Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Say It Right!

Posted December 4, 2008

A trainer at the gym was telling me about her recent move to Wendell. I asked her if she knew the history of the town’s name. She did not. The eastern Wake County town was named for Oliver Wendell Holmes of literary and judicial fame. So why isn’t Wendell pronounced like Mr. Holmes said his name, WEN-duhl, with the accent on the first syllable?  The correct pronunciation for the town is WEN-DELL with a stress on both syllables and especially the second syllable. This can be traced to the town’s railroad heritage. Train conductors used to stretch out the pronunciation of both syllables of Wendell. The pronunciation stuck with the young locals.

What other interesting stories are there about North Carolina town names? Feel free to share. Do you know how Morganton got its name? How about Spring Hope and Warsaw? And why did Whynot get its peculiar name? Plus, what’s the history of Snow Camp?

Getting back to Wendell – let’s make sure we say the name of its neighbor correctly. Ever been to Zebulon? Just remember it is not pronounced ZEB-yoo-lawn. It’s not a lawn service. It is ZEB-yoo-lun. My grandfather William Wesley Bergeron grew up on a farm near Zebulon.


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  • Frizz Dec 9, 2008

    In northwestern Bertie (bur-TEE) County is Lewiston. For reasons I never knew, the oldtimers pronounced it LUR-stun. It's just down the road from Rhoades (ROW-jez) Crossroads.

  • Right_Is_Right Dec 5, 2008

    I can't stand it when yanks come down here and say "top-sail" for Topsail (Island).

  • ballmom Dec 5, 2008

    Bill, thanks for clearing up Zebulon, I have lived here 40 years and cringe everytime I hear it pronounced wrong, now if the newcomers would get the new school name right...It's Wake-lun..not Wake-lawn

  • k8ered Dec 5, 2008

    Cary isn't hard to pronounce, but I think it's interesting that so many elderly natives pronounce it CAY-ree! Cary was named for Ohio prohibitionist Samuel Fenton Cary. It was named such by Cary's "founder", Allison Francis "Frank" Page, who owned the land that Page-Walker Hotel (now Page-Walker Arts and History Center) was on.

  • simracer68 Dec 4, 2008

    Mine's boring: Fayetteville. Named for Marquis de LaFayette in 1783, and was a "combining" of Campbellton and Cross Creek - much like Fuquay Springs and Varina Station came together to be Fuquay-Varina (my current hometown). LaFayette came to Fayetteville sometime in the 1800s to visit the town named for him - his horse-drawn carriage from that trip still exists and is maintained somewhere down there in Cumberland County IIRC.

  • da_man Dec 4, 2008

    Welcome from Buncombe County and the town of Leicester (LES-tur) NC!

  • iamac Dec 4, 2008

    curiousgeorgia. . . I'm from the big city of Beulaville, in good ole Duplin County, just down the road from Chinquapin. Both have several pronunciations that are acceptable, but not necessarily correct. Like you I love this state.

  • singularity1111 Dec 4, 2008

    Angier is an-jur, not an-jeer

    Tarboro is pronounced Tarboro, but some of the locals pronounce it tah-buh.

  • lovetheheels Dec 4, 2008

    Ooops...I realized this was a NC town thread after my post...sorry!

  • lovetheheels Dec 4, 2008

    There's another "KA-row" (Cairo) in Georgia, along with "ALL-benny" - (Albany), "VI-DAY-lee-ah" (Vidalia) and




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