In 1922, New York Evening Post columnist Ray Torrey wrote an article under a headline “A Great Trail from Maine to Georgia.” In August 1937, the longest hiking-only footpath in the world stretching from Katahdin, Maine to Springer Mountain, Georgia was completed. This is where the modern mispronunciation of the word originated. “App-a-latch-an” worked its way south and emerged as “App-a-lay-shan” -a linguistic note that would soon become symbolic to America.
In 1964, Appalachia was thrown on the world stage when President Lyndon Johnson stood on a front porch in Inez, Kentucky and declared a war on poverty in the region. Johnson’s war was to stem the outward migration to urban areas and create economic opportunity. The reporters traveling with him on the campaign trail unloaded on the southern mountains depicting them as the most impoverished place in the nation. “App-a-lay-sha” suddenly became a whirlwind of photographs of coal mining, cultural ignorance and backwoods misery that shocked America.
Appalachia is the fourth oldest European place name in America, and I reserve the right to punch anyone who refuses to say it correctly.