Devil Annz? No, Devil Ants.

Dear Mr. Costner,

Thank you for making the documentary miniseries Hatfields & McCoys for The History Channel.  As a direct descendant of Devil Anse Hatfield, and as a fan of your work as an actor (I especially enjoyed A Perfect World), I am very pleased that you chose to make this film, and I am hoping it fulfills its promise of historical accuracy.

The reason I am writing is for the purposes of historical accuracy, in fact.  While watching the trailer for Hatfields & McCoys, I noticed that you are mispronouncing the name Devil Anse.  It is not pronounced Devil Annz.  It is pronounced Devil Ants.  His given first name was Anderson, so it was a play on that name, intended to be a reference to the oldtime name for fire ants.  Just as fire ants attack without mercy, so would Devil Anse during the Civil War.

My concern is this, simply stated.  Since you produced the series and play the part of Devil Anse, I fear that the mispronunciation is in the miniseries itself, and will annoy me to no end while I am watching it.  Worse, it will cause all of America (and eventually the world as well) to start mispronouncing his name, though no one mispronounced it before.

I sincerely hope that will not be the case.  While I realize that you may have made an assumption about the pronunciation based upon what you have heard elsewhere, you must always remember (if in fact you ever even knew) that people in these parts tok uh lil difernt.

(And I can write that completely without humor or insult, since I freely admit that I talk like that as well.)

At any rate, I look forward to watching.

UPDATE:  After watching the program, I am happy to note that my fears were unfounded.  Not only did they pronounce Devil Anse correctly, they also pronounced Randall correctly (it is pronounced as Ranol, and he was also called Ole Ranol).

Now if only all the characters spoke with an authentic accent for this region, that would be great, since it is hard for even us to understand some of them.  I can therefore only imagine how difficult they are for others to understand.


20 thoughts on “Devil Annz? No, Devil Ants.

  1. I had a hard time understanding some of the dialogue as well. I can’t wait to read more about your thoughts on the show, also would like to know what parts were fictionalized and which were authentic.

    • I actually just wrote a new post comparing the miniseries to the oral family history, and have another post from earlier today about the real story behind the relationship between Johnse and Roseanna. 🙂

  2. You had a hard time understanding them, too? Sometimes I had to put it on closed caption to get what they were saying. I understanding that certain actors have learn accents, or if they already have one lose their accent in order to get a part, as it allows them to get more gigs. However, accents are tricky, and they should tone it down a bit on a TV show or movie, so everybody, regardless of where you’re from, can understand.

    • West Virginia accents are very tricky to reproduce. They are quite unlike accents in any other region, since we have historically been cut off from the rest of the world by the mountains, and they seem to be very hard for outsiders to understand because we draw our words out in unexpected places, and drop vowels.

      I once started a new job for a very large real estate developer, many years ago when living in Florida I had no contact with customers, and mostly just worked by myself since my job was to review and write contracts, so my accent should not have even been an issue. However, when living there, I was very careful to pronounce my words correctly so as not to stick out like a sore thumb.

      My very first day on the job, the big boss immediately complained that he had did not know I had a twang. Yet he was from Yonkers, so he had an even thicker accent, LOL As I laughingly told him, in my natural manner of speech, eet cud beh wrst cuz i cud bee frm raht uhcrost thuh riiivr en KENtucky. He could not understand a single word I said once I launched into my natural accent, but at least he kept his mouth shut about my twang after that. LOL

      It is therefore very possible that if they had filmed the series in actual West Virginia accents, no one outside West Virginia would be able to understand them, 🙂

      • I am a North Carolina girl myself, my great grandpa was from Kentucky too and I lived in Florida for about 71/2 years……you are right I kept my mouth shut cause every time I opened it folks would ask me where are you from………… Thank you for this blog, I am enjoying reading it …….oh yeah I am now living back in North Carolina, I am so glad God me back to my roots here. You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl!~

      • Lol, He was from Yonkers and you could not understand him, that is pretty funny. I am from the Bronx and folks often mistake my accent from Brooklyn Or Boston, believe it or not. We all develop accents from our surroundings growing up, I can say that the Bronx accent is slowly dying, due to the fact that the population has changed from mostly white to Black and Hispanic. So, like anything else things change over time for various reasons.

    • I am from GA. Good bit of family in Madisonville, KY…and I always thought they spoke “funny.” 🙂 They used to ask me where my southern belle accent was and I said “I’m an educated Southern.” Goodness, that has come back to bite me…both my children have that southern twang.

      Love the blog. Are you by chance still Church of Christ? I ask because I was raised Disciple of Christ and both come from Campbell/Stone Restoration movement. Although neither is “started” by them.

      • Oh, I definitely understand how outsiders view the West Virginia twang. Hahaha!

        I am personally a United Methodist (though I was raised both Baptist and old-time Primitive Baptist), but the Church of Christ is still very strong in West Virginia, and some family members are members of that denomination.

  3. The McCoy attorney Perry Cline shown in the series was related to some state authorities in Kentucky, and they had sent him to Tug Fork for the specific purpose of stealing timber rights from Devil Anse. When he called them on their lies and took their timber rights in lieu of criminal charges,

    • Anse was threatening to file criminal charges for fraud and forgery (since the signature on the document he presented on the alleged timber rights deed was not real).

      Those were very serious charges back then, which would undoubtedly have resulted in significant prison time.

  4. I am enjoying your stories and your comments. I saw where you said that Randall was called Ranol, and that really didn’……t ring a bell in my mind, until I visited another website where the name was written “Ran’L” and then it clicked…YES, he would have been called Ran’l McCoy, just as my family has a “Dan’l” (pronounced Danull.), Another thought is that Rosanna may also have been pronounced differently…probably “Rozanner”…just a thought. Going back to read more..glued to the monitor. Thanks again for your blog and photos.

    • I just said Roseanna out loud, to see how I say it, and we actually pronounce that one correctly if you do not mind a little twang, LOL.

      Other names, when I pronounce them out loud and pay close attention to how I am saying them, are not so lucky. For example, Cotton – Co-uhn. We make a tiny little weird noise which cannot even be explained, where the missing T’s should be, LOL

  5. Some friends and I were discussing the “accents” and all thought that Aunt Betty was pretty realistic, however, I can’t say that I had any difficulty in understanding any of the characters. I suppose that I might be a bit unusual having been raised by New York and New Jersey natives in West Virginia, Kentucky and western Virginia and being married to, in turn, a Korean and an Alabamian but the other parties to the discussion (all living here in the Shenandoah Valley) didn’t find the dialog difficult to understand either.

    By the way, I would like to take the opportunity to tell you what a fine blog you have here. Absolutely wonderful.

  6. Is there any reality to the death of Frank Phillips? I had looked everywhere I can think of and can not find anything on him. Some help with this matter would be greatly appreciated.

    • He was not killed by his deputy. He was apparently shot in the course of a fight in which he was running his mouth, which incidentally is something that can get you shot in West Virginia even today (but I think he was actually shot in Virginia, not in Kentucky as portrayed).

  7. I love your posts!! I was born in Frankfort, KY
    but raised in FL, however I am now living in the Appalachian Mountains in Eastern Kentucky. My mom having been from WV, I had known a little of the Hatfield & Mccoy feud. We visited The Hatfield Cemetery several years back. Not until I saw the miniseries had I really known more about the feud, and that made hungry to dig deeper, so here I am! I just wanted to say that, again, I really love your posts, and as a teenager interested in history- especially local history, I really appreciate you taking your time
    out to share these stories with us!!
    Also, I had trouble understanding some of their dialect as well. I do not have much of a “hillbilly” accent, considering that my being moved around I guess I picked up on some “properness” in my “talk” since all the kids at school in FL made fun of my accent (even though I never really thought I had one… and still try to hold back what I do have on the account of just trying to “talk right” lol).
    What is funny is my mom is from Harts Creek, WV… not real far from Logan, and she corrects my dad on his speech, him being from Hazard, KY (where we currently reside). My mom’s family in WV, referring to their dialect, are “as country as cornbread”. I couldn’t believe it when we were sitting on the front porch at some WV family’s house and my Uncle proceeded telling a story about how a man went “Sigogglin” down the road on his motorcycle. I about died considering not long before that I had heard that word for the first time while watching a documentary about “Hillbillys” starring Billy Ray Cyrus. Mountaineers sure have their own “talk” but I love it!! 🙂
    Thanks again for your wonderful posts! Hope to see more soon!!!! Y’all take care now, ya hear! 🙂

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