04 March 2012

Positive Anymore

There's this grammatical construction that's used in the Midland sub-dialect of Appalachian English. (Which would happen to be my dialect. See above where Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia meet up—Hatfield-McCoy territory.)

I bet you right here, right now that this construction is not in your dialect. Or maybe you've heard it, but it sounds confusing, marginal, even ungrammatical. Shall we say—hillbilly speech. It's called the Positive Anymore and it's perfectly grammatical and understandable in Appalachia. Some examples:

Maybe I shouldn't even bring this up, but does anyone else wonder
 whether the missing arm has anything to do with a snake?

He's up to that snake-handler church an awful lot anymore.
Yeah, hon, that's pretty much how I felt
the first 17 years of my life there, too.

Tammy been landin' five, six catfish a day anymore.

These Positive Anymore constructions indicate that "it used NOT to be, but is now." The adverb nowadays can replace anymore in these forms. Make the substitution in the captions above and you'll have standard grammatical expressions with the same meaning expressed by the Positive Anymore.

This is contrasted with the much more common usage and wide-spread distribution (including in Standard American English) of the Ordinary Anymore construction. Bet you right here, right now, you've got this one, where anymore appears exclusively in negative constructions to mean "it used to be but isn't now."

Lonnie ain't afraid of that ol' rooster anymore.*
* Note however that in Appalachian, no more is most likely to appear in the Ordinary Anymore sentences. (Lonnie ain't afraid of that ol' rooster no more.) This may have to do with distinguishing the positive and negative, since both constructions appear in this dialect.

Like many features of my home dialect, Positive Anymore presumably comes from Scots-Irish where it is still extant today. Most Appalachian settlers on my end of the mountains were Scots-Irish, and for that matter, I'm Scots-Irish on my father's side.

You can see by the syntactic and semantic regularity, and the history and linguistic origins of Positive Anymore that it is not an inferior, "uneducated" speech pattern, as so much of the Appalachian dialect is considered to be. It's an old, established feature from a major source of Standard English. Dialects develop differently. It's how they get to be separate dialects. (READ: We ain't the hillbillies y'inze think we is.)

To wrap this up, here's a beautiful little exchange between me and son Asa (who has a mainly Boston/New England dialect) that shows the potential cross-dialect confusion. It's why, anymore, I've been giving this some thought again.

                    Asa and the Positive 'Anymore'

Asa was wondering if we might start getting cable TV.

I thought about it:  Well, you do like a lot of stuff on tv anymore.


Asa:  Are you saying I don't like it anymore?

Me:  No, I'm saying you do like it anymore.

Asa (clearly confused):  But that says something... negative... right...?


  1. Usually the kid is fluent in both the parent's language and actual English. And I'm not so sure this hasn't bled into the North Midland, where I was raised/live now. Would that make me a hillbilly anymore?

  2. Yepper, yer a hillbilly anymore, sure as snot you are.

    You're right about what the kid picks up--he definitely knows Appalachian dialect even though he rarely uses it himself. Which makes sense.

    I think he was confused by Positive Anymore because it's not something that comes up in such a perfect focused context like that one. I'm sure he thought I was trying to put something over on him....

  3. I'd suggest a rewording of your first statement: "the kid is fluent in both the parent's dialect and in the dialect of his/her peers and general region."

    (I realize that this was, of course, precisely what you meant, but I'm attempting to restate it in socially-neutral terms.)

    Interesting to note that substituting "native language" for "dialect" in the restatement accurately describes a fully bilingual situation as well.

    THANK YOU for commenting. You hillbilly.

  4. y'inze is a Pittsburgh thing :) My folks from Guernsey County said you'inze. Are you'inze coming over this weekend ?

    1. Hello! I just noticed this comment. Indeed, "yinze" or "you'ins" is centered in a very small area that includes Guernsey County and certainly bleeds into Pittsburgh's general area. If I have missed other comments, please contact me directly: the_tapu@yahoo.com. Thanks for viewing!