A few basics to know about NC places

Published 6:17 pm Friday, July 16, 2021

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Anyone who’s from North Carolina, has lived in North Carolina for a long time, or has a basic understanding of geography should know that Raleigh and Durham are two separate cities.

In fact, they’re not even in the same county! Raleigh is in Wake County while Durham shares its name with its home county, and it’d take you about a half hour to commute from one to the other, depending on traffic.

They do, however, make up two of the three points of the “Triangle”, and to be fair, the airport located in between, at least, combines the city names together.

But still, people outside of North Carolina ought to learn eventually that “Raleigh-Durham” isn’t an accurate name… unless, of course, you’re at the aforementioned airport.

So I had a good chuckle when I saw a story from WRAL News this past week about the U.S. News & World Report naming “Raleigh/Durham” at number two on their Top Ten list of best places to live in the country. All the other cities on the list are standalone cities, with Boulder, CO coming in as number one. (As an aside, I think it’s kind of amusing that there are two Portlands on this list: the one in Oregon and the one in Maine.)

I suppose I should be grateful that North Carolina is getting any representation at all on this list. The United States is a big country and there are probably plenty of other cities that could have been chosen. And I’m sure it looks nice to people out-of-state who are perhaps considering a move in the near future.

But every time I see one of these lists, I think of that one time Raleigh was named “one of the best cities for drivers” or something along those lines. My brother, who had lived in Raleigh for a few years as a college student and regularly commuted all over the city and surrounding areas, just laughed at that designation.

“Who decided that?” he asked. “Have they ever been there?”

It just goes to show that people actually living in North Carolina are naturally the ones who know the state best.

Another good example of this is also demonstrated through town and county names. There are quite a few tricky names throughout our state that non-natives probably won’t say right on the first try.

The NC Museum of History’s Twitter account recently shared a pronunciation guide for several of these place names that aren’t always spoken the way they’re spelled. (I must admit, there are some towns on the list located in the western part of the state I’d never even heard of, so I’m not really judging mispronouncers too harshly here.)

Some of the most widely known oddly-pronounced towns on the list include Fuquay-Varina (FEW-kway vuh-REE-nuh), Bahama (buh-HAY-ma), Corolla (kuh-RAW-luh), and everyone’s favorite, Conetoe (ka-NEE-tuh)!

There were a few on the list that I thought were interesting and that I didn’t already know, like Icard (EYE-kurd), Pfafftown (POFF-town), Cooleemee (COOL-uh-mee), and Chalybeate Springs (ka-LIB-ee-ut). Personally, I’d like to know who is responsible for naming Pfafftown and what they were thinking when it happened.

The museum also included a few names that I thought didn’t really seem all that hard to pronounce. But maybe I’m just biased because they’re names that I’ve known most of my life. Some of those included Chocowinity (CHOCK-uh-WIN-uh-tee), Buies Creek (BOO-ees Creek), Mebane (MEB-in), Norlina (nor-LIE-na), Manteo (MAN-tee-oh or MAN-ee-oh… I always use the second one), and oddly enough, Ahoskie (uh-HOSS-kee).

For people who grew up outside the Roanoke-Chowan area, is Ahoskie really that hard to pronounce??

Maybe there should be some sort of how-to guide to North Carolina that would explain all these kinds of things to people from out of the area. It could contain a clearly marked map that would show the Triangle as three separate cities. It could include a clear pronunciation guide of all the strange place names that you may pass through on your travels. And while we’re at it, the guide ought to have a full explanation about the differences between the two barbecue styles in North Carolina, and also examples of proper usage of “barbecue” in a sentence. (Always a noun, never a verb!)

What else would you include on a guide to North Carolina?

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at holly.taylor@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7206.