Parlez-vous Palmetto? The South Carolina Pronunciation Guide ...
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This guide began with a newsletter article we wrote about the many places in South Carolina that are frequently mispronounced. We asked our readers to write in with SC places that they found confusing or heard others stumbling over. After receiving dozens of emails and speaking with everyone from librarians, to fishermen, to Chamber of Commerce representatives, to teachers across the state, we have compiled this list. Thanks to all those who took the time to write us or speak with us and make this list a printed echo of South Carolinian voices.
Many residents commented on how South Carolinians alternately pronounce those places ending in "ville," sometimes stressing the "ville" and sometimes de-emphasizing it. An example would be Greenville, interchangeably said GREEN • VIL or GREEN • vul. Others include Abbeville, Graniteville, Leesville, and Summerville.
During our research for this page we came across an entire book dedicated to dispelling common mispronunciations. Claude and Irene Neuffer wrote Correct Mispronunciations of South Carolina Names in 1983. Their self-proclaimed "cantankerous dictionary" has over 400 such examples. Our findings and phonetical translations differ from the Neuffer's in many ways, but their book is an interesting and informative resource.
Finally, we must note that the "correct" way to pronounce any place name can be subjective and may change over the years as residents come and go. As always, we welcome your input; email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with comments and suggestions.
Abbeville – AB • uh • vul, AB • bee • VIL
- Alcolu – AL • cuh • loo
The Clarendon County Archives gives insight as to the interesting origination of this town's name: "Alcolu was established between 1885 and 1890 by D. W. Alderman and Sons as a mill town for their lumber company. The name Alcolu is derived from "Al" as in Alderman, "Co" as in Coldwell (a friend), and "Lu" as in Lula, the only daughter of the Aldermans at that time."
- Almeda – al • ME • duh
- Antreville – ANN • tree • VIL
- Aynor – AY • ner
- Barre – BARE • ree
- Beaufain – BYOO • fain
Like Beaufort, the name of this Charleston Street is pronounced "byoo," which rhymes with "you."
- Beaufort – BYOO • fort
Tourists and transplants often confuse this town with Beaufort NC, which is pronounced BOW • fort. In French, "beau" means beautiful, handsome, lovely, or fine ... and after even the shortest of visits, you'll know both the city and county are aptly named. (Ironically, both are actually named for an Englishman, Henry Somerset, the Second Duke of Beaufort, who pronounced his name "BOW-fert," as in bow and arrow and Beaufort, North Carolina.)
Belin – BLANE
Dave from Florence writes, "Belin was one of the first, if not the first, baptist church in SC,
situated on Black Mingo Creek at Willtown (site of the Revolutionary Battle of Mingo Creek)." Belin is also the name of a Methodist church in Murrell's Inlet and a small community on Sandy Island in Georgetown County that we believe may share this same pronunciation.
- Berea – buh • REE • uh
- Beidler – BYE • dler
Francis Beidler Forest is located in Dorchester County and it's fabulous! Go visit!
- Berkeley – BURK • lee
- Blenheim – BLEN • um
Blenheim is located in Marlboro County and is best known for its namesake, Blenheim Ginger Ale – which is actually made in nearby Hamer (Dillon County).
- Bonneau – BOHN • oh
Just like the lead singer from the rock group U2!
- Cades – KAYDZ
- Calibogue – cal • uh • BOW • gee
As in Calibogue Sound, between Hilton Head and Daufuskie Islands. The 'g' is a hard one, as in 'grass.'
- Canadys – CAN • uh • dees, CAN • uh • DIS
- Cayce – KAY • see
- Chapin – CHAY • pin
- Chappells – CHAP • puls
Pronounced like "chaples," this town in Newberry County puts the emphasis on its first syllable. A conscientious newscaster forwarded us an email from a viewer that corrected his pronunciation of Chappells – thanks to WIS TV for this input!
- Chechessee River – chuh • chessie
A reader named Kate recently sent us the following message, "Your pronunciation guide is wonderful and I have learned much, even after six years in South Carolina. But I live near the Chechessee River [in Beaufort County] and have never heard it pronounced. Obvious to many, I suppose, but I'm wondering where the emphasis would be. Help!"
Our reply? The initial "chuh" is slightly separate from the "chessie," in that the last two syllables sort of run together. But we wouldn't say there was a strong emphasis on any one syllable. It's almost like the syllables create two different words – "chuh" and "chessie" – but not quite. All the syllables are soft-sounding and fluid, just like the river that bears its name!
- Cheddar – SHED • ur
- Cheohe – CHOY
- Cheraw – chuh • RAW, shuh • RAW
An alert reader sent us a copy of Town of Cheraw Resolution 7-92, which officially designates "chuh • RAW" as the correct pronunciation. It seems actual pronunciations still vary however (see poll results below). Here at SCIWAY, we like to call it "Churaw-Shuraw" so as to avoid any confusion. ;)
- Chesnee – CHE(sz) • nee, CHE(z) • nee
Linguist Robert Simms of Greer sends in this excellent observation on Chesnee: "Locals pronounce the z or sz sound as an 's' that's barely a 'z.' In addition, the nee on the end is almost 'ni,' with a short i (as in information).
"In no case do locals pronounce the town's name as 'CHESS-nee.' I know because I lived there some years ago and was kindly corrected by natives. Being a speech major at Wake Forest, I then paid close attention to the pronunciation around town and analyzed it. I don't think there's an actual phonetic symbol to represent the combination s and z.'
"Let me suggest that the difference between the -ss sound and the -sz sound is: (1) the extended length of time given the voiced 'e' before beginning the 's' sound, and (2) the quickness with which the 's' is pronounced, which is only barely. In practical terms, however, achieving the exact pronunciation depends on the ear's assimilation of the local accent. That's at least as difficult to do as to learn to speak a foreign language without an accent."
We agree! And thank you, Mr. Simms, for helping us provide the single most thorough and nuanced pronunciation in this guide! You rock!
- Clemson – CLEM • zun, CLEMP • sun, CLEM • sun
We've heard the ESPN broadcaster's debates, and the Clemson alumni debates, and we've sat around debating it ourselves. Now we'd like to know what YOU say!
- Clinton – CLIN • nin
Locals tell us that pronouncing the "T" marks you as an outsider for sure! The second syllable seems to have an indistinguishable vowel, so that variations include "nin," "nun," or "non." Thanks to Abby of Charlotte and Judith of Mountville who let us know about this "mispronunciation."
- Clio – CLY • oh
- Cofitachiqui – ko • fit • uh • chee • kee
The Cofitachiqui were considered one of the most highly civilized tribes of their time. This reputation prompted de Soto to locate the tribe. He kidnapped their leader and demanded that she take him to places of great wealth. After several days, the Queen of the Cofitachiqui escaped, accompanied by several of de Soto's men. (The last two syllables of this word run together, as in "cheeky.")
- Coligny – cuh • LIG • nee
An article in the Island Packet on Lowcountry Pronunciations claims, "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."
- Conestee – CON • us • tee
Learn about Conestee Mill and Lake Conestee.
- Cooper – COO • pur, CUP • puh
The first pronunciation is the most common, but the traditional pronunciation of this river dividing Charleston and Mount Pleasant still survives among some older Charlestonians. In the traditional pronunciation, the "oo" is pronounced as it is in "look" instead of as it is in "loop."
So few people preserve the traditional pronunciation these days that it is considered fairly pretentious unless you are a native of a certain age. In other words, almost no youngsters have the street cred to pull this off, and belting out "CUP-puh" could be a quick way to get yourself thrown out of the nearest bar! ;)
Learn about the Cooper River.
- Coosawhatchie – KOO • suh • HATCH • ee
- Coronaca – car • NAY • kuh, CAR • uh • NAY • kuh
Thanks to Lee for writing to tell us that the most common pronunciation he hears is "car • NAY • kuh." However, he also adds that "Old-timers say either 'cor • NAY • kuh' or 'car • NECK • kuh.' There are several theories over the origin, but I don't think anybody really knows."
Claude Neuffer's entry on Coronaca suggests that the Greenwood County town and creek's name and pronunciation may come from 18th century spellings for Cornacre.
- Combahee – KUM • bee
Learn about the Combahee River, which forms part of the ACE Basin.
- Dataw Island – DOH • TOH, DAW • TAW
This small sea island in Beaufort was formerly spelled "Datha" and pronounced "data" with a short "a" sound. It is unclear when the spelling and pronunciation changed, although some tie it to Alcoa Properties' presence on the island, which began in 1983.
- Daufuskie Island – duh • FUS • key
- DeBordieu Island – DEB • i • dew
The "i" sound is a short "i," as in "river." The island may have been named after an early French settler, but local legends posit a different theory... When the Marquis de Lafayette reached the shore of the island after narrowly escaping capture by the British, he claimed that it was so beautiful, it must be the "borderland of God" (D'abord Dieu).
- DeKalb – de • KALB
Libba Patterson sent in this helpful advice: "In Camden, where I grew up, the 'l' is pronounced in DeKalb. It was not until I went to college in DeKalb County, Georgia, that I heard it pronounced without the 'l'."
- Edisto – EH • dis • toe, eddie • STOW
The second pronunciation isn't as common as the first, but it sure is cute! You mostly hear it from oldtimers and people with stronger Gullah or Geechie accents.
- Enoree – IN • uh • ree
- Eutawville – YOO • TAH • vil
Many thanks to Harriet S. Little, who grew up on Eutaw Plantation, before it was flooded, and sends the following information: "The root name 'Eutaw' has both syllables accented equally (as the state Utah), and Eutawville has only slightly less stress placed on the 'ville'."
- Gaillard – gil • YARD
- Galivants Ferry – GALA • vince
It makes sense that they would include the sound "Gala" in "Galivants," given that this small community is home to such a big party! The Galivants Ferry Stump is held every two years and is nationally famous.
- Gervais – jur • VAY
See photos of the Gervais Street Bridge.
- Givhans Ferry – GIV • ANZ
- Gourdin – ?
We've spoken with many people and each offered a different version of this pronunciation: gur • DINES, GUR • dine, GORE • dine, and guh • DINE. Please let us know what you hear so we can keep this town on our list!
- Greer – see below
"One of the most lampooned town-name pronunciations in the state is my hometown, Greer," writes degreed linguist Robert Simms. "Many people not from Greer think all the locals say 'Grrr,' as in the sound a cartoon bear might make. That's a simplistic misconception. While there are variations, depending on how long people have lived here and where their 'people' were from, a typical pronunciation might be represented as GRere, where -ere is pronounced as in 'were.' But there is a strain of Charlestonians here who still say 'Gray-uh,' and many, many newcomers pronounce it by its spelling, to rhyme with 'deer' or 'fear.'"
- Guignard – GIN • yard, GIN • yurd
Special thanks to Pat for this addition: "Guignard Drive in Sumter is pronounced by the locals as 'GIN • yard' with a hard 'g' sound, and the 'i' sound pronounced in between that of the 'i' in 'instant' and the 'i' in 'gingko.' People from out of town routinely have difficulty with this street name."
There is also a Guignard Street in Charleston. Bill W., who has lived in the Holy City for over 30 years, says the name is "similar to what you note for Sumter, though both 'GIN • yard' and 'GIN • yurd' are used in Charleston."
- Hamer – HAY • mur
Learn about Hamer's own world-famous Blenheim Ginger Ale!
- Hasell – HAY• zul
- Honea Path – HUN • ee • uh
- Horry – or • ree, o • ree
Here's an important one! Note that there are only slight differences in these two pronunciations, and the main thing, by all means, is to drop the "h" sound from the beginning.
See photos of Horry County, home of the Grand Strand and Myrtle Beach.
- Huger – u • GEE, HU • gee
To avoid instigating any feuds, we figure we'd better call this one a draw. It seems that everyone has a different idea about which pronunciation is "correct" in which area of the state. We think you're doing good if you just drop the "r" from the end ... with one exception. Huger Street in Chesterfield County is actually pronounced HUE • gur! (Note: Purists in Charleston use a soft "g" and definitely do not pronounce the "H.")
- Irmo – ER • moe
- Jalapa – juh • LAHP • uh
- Jonesville – JONE • vul, JONES • vul
We received a letter from Chris, who was born in Jonesville and says that natives sometimes drop the "s" when pronouncing their hometown's name. Jonesville is located in Union County.
- Keowee – KEE • WEE, KEE • uh • wee
Old-school Senconians (natives of the Seneca-Oconee County area) often shorten this word to "KEE • WEE" – just like the kiwi fruit! (Special thanks to Ruthie from the Clemson Area Chamber for this info!)
See photos of Lake Keowee.
- Kiawah – KEY • uh • wah
As with Keowee above, many locals and "old-timers" in the Charleston area tend to drop the middle syllable, saying "KEY • WAH" instead.
- Kinards – KIE • nurds
Tom from Florence writes, "Kinards is located on Highway 76 north of Newberry, and between Jalapa and Joanna. Non-Palmetto State folks call it 'kuh • NARDS' (German) and not the correct 'KYE • nurds' (Scottish)."
- Lake Jocassee – joe • KASS • ee
See photos of Lake Jocassee.
- Lancaster – LANK • uh • stur
Lancaster is frequently mispronounced "LAN • CAS • tur," with a short "a" in the first syllable and emphasis on both the first and second syllables. The true pronunciation has a long "a" however, and the emphasis is on the first syllable.
- Legare – le • GREE
- Lobeco – le • BEE • coe
In the aforementioned book by the Neuffers, we learned where this town's name originated. "The lowcountry town of Lobeco was once the seat of a vegetable packinghouse. Two men named Long and Bellamy owned the business. The first two letters of each name plus co for company make up the town's name – though today Long, Bellamy, and the packinghouse all are gone."
- Lockhart – LOCK • urt
"Lockhart is not pronounced 'Lock Heart' by the locals. It is pronounced 'LOCK - urt' – real quick." Thanks to Terry from Spartanburg for this feedback.
- Lugoff – LOO • goff
- McBee – MAC • bee
Many people wrote in to tell us that they often hear this town's name said "mick • BEE." Denizens of Greenville and Chesterfield County, however, where there are a McBee Street and a town of McBee, respectively, pronounce the "a" and put the emphasis on the first syllable.
Local linguist Robert Simms adds this important clarification: "Some local broadcasters (who didn't come from 'these here parts') have a bothersome way of pronouncing it "Mac BEE." That is wrong.)
- McKeown – muh • COWN
- McLeod – muh • CLOUD
Learn about McLeod Plantation on James Island.
- Modoc – MOE • DOCK
- Monticello – MONT • i • SELL • oh
Visitors often use the pronunciation of Thomas Jefferson's home in Virginia, MONT • i • CHEL • oh. They are quickly corrected, we hear.
- Montmorenci – MONT • muh • REN • see
- Moultrie – MOOL • tree, MOW • tree
Important caveat: If you use the first option, which is preferred, don't overdo the "L"!
- Mount Croghan – CROG • an
- Nesmith – NEE • SMITH
Bruce Nesmith King writes, "The Town of Nesmith is a few miles west of Willtown, home of Belin church (now destroyed), and across Mingo Creek from Indiantown – colorful place names all from the first settled section of Williamsburg County.
"The story goes that when a post office was to be erected, in the late 1800s or early 1900s, a request was made for a donation of land for it. The donor got to then name the post office. Hence, my great-grandfather put his name on the post office of Nesmith. It was the same story for the nearby town of Kingsburg, previously known as Savage. My great-grandfather donated the land for the post office and gave it his name.
"There are several stories concerning the origin of the name Nesmith; the most prominent is as follows: About 1200 the King of Scotland requested a soldier to mend his armor prior to an imminent battle. These Scots prevailed and the aforementioned soldier distinguished himself on the battlefield such that he was knighted, but the king's armor didn't suit him so the soldier was dubbed Ne Smith, which in Scottish means not smith. To this day Scots are heard to say ne for not."
- Newry – NEAR • ree
Henrietta from Westminster wrote us, "I came from a little mill town in Oconee County called Newry, which pretty much everyone in my town pronounced "Near-ry," but when you went outside the town you had to say it "New-ry" so people would actually understand what you meant."
- Neyles – NEELS
We received this message from a reader: "There is a town between Walterboro & Jacksonboro on Highway 64 that as a child I had heard pronounced 'Nellies.' The spelling of the town's name is Neyles. Several years ago I had car trouble and stopped at the store there. The store owner pronounced the town's name like 'kneels.' No one believes me when I tell them it's not 'Nellies.' We checked it out, and sure enough, locals pronounce it 'NEELS'!"
- Oconee – oh • COE • nee
This county in the northwest corner of the state is often mispronounced "AH • cuh • nee," to the chagrin of those who live there.
- Okatie – OH • kuh • tee
- Olar – OH • ler
This one was submitted by our good friend Andy Hunter of Denmark: "Most folks outside Bamberg County say 'oh • LAR,' but locals seem to prefer 'oh • ler' (like a bowler or a molar)."
- Oswego – OSS • we • go
- Owdoms – OH • dums
- Pacolet – PAK • let, PAK • uh • let
We received an email from a reader who grew up near Pacolet; he wrote, "I have always heard it pronounced with two-and-a-half syllables... you might hear the 'uh' sound as the second syllable, but it's barely pronounced, if at all. It sounds closer to 'PAK • let' than it does 'PAK • uh • let.' Thanks for your input, Scott!
- Pamplico – PAMP • li • koe
- Pelion – PEEL • yun
- Pinopolis – pie • NOP • uh • lis
- Pocotaligo – po • co • ta • lee • go
The good folks at Pocotaligo Kennels in Sumter shared a wealth of wisdom with us regarding this strange word, which is the name of a community in Jasper County as well as the name of a swamp and a river in Clarendon County. The word comes from the Yemassee Indians, and it is said to mean either "gathering place" or "big ball play town" – the Yemassee were apparently avid sports fans! Another fun legend holds that a farmer who was trying to get his ox to cross the river received this sage advice from a Native American he encountered along the bank: "Poke 'e tail [and] 'e go!"
(Hint: This word is easier to describe phonetically as "poco-tally-go," since the syllables run together fluidly. The "o" sounds are all long, and the "tally" portion is pronounced just like a tally of votes.)
- Pomaria – puh • MEH • ree • uh
The joke runs that the town's name came about through a story of an abused wife who lived there, named Mary. (Po' Mary – get it?) Dianne of Pomaria tells us that visitors often mistakenly pronounce the town's name as if the story was about Maria, not Mary!
- Prioleau – PRAY • low
This street in Charleston proves troublesome even for locals, as evidenced by a letter we received from someone who has lived on Prioleau Street for two years and says she "still fumbles with the name."
- Rantowles – RAN • TOLLS
- Ribaut – REE • BOW
Ribaut Road is one of the primary streets in Beaufort, leading to Port Royal. It was named after Jean Ribaut, a French Huguenot leader who established an outpost he named Charlesfort on Parris Island in 1562. In addition to the pronunciation, another source of confusion surrounding the street name is its alternate spelling, "Ribault," which according to the Beaufort County Library "reflects the archaic French writing system of the 16th century."
- Rimini – RIM • i • NYE
Rhymes with "Gemini."
- Salkehatchie – SAHL • kuh • HATCH • ee
The first syllable sounds like the first part of "Salt." In fact, some old South Carolina maps indicate that the original name of the town and river was actually "Salt Catcher."
- Sans Souci – san • SOO • see
This town's name is French for "worry-free."
- Sharon – shay • run
- Socastee – SOCK • uh • stee
- St. Helena Island – HEL • uh • nuh
- St. Stephen – STEE • ven, STEE • vens
Although there is no "s" on the end of St. Stephen, locals often add it. "St. Stephens" is located in Berkeley County.
- Sumter – SUMP • tur
Sumter's pronunciation creates a different sort of problem; people often misspell the county's name so that it looks like it sounds. It's pretty near impossible to say Sumter without the "p" sound – although it can be amusing to try. However, the "p" should be dropped when writing it.
- Tamassee – tuh • MAH • see
- Trio – TRY • oh
- Tega Cay – TEE • guh
- Tullifinny – TOO • luh • FIN • ee
In our first edition of this guide, we reported that this Low Country creek was pronounced "tuh • LIF • uh • nee." A reader wrote in to tell us that our source was most definitely mistaken. He wrote, "The first syllable is pronounced 'too', and the accent is on the first and third syllable about equally." We called more locals about this and they all agreed. We humbly apologize for the error in the first edition! Thanks to Doug from Hampton for setting us straight!
- Utica – YOU • ti • cuh
- Van Wyck – VAN • WIKE, VAN • WACK
This small community in Lancaster County sure did fire up the pronunciation debate! We got in touch with a long-time resident, Jim, who told us that the most prevalent pronunciation by locals was VAN • WIKE. But VAN • WACK, the dutch pronunciation, is also heard, and from time to time you hear VAN • WICK. The latter is almost definitely incorrect, though.
- Vanderhorst – VAN • der • HORST, VAN • dross
We talked to a number of Charleston born-and-bred octogenarians who have always said "VAN • der • HORST," trailing off just before they fully pronounce the "t." Other sources report that "VAN • dross" is the right pronunciation. The Neuffers offer a third opinion; "VAN • draws." Although it seems the latter two options are not used as much as the first, we feel their use is prevalent enough that they should be included.
- Vaucluse – VOH • cloos
- Walhalla – WAH • HALL • uh, WAHL • HALL • uh
- Ware Shoals – WAIR • SHOLZ, WERE • SHOLZ
Lee, whose family is from Ware Shoals in Greenwood County, wrote, "It should be noted that many in the area say WERE • SHOLZ or WORE • SHOLZ. I've even heard WERE • SHOZE. Folks who say 'Ware' and stress the 'L' in Shoals are letting you know that they've got a little money. Great place!! Good people!!" Thanks for this tidbit, Lee!
- Waties Island – WAY • teez
- Westminster – west • MIN • stur, west • MIN • i • stur
- Winyah – WIN • yaw
A letter from a reader states that residents of Winyah Bay often hear their town called "WIN • yah," but "natives of this great city say WIN • yaw."
- Wisacky – WYE • sack • ee
- Yauhannah – yaw • HAN • nah
- Yeamans – YAY • mens
- Yemassee – YAM • uh • see, YEM • uh • SEE
- Yonges Island – YUNGS
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