Appalachia is more than a place. The Appalachian Mountains are rich with customs, food and dialect that is not found anywhere else. Those mountains are at the core of the people who were raised there or have adopted it as home. The mountains become part of who we are, why we are, and how we go about what we do.
One of the things that many Appalachia natives are particular about is how we say our name. This is also something that many people from elsewhere do not understand. In Central Appalachia, where I am from, it is app-uh-LATCH-uh, not app-uh-LAY-sha. I am told that there are people in Appalachia who were taught to use the latter pronunciation. Fair enough, I obviously get regional dialect. Please understand, when you say App-uh-LAY-sha in much of Appalachia people, in addition to knowing immediately that you are not a local, may think you are trying to be fancy or worse. How you say the word Appalachia matters.
As you can tell, I and many others feel strongly about this word. So, when stumbling around on the internet I found a company called Pronunciation Tees I was super excited. What do these people do? Well, they get me and my people. Pronunciation Tees produces t-shirts that proudly display the proper pronunciation of Appalachia – [app-uh-latch-uh].
The moment I saw this shirt I had to have it. Oh, and it gets better, the mission statement of the company is to
Help raise awareness about the infection known as [app-a-lay-sha].
I encourage everyone to support these brave and creative folks. It’s cool, it’s fun, and it’s just plain right.
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.