My Convertible Life

Friday, July 2, 2010

Friday's 5: You're Going Where?

During my year of grad school in the UK, I got lots of funny questions about life in North Carolina -- but one of my favorites was the time someone said to me (in her beautiful Welsh accent), "Oh, we have some relatives who moved to North Carolina... have you been to La Fayette Ville?"

Ummm... "You mean," I replied with an exaggerated twang, "Fayettville?"

Okay, so it's funnier when you can actually hear it. But I cracked up in that moment, realizing suddenly that I had never made the connection between Fayetteville, NC, (or Fayette-nam, as it's sometimes called) and the Marquis de La Fayette.

Anywho, I thought about this story recently as we were driving across the state and laughing about all the ways people mispronounce the names of cities and towns in North Carolina (and don't even get me started on Virginia, given that my relatives are all from the Norfolk/Newport News/Hampton area -- that's "Nah-fahk"). So here, to help out the natives and transplants alike, are five names that might alert the locals that you're not from 'round here.

  1. Mebane: That's Meh' bin. Not Mee bain. Trust me on this one.
  2. Topsail Beach: "Topsail" is one word, not two. Don't say Top Sail -- smush it together to be Top' suhl, with emphasis on the first syllable.
  3. Beaufort: This one is actually a trick name. There are two correct pronunciations, but one is in NC (Bo' fert, with a long o) and one is in SC (Byoo' fert).
  4. Rowan: Another tricky one, this county name is also a street in my neighborhood. Unlike Brook Shields' daughter by the same name, the county is pronounced Row (as in row, row your boat) Ann' (emphasis on the second syllable).
  5. Wendell: This town in Wake County is a total switcheroo. Although it actually was named as a nod to the poet Oliver Wendell Holmes, it's pronounced Wen dell' (or almost Win' dail, if you've got enough twang) instead of Wen' duhl.
Congratulations -- you're now one step closer to sounding like you belong here. What's your favorite mixed up location name, here or wherever you're traveling this summer?

Postcard image from APS Online.


  1. Massachusetts is known for these kinds of names:

    And the best:

  2. The Schuylkill river (in Pa) - never have been able to spell or say it correctly. My Philly peeps just keep correcting me, I have given up :o) Oh and Houston Street in NYC, not pronounced like the city in Texas, but like "house-ton"

  3. I NEVER remember which Beaufort is in which state.
    On the Eastern side of the state we have:
    Cherryville= CHER vul
    Lancaster=LAN cuhster
    Mooresville=MORES vul

    in face all -villes are -vul
    You can always tell who is from around here!

  4. Also in North Carolina...

    Bahama = ba HAY ma
    Corolla = Ca RAL la


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