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South Carolina – Don't Speak Lowcountry? Then Read This.


SC SC Pronunciations Don't Speak Lowcountry? Then Read This.

This article, by David Lauderdale, originally appeared in the September 21, 2007 edition of Hilton Head's Island Packet newspaper. It was written in response to the release of our South Carolina Pronunciation Guide. The article is no longer archived on the Island Packet's site, but we are reprinting it here for your reading pleasure. After all, even though we remain at odds with him about the correct way to say "Yemassee" – our guide's lead author grew up in Early Branch and certainly knows her stuff – we definitely think his article is too good to lose!

Don't Speak Lowcountry? Then Read This.

Byline: David Lauderdale


We'll call today's lesson, "How to Talk Funny."

It's for you poor souls trying to become real Sandlappers. Help is here – even if you're at that tricky stage where you're asking, "Do they have rocks in their mouth or do I have rocks in my head?"

The South Carolina Information Highway has a swell new resource for you. And if you thought the South Carolina Information Highway was the path to the outhouse with the Sears catalog, you would be wrong.

The South Carolina Information Highway is a Web site: www.sciway.net. It recently compiled a pronunciation guide for odd South Carolina names and places. It claims to be a new twist on Claude and Irene Neuffer's 1983 thriller, "Correct Mispronunciations of South Carolina Names."

Now see here, you don't have to have pluff mud for brains to know we talk funnier in the Lowcountry than they do up around Clempsun, or is it Clemzun? So we're well represented in the SCIWAY (that's sky-way) list. And I found it to be very accurate:

– Okatie. It's O-kuh-tee. Not O'Katy. When you pass this test, all you've got to do is FIND Okatie, but that's a lesson for a different day.

– Daufuskie Island. Duh-FUS-key. As in, "Someone is always fussing on Daufuskie."

– Coosawhatchie. KOO-suh-HATCH-ee. Robert E. Lee slept here.

– Ribaut. REE-bo. This early French explorer is the reason Lowcountry natives to this day name all their sons "Bo."

– St. Helena Island. HEL-uh-nuh. One summer in her tomato fields and you know why the emphasis is on HEL.

– Beaufort. BYU-fort. If you go to BO-fort, you're in the wrong state. Better stop for directions, Bo.

– Edisto Island. EH-dis-toe. Where the Tomato Queen gets crowned at Whaley's (Wally's).

– Combahee River. KUM-bee. If you got that one right, you must be a Hasell (HAY-zul).

The SCIWAY folks needed some help (or is it "hep"?) on Yemassee. They have it listed two ways – YAM-uh-see and YEM-uh-SEE. So I called Harold's Country Club in the suburban sprawl of Yemassee. You may know Harold's as a gas station/water hole/restaurant, but I know it as the University of Yemassee. The experts at the bar gave an immediate answer. It's YEM-uh-SEE. Or did they say YEM-uh-SHE? Whatever, it has nothing to do with yams.

The helpful list doesn't include all our local quirks.

But you should know that Calibogue Sound is kal-uh-BOGE-ee – of course. In Bluffton, Goethe Road is GO-dy-road.

And, by the way, it's not HIL-dun-hed, it's HIL-ton-hed.

Our upper crust gave up long ago getting anyone to pronounce Coligny correctly. We say ku-LIG-nee. The educated went around saying ko-lee-NYEE until they got tired of being corrected. Now you know why they wouldn't let us get near poor old Huguenot's first name: Gaspard.

And to be a real Sandlapper, always ask: "What would Strom do?"

When you see a funny word, just mangle it and wheeze on to the next one.

Copyright 2007, The Island Packet, Hilton Head Island, SC

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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