Etymology of Appalachia

Recently my good friend Ethan got me back into brewing. Unfortunately, since brewing whiskey is still illegal on such a small scale, we went with the second best drink; cider. Since I work in a Makerspace, I knew I had to come up with a fun label. What would be a fun apple pun/label?


For many of the Pittsburghers reading this, you might be wondering, “but isn’t it pronounced apple-lay-sha?” How you pronounce this mountain range shows a lot about your personal ideology and history.

As Sharyn McCrumb shares below, how you say it signifies if you belong or not. ‘At-cha’ signifies that you are culturally Appalachian. You are mountain folk that has a mixed identity of ruggedness at at the same time being exploited. Over history who was exploiting you might have changed, but it has always been an ‘us v them’ mentality. While now some might say “they are backwards conservatives,” when the first unions were forming in West Virginia, New York newspapers were calling the mountain folk a ‘lazy, uncivilized people who don’t want any part in the economy.’

So what does that make Pittsburgh? The name ‘Paris of Appalchia’ describes it best. Yes, it is technically a mountain city but it views itself as ‘other.’ It claims to be like an east coast city when compared to the surrounding area, but claims to be a mountain city when compared to other cities.

But where does the word come from? Like most words from this region, it comes from the people that have lived here since time immemorial.

When the Spaniards invaded this continent, they took notes to take back. On one of those notes they noted the names of people who lived in modern day Florida. Appalachee was the name of a tribe of Muskogean people now found near Tallahassee, Florida.

So how should you pronounce it? Personally, I always default to how the people who identify using the word say it. But more importantly than a correct pronunciation, you are showing that you are open to hearing the voice of the people who live in these mountains.