I’ve known that Raleigh was the best place in America to live ever since I was born here. But now that Movoto has let the cat out of the bag, I sometimes find myself at a bar or movie where not only do I not know everyone else there, I don’t know anyone else there.
Yep, if native Raleighites aren’t already in the minority, it sure seems to be headed that way fast. And while certain accents may reveal who is not originally from here, as far as I know, there isn’t a distinct central North Carolina trill. I grew up hearing a range of Southern from elegant antebellum to high-pitched hayseed, plus several Northern and Midwestern accents from the non-natives all around me like my parents. It’d be cool if there were a Raleigh accent. I just don’t think one exists.
But there are still a few landmarks and locations in Raleigh that can give you a pretty good guess as to whether you’re dealing with a Raleighite, or someone newer to Raleigh, aiiight?
1. Falls of the Neuse Road
The signs all say “Falls of Neuse.” Advertisements for businesses say “Falls of Neuse” on radio and television, probably because the signs say “Falls of Neuse.” New maps say “Falls of Neuse.” Old maps say “Falls of Neuse.” There’s a good chance the official name of the road in north Raleigh is, in fact, “Falls of Neuse Road.”
But don’t dare correct someone who calls it “Falls of the Neuse.” Despite evidence to the contrary, “Falls of the Neuse” is the official name of the road according to folks who were raised here, and if you hear someone refer to it as such, there’s a good chance they were born in Rex or Wake Med.2
2. Memorial Auditorium
Meymandi? Duke Energy? It’s all Memorial Auditorium (or just “Memorial”) if you ask a native Raleigh speaker. I’m a big fan of (other) people giving to the arts, so it’s no disrespect to the Meymandi, Fletcher or Kennedy families (Raleigh greats, all) that we can’t keep straight everything that’s happening down there on South Street. And Memorial has long been the victim of a corporate name carousel that years ago had Raleighites abandoning whatever was on the sign out front (Am I having a bad dream or was it the CP&L Center at one point?) and just sticking with “Memorial.”
3. Inner/Outer Beltline
Even some long-time residents of Raleigh confess to being confounded by the old “inner” and “outer” beltline terminology, but it made plenty of sense to me. Now they try to use directions, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out how, if driving on the Inner Beltline, it makes more sense to call it “east” or “west” when you are moving in a circle?! “Clockwise” and “counter-clockwise” are too clunky. As long as you’re not confused about which side of the road we drive on in America, “inner” and “outer” should not be too confusing.
Oh, and don’t even start with calling Interstate 540 the “outer loop.” That’s a road that should have an east-west orientation, because IT’S NOT A LOOP (yet). I hear they even charge tolls on parts of it now?
4. North Hills
Look, my hat is off to the marketing wizard who came up with the name “Midtown.” Mission accomplished. I used to joke with friends, “Hey, you guys want to go out in Midtown?” mocking the idea that the name might actually catch on. But it has. North Hills and its surrounding areas are an impressive set-up. I can get nostalgic for Andy’s or Scotty’s with the best of them, but I wouldn’t trade it for what’s there now. Still, it’ll always be “North Hills” to some. “Midtown” sounds like something Charlotte would have; it sounds like North Hills putting on airs.
And if you listen very carefully, you can tell a Raleighite by which word they put the accent on when saying “North Hills.” Try it both ways and see if you can tell.
5. The PR
The Player’s Retreat is one of Raleigh’s longest-serving restaurants and boasts a diverse clientele of Cameron Park residents, NC State students and folks who are looking for a great burger, an expansive whiskey list, or both. Their location just off Hillsborough Street was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the redesign that installed roundabouts resulting in their porch being one of the best spots to eat a meal or just kick it. They’ve even opened a satellite restaurant at Lonnie Poole Golf Course. And to anyone who’s been going there long enough to see a car get wrapped around a telephone pole at the old Oberlin-Hillsborough intersection knows, the place is called “the PR.” Not “PRs.” Not “PR.” Not even “Player’s Retreat.” It’s “the PR” to locals, and it always will be.