Learning to speak like a local, in North Carolina


A lot of tourists flock to North Carolina. We have beaches, wreck diving, and lighthouses. We have the Great Smoky Mountains with whitewater kayaking, colorful fall leaves, and snow skiing. We have hot air balloon festivals & Scottish highland games. Oh, and some of the best barbecue you've ever tasted! But when people come to visit, they often get the question ... "You ain't from around here, are ya?" How can we natives tell you're from another state? ... It's simple - you mispronounce our city names!

In this blog post, I provide the insider's guide to pronouncing the names of places in NC, so you won't immediately get labeled as a visitor. Since these are locations, I plot them on a map, and then provide mouse-over text so you can see the tips about how to pronounce the names of the locations. Who knows - if you get really good at it, other visitors might even think you are one of the locals.

I got the data from a combination of several sources, including Google searches and inside-knowledge from living here 50+ years. The most helpful list was probably in this article from WRAL in Raleigh (RAH-lee). I pulled all the locations together in a SAS dataset, and then used Proc Geocode to estimate the latitude/longitude centroid of each city. I then annotated them on a map using Proc GMap. Here's a link to the code, if you'd like to see the nitty-gritty details.

Below is an image of the resulting map - click the image to see the interactive version, with the mouse-over text for each city (and county) that has a tricky name.

What are some commonly mispronounced names of places (or 'things') where you live? Feel free to share them in the comments section below. I have a feeling this is gonna be quite interesting! ... :-)



About Author

Robert Allison

The Graph Guy!

Robert has worked at SAS for over a quarter century, and his specialty is customizing graphs and maps - adding those little extra touches that help them answer your questions at a glance. His educational background is in Computer Science, and he holds a BS, MS, and PhD from NC State University.

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  1. David Biesack on

    I've lived near Chalybeate Springs for 20+ years but only learned how to pronounce it this year.

    Alexa always pronounces Fuquay-Varina wrong as "vuh-RYE-nuh" (it should be "vuh-REE-nuh") when I ask what today's weather will be, so I guess she's not from around here either.

    ...and I beg to differ; locals pronounce the Raleigh newspaper as /en en oh/.

    But everyone gets Lizard Lick correct.

    • Robert Allison

      Interesting! ... I lookup the lat/long of the cities in the sashelp.zipcode dataset, and we get the data for that from zipcodedownload.com, and that's the lat/long they give for Icard, NC (zipcode 28666, lat=35.647803, long=-81.263244) ... But Icard is really about 17 miles west of that location (according to Google maps).

      I'll have someone check into it. I guess one possibility is that the zcta is a large or odd shape, and the middle isn't coming out where the city of Icard is (but that's just a wild guess!) Thanks for the heads-up!

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