West Virginia's Appalachian Music and Literature

Appalachian Humor

West Virginians love a good laugh, even if the joke is on them! Appalachian humor is evident in songs, tall tales, and anecdotes (short account of some interesting or humorous incident).

The Mountaineers found their humor in everyday situations such as married life, town characters, local politics, religion, and family chores. They also found humor in boasting and bragging about their successes in hunting and farming.

The dictionary defines humor as "the quality of being laughable or comical; funniness." We can't really explain, however, WHAT is funny or WHY it is funny. Not everyone laughs at the same stories, and when you try to explain to someone else what makes a story funny, the humor deflates. (Think of a balloon and what would happen if you pricked it with a pin so you could feel the air inside.)

So instead of trying to explain Appalachian humor, we simply offer some samples. Enjoy yourself. We hope you have a good laugh!

Bonnie Collins,
on Pigs (song)

"O Soldier, Soldier"

Bonnie Collins,
on Pigs (story)

Ernest Caynor,
on Bees (story)

Discussion Questions

Play-Party Game


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West Virginia's Appalachian Music and Literature is a self-contained teaching unit by Avis Caynor and Reneé Wyatt (1997), reprinted with permission in 2003 in the larger web site AppLit. Matching quilt squares and arrow buttons will lead you through the four main sections of this teaching unit and back to its main menu.

There is humor in many of the Appalachian tales reprinted or discussed in AppLit. See especially:
Soap, Soap, Soap
Davy Crockett
Old Drye Frye
Jack and the Three Sillies
The Snake-Bit Hoe Handle
The Two Old Women's Bet
Foolish Jack or The Swapping Song

Complete list of AppLit pages on folklore
Complete list of AppLit pages on music