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Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Say It Right!

Posted December 4, 2008 7:51 a.m. EST

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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