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.

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