"hillbilly from Louisville"

James Landau jjjrlandau at EARTHLINK.NET
Sat Feb 4 19:35:32 UTC 2006

I'm aware of the derivation of the name "Pennyrile" but I don't recall ever
having seen the name of the region spelt as "Pennyroyal".  By the way, this
is grist for the perennial ADS-L topic on "gwine" for "going".

Placing Louisville within the Bluegrass makes neither geological nor
sociopolitical sense.  The Bluegrass is rolling hills; there are no rolling
hills within the Louisville city limits.  Sociopolically the Bluegrass is
Lexington/University of Kentucky and environs, not Louisville.

I was under the impression that "the Knobs" was the formal term for the
geological region which is between the Pennyrile and the Bluegrass.
Iroquois Hill (which is inside Louisville's city limits) is definitely one
of the Knobs.

Oh, yes, we should warn outsiders that Bourbon County is dry.

      - James A. Landau BS, MS

        Northrop-Grumman Information Technology/8025 Black Horse Pike,
Suite 300/West Atlantic City NJ 08232 USA

  ----- Original Message -----

From: Dennis R. Preston
To: jjjrlandau at earthlink.net
Sent: 2/4/2006 6:56:37 AM
Subject: Re: "hillbilly from Louisville"

Jim is certainly right about this; of course, exterior labels are quite
another matter. Here's a couple of odd things.

1) "Pennyrile" is the pronunciation but not the spelling (Pennyroyal).
2) The "knobs" is an informal refernce (unlike the others he uses).
Louisville is often placed within the Bluegrass (on the border with the

Here is the Commonwealth's own listing of its regions:

Cumberland Plateau | The Bluegrass | Northern Kentucky | Pennyroyal Plateau
| Cincinnati metropolitan area | Louisville metropolitan area | Western
Coal Fields | The Purchase

But that is not an exclusively "geological" listing.

To the point: Soon as you get north of Indianapolis, you're a hillbilly if
you're from anywhere in KY, as absurd as that would seem to real


Anybody who uses "hillbilly from Louisville" is definitely NOT from

In Kentucky the term "hillbilly" refers ONLY to people living in the
Mountains, also called the "Cumberlands" or the "Eastern Kentucky coal
field".  This is a well-defined geological area which starts about a
hundred miles east of Louisville.

Geologically Kentucky is divided into the Eastern coal field, the Western
coal field, the Pennyrile, the Knobs, the Jackson Purchase, and the
Bluegrass.  (Bluegrass is not a state of mind but rather an area of rolling
hills that provides excellent pasturage for horses.)  Louisville is in the
Knobs.  No Kentuckian would use "hillbilly" to refer to anyone from other
than the Eastern coal field..

People in the Mountains have terms to refer to Louisvillians, beginning
with "city slicker" and going downhill (literally?) from there, but
"hillbilly" is definitely not one of them.

       - Jim Landau

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

Dennis R. Preston
University Distinguished Professor
Department of English
15-C Morrill Hall
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824-1036
Phone: (517) 353-4736
Fax: (517) 353-3755
preston at msu.edu

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

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