which half of a mountain chain they come from. But I will accept the will of the people who live there and the best known symbols of their birthplace. After all, Appalachian State University is in Boone, NC, and my daughter-in-law went there, and they use the “Latch” pronunciation. I’m not arguing against that!

  85. I am from southern Maryland, where my family has lived for over 300 years. We say “latch”. The reason most people say “lay” in because they are not from the area near Appalachia. Of my 3 best friends, one of them is from SW Virginia and she says latch. The other are from Oklahoma and upstate NY and they say lay.

  86. Saying you should call it what the locals call it is a bad argument. By that standard, we should all be calling China “Zhongguo”, Sweden “Sverige”, Spain “España”, etc etc. We call it how we know it. There doesn’t have to be condescension there. I grew up in NJ and all of my teachers in school said Appa-laysha.

  87. I grew up in the Appalachian mountains of Pennsylvania. Sorry but we say lay-sha, as do those in New York that I’ve met. I’ve always found the line of demarcation to be Pittsburgh. If your from South West of Pittsburgh it’s latcha or laycha or laychee-a or some other variation. Everywhere North east of Pittsburgh says Lay-sha. Sorry I’m also from there and we don’t say it like you do.

  88. In my experience, from all over the area. There’s 2 pronunciations. “Appa-lay-shain,” and the spobs that demand you say Appa-lach-an. Normally the same types that correct spelling in text messages too. You haven’t been all around the area, is you haven’t heard them pronounce it with the “lay.” You been to your area. So maybe lower your nose, before the sprinklers drown you? 🤔 lol

  89. I am from the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina and have always pronounced it Appa-latch-an. Every person I have talked to that is from here or around here has also said it the same way. I do agree that many people do have different pronunciations of it, but it does offend the people from there when you get it “wrong”. I know from experience. Every time I hear someone say it the way we son’t say it around here, it makes the hair on my arms stand up.
    Just think about it this way. If we discovered a new tribe somewhere and they pronounced their home a certain way, it wouldn’t be right for us to go somewhere else and call it by a different name. I’m sure that they wouldn’t like for us to mispronounce their home place either.
    No matter where you come from or what dialect you speak with, to the people that live there, the right pronunciation will always be Appa-latch-an. Please remember that we are all sensitive to the way certain words are pronounced. I’m sure that you wouldn’t want for me to walk up too you and call you by your wrong name. It’s just not polite.

  90. I grew up in the Appa-lay-shuns, south of the Mason Dixon but not deep South. Saying that our pronunciation is condescending and imperialist is laughable. Our region is farm and coal country and economically depressed. Hearing Appa-latch-chah is like nails on a blackboard to me, even though I realize it’s a regional difference.

  91. Yet another native West Virginian here, with roots in Cabell County and across the river going back to the 18th century — families of Combs, Sizemores, Wyants, Byrds, Withrows, Mullins, Atkinses, and so on. As several others posting messages here from Eastern Kentucky and the Tri-State area have noted, all of us grew up only hearing the “Appa-LAY-sha” variant. It was only years later, when I was an adult talking with someone from out of state that was I informed (much to my utter surprise!) that I wasn’t saying it correctly. Apparently they were in the know about how true Appalachians pronounced things and I had to be “educated”.

    Well, then. 😉

    Truth be told, there are MANY different dialects tucked away in our region, and there used to be tons more before modern infrastructure arrived — my Mawmaw used to tell me that, in the 20s and 30s, you could tell exactly which *county* someone was from just by the way they talked!

    At any rate, this reminds me of one of my dad’s favorite jokes:

    Dad: “So tell me again; I can never remember. Is the capital of Kentucky pronounced LOUIS-ville, or is it LOUEY-ville?”

    Unsuspecting Person: “Um, it’s…..(Gives the proper pronounciation)”

    Dad: (Triumphantly) “Nope! Neither! It’s Frankfort.”

    Best wishes to all People Everywhere,


  92. Regional pronunciations are weird (Charlotte, NC, like a person’s name, Charlotte, NY – shur-LOT). I think it’s different with Appalachian because the people who look live there say it differently – have had folks in small town West Virginia correct me when I asked the location of a restaurant “Its the AppaLAYshun Inn”. What I dont like is when people pronounce your NAME with their regional twist. For instance, my country relations put accents in strange places and add an R after vowels, so my mom Roberta, pronounced rah-BER-tah, became row-BER-ter. MonROE becomes MUHN-row, Chicago becomes chi-CAR-go.

  93. It’s kind of strange that almost every city in Europe is pronounced differently than how an outsider would say it, but is not a thing here to us, in fact it would seem odd to pronounce it properly unless you are using the local langauge and dialect.

    “Trust!” the lady speaks of- what a freaking joke, what paranoid cows you Americans are. Rednecks are some seriously weird paranoid freaks, but I guess it makes sense with those kind of churches and all the dying and problems there.

    So let’s just call the sad and disgraceful region of Appalachia what it really is- it’s reputation is well-earned. Or just go back to saying Blue Ridge, Allegheny, etc.

  94. As someone who has lived in and around the Appalachian region of Pennsylvania my whole life, I had always heard people say Appal ayshun, and it wasn’t until I saw references to the mountains from television or video games in recent years that I first heard people say Appal atchun. Its a regional thing as far as I’m concerned.

  95. Linguists will tell you that “correct” pronunciation is not decided by the locals nor dialect, it’s decided by origination. Origination of the naming of Appalachia is hazy, but on any account the word is Native American, named after the Apalachee tribe. This is pronounced a.puh.LEI.chee (or app-uh-LAY-chee), which would indicate a “correct” pronunciation of “app-uh-LAY-sha”.

    If everyone in Worcestershire pronounced it WOR-sest-er-shy-er, doesn’t mean that’s the “correct” pronunciation (FYR, it’s WUH.stuh.shr or WUH-stuh-sure).

    Now, the answer is very different if you’re watching an account of a location or speaking to a local, due to dialect and accent. Therefore, a film/show/video game within those specific locales SHOULD be using Appa-LATCH-a. This is their own dialect/accent. For someone to come in and tell them they’re saying it wrong is equivalent to telling people in Boston, New York, the South, etc that they’re saying pretty much everything wrong. From some locals, these would be pronounced “Bah-stin” or “New Yawk”. Have you heard a local say New Orleans? Do people tell them they’re “pronouncing it wrong”?

    In short, many of the comments above are right, no matter the view. App-uh-LAY-shuh is “technically correct”, but locals are NOT incorrect in pronouncing it differently within their own accent & dialect.

    • The current chief of the Talimali band of the Apalachee people, Arthur Bennett, pronounces it Appa-LATCH-ee. One can find a video of him speaking on the Apalachee Indian Nation Facebook page. Who/what is your source?

      • Imagine that Raven! Won’t make no difference to know it alls. Yes, I know I used a double negative-Cherokee descendant but not an Apalachee descendant.
        We used to say, “If you say “app-uh-LAY-sha” then I am going to throw an-apple-at-cha.”

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