Mountain Lingo: “Walmarts”

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Photo courtesy of Gonce
Photo courtesy of Gonce

I do not remember the precise year, but at some point in time a few decades ago, the quiet community of Logan, West Virginia, played host to a construction project that in my young eyes rivaled anything Roosevelt’s CCCs ever thought of doing: an entire mountaintop was leveled and soon a building that was measured in acres, not square feet, was erected in the land of Devil Anse Hatfield.

“What are they building there, Papaw?” I asked as we drove past the giant earthmovers along US Route 119.

“They’re putting in a Walmarts, son.  Soon you’ll be able to buy anything you want from right there,” he responded, almost impressed by the massive operation taking place just beyond his driver’s side window.

Soon, “Walmarts” could be seen throughout the coalfield counties: Pikeville, Kentucky; Belfry, Kentucky; and McDowell County, West Virginia all had their own store.

Eventually, Walmart would become the number one employer in the State of West Virginia.

My favorite of Walmarts, however, was in Grundy, Virginia, where limited space pushed designers to build upward, creating an unusual sight of a box store with multiple stories.

These days, there is a lot of debate about the company headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas.  Are they a force for good or bad in our rural communities?  What’s up with their self checkouts?  Is acceptable to wear pajamas through the store? Will Amazon and online shopping eventually push them out of business?  All of these are worthy questions, but one thing that no one seems to be asking where I come from is how one is to properly pronounce the store’s name… we know: “Walmarts”.

The debate between “App-ah-laysha” vs. “App-ah-latcha” has been well documented and is often cited to distinguish the various regions of Appalachia.  I would take this a step further and say that deep in the heart of “App-ah-latcha” country, the real distinguishing pronunciation is found in how one says Walmart.  The folks from the hollers will typically say, “Walmarts” whereas the fancier folks drop the s!

Here’s to all my “Walmarts” brothers and sisters out there!

Like articles like this? Then you would love Appalachian Magazine’s Mountain Voice: A Collection of Memories, Histories, and Tall Tales of Appalachia!  Click here to check out the book on Amazon!

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