Dittlers and dits

Grant Barrett gbarrett at WORLDNEWYORK.ORG
Thu Mar 27 15:24:12 UTC 2008

The fellow below submitted the following to the American Dialect
Society web site a while back. I sent him an email asking if he'd like
to be on my radio show. He said yes and his second email follows the
first below.

I found one other use of it so far, in Urban Dictionary of all places:


Otherwise, I've found no use of it elsewhere in the usual databases
and web sites. Does anyone have anything on this? I've forwarded it to
Joan Hall at DARE for the record.



Begin forwarded message:

> From: "J. Fred Calkins" <jfredcalkins at earthlink.net>
> Date: November 25, 2007 13:21:05 EST
> To: <woty at americandialect.org>
> Subject: A regional word
> When I moved into south eastern KY I discovered a dialectal word
> which has caused me great curiosity. Perhaps the American Dialect
> Society can shed some light on the origins and extent of this
> particular word. 'dit' or 'dittler' is the preferred word to refer
> to baby chickens or other dry land domestic fowl. If referencing
> other than chicken the tendency is to put a prefix on the word
> (turkey-dit). I have determined this word to be normal in Bell,
> Harlan, and Letcher counties. It is understood in Wayne, McCreary,
> Whitley, Knox, Clay and Leslie counties. It seems to be Normal in
> the western tip of Virginia but fades when we get across the line
> into TN. I am curious how far east it goes. Since the words are so
> entrenched in this segment of Appalachian culture I am suspecting
> some Old World connections. Alternatively it may come from the
> American Indians. If you can shed any light on these terms I would
> be very grateful. Even though I grew up calling baby chickens
> 'chicks' (in central Michigan) I have found this an easy term to add
> to my vocabulary.  I did not even blink when someone asked about my
> children with the phrase 'How are your dits?'  Perhaps you have some
> research or chronicling of this useful word. Fred

> From: "J. Fred Calkins" <jfredcalkins at earthlink.net>
> Date: December 27, 2007 06:25:28 EST
> To: Grant Barrett <gbarrett at worldnewyork.org>
> Subject: Re: A regional word
> Grant, you don't offer me a bit of insight to this interesting word
> yet offer me an opportunity to discuss it on air. I am what we call
> in the mountains a preacher, I take any opportunity to talk I get. I
> do try to keep to the subject but need to warn you that gospel
> idioms thoroughly infect both my thoughts and words. It was, after
> all, during my pastoral visitation rounds that I learned this word.
> Another point of information you need to be aware of - the most
> common chickens in this area are game. The abhorrence of some toward
> that 'sport' is indicted by the laws against fighting chickens
> (there are no laws against raising them). I serve a district of
> Seventh-day Adventist churches, most of which are along the southern
> half of I-75 in Kentucky.
> Have a great day,  Fred

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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