Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations


Posted April 13, 2011 1:15 p.m. EDT

We’re featuring North Carolina towns with the most letters and syllables this week in our Hometown Hello segment. Today’s spotlight is on Rutherfordton.

When I was in the fifth grade a new family moved in on North Anderson Street in Morganton. Wayne Crosby came from upstate New York. His father Stanley had taken a job in the thriving furniture industry of Burke County. I had never heard anyone talk like Wayne before. He enunciated every syllable.

Wayne told me about a family trip to pick up some sewing supplies for his mother Annette. As the two of us were sifting through our baseball card collections Wayne said: “We went to this neat place called Rutherfordton.” He pronounced the city with equal emphasis on each syllable – Ruh-thur-ford-ton.

I was perplexed. I had never heard of this place. “What was the name of it,” I asked. Even more emphatically Wayne accented each syllable.

“Oh, you mean “RUV-ton,” I said. “Wayne, you’ve got the pronunciation all wrong! It’s not whatever you said it was. It’s called “RUV-ton.”

Well, that’s the lazy way Morgantonians called it. Why make it four syllables when two will do?

This may have been the genesis of my broadcasting career. I now realized that there were different dialects and that mine wasn’t necessarily perfect. I began listening to radio broadcasts and mimicked the speech pattern of announcers. People call me a polished journalist today but I admit I will cringe every time I have to say “Rutherfordton!”