North Carolina Place Names.

I’m a sucker for unpredictable pronunciations of place names and have posted about them more than once (e.g., in 2003 and 2007), so I was delighted to run across the website North Carolina place names:

From the mountains to the coast, place names in North Carolina can be confusing. (Why don’t Rowan and Chowan rhyme?) Click on the map below to hear North Carolina county names pronounced by local authors Bland Simpson and Michael McFee. The list that follows it includes cities, towns, mountains, lakes, and more.

It is wonderful to have audio files for all these place names, especially to verify what looks impossible, e.g. Cajahs Mountain = KAY-JUH Mountain. Click and enjoy! (Via Joel at Far Outliers, where you’ll find a selection of the weirder ones.)


  1. During the recent NC flooding I watched a report on my local (DC area) news in which the reporter was talking about conditions in BYOO-FURT. I assumed this was the correct regional pronunciation of Beaufort, but according to the website it should be pronounced BO-FURT, which is what I would have guessed. Maybe the reporter was an out-of-towner making a bad guess.

    Edit: oh wait, now I realize the flooding was in SC, which has its own Beaufort. Perhaps they say it differently to distinguish between the two.

  2. What you describe the reporter using is the correct pronunciation for the South Carolina Beaufort. The SC town is also larger and is one of the locations in the Carolinas for which weather forecasts are frequently stated.

  3. The Beaufort wind force scale, however, is BO-furt; it was named after its inventor.

  4. According to Wikipedia, Beaufort, NC is /ˈboʊfərt/ and Beaufort, SC is /ˈbjuːfərt/. Oddly enough, the latter is named after Henry Somerset, 2nd Duke of Beaufort (1684–1714), but the British pronunciation now used for the dukedom of Beaufort is /ˈbəʊfət/. Perhaps it was pronounced like Beaulieu /ˈbjuːli/ 300+ years ago. But then the other Beaufort commemorates Henry Somerset-Scudamore, 3rd Duke of Beaufort, and was named in 1712, only one year later than its non-homophonous namesake. I have heard heard Beaumaris, Anglesey, pronounced both ways (though I think it’s always /bjuːˈmærɪs/ locally), so perhaps the pronunciation was simply variable at the time.

  5. “Henry Fielding [18C novelist, dramatist, magistrate, and founder of London’s first professional police force] being once in company with the Earl of Denbigh, and the conversation turning on Fielding’s being of the Denbigh family, the Earl asked the reason why they spelt their names differently; the Earl’s family doing it with the E first (Feilding), and Mr. Henry Fielding with the I first (Fielding). ‘I cannot tell, my Lord,’ answered Harry, ‘except it be that my branch of the family were the first that knew how to spell.’” —John Nichol

    Fielding/Feilding is of course /ˈfiːldɪŋ/, and Denbigh is /ˈdɛnbi/, where /i/ is (as in John Wells’s transcriptions/ either /ɪ/ or /iː/ depending on the state of happy-tensing, which did not exist in the 18C.

  6. David Eddyshaw says

    My own family descends (along with all Eddishaws and Eddershaws) via a long line of subliteracy and inaudible mumbling to an eighteenth-century John Hithersay. The form used in my branch goes back only to my great-grandfather. Spelling! who needs it? A mere bourgeois affectation!

  7. Or as a particularly felicitous typo in a book I once read had it, “A la-di-da affectatation.” As I have noted before, my grandfather spelled his name John Coen and pronounced it Shaun a-Cawn”.

  8. David Marjanović says

    A few generations back, an ancestor of mine was (at least) buried as Rosol instead of Rossoll, reportedly because every letter on the tombstone cost. Of course the ll is most likely a graphic misinterpretation of ł to begin with; we seem to be auf der Nudelsuppe dahergeschwommen (“arrived out of nowhere with no idea”).

  9. DM: auf der Nudelsuppe dahergeschwommen

    Is it literally (and more colourfully): arrived swimming in the noodle soup ?

  10. David Marjanović says


  11. John Cowan says

    except it be that my branch of the family were the first that knew how to spell

    Now I’m wondering if that were is a subjunctive II or a matter of treating family as a plural.

  12. How is family relevant? It’s “branch of the family” that’s the subject of “were,” and it’s singular.

  13. John Cowan says

    Okay then. Treating branch as a plural, I suppose.

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