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17 Jul 2023
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History & Culture

Anyone who visits the Outer Banks knows that it's a unique area with equally unique people. From ancestral locals whose families have been here for hundreds of years to long-time transplants who call this place home, the Outer Banks' unique history has resulted in a melting pot of culture, language, and tradition that you literally won't find anywhere else in the world. Keep reading for a down and dirty explanation of that eccentric Outer Banks dialect, common pronunciations, and Outer Banks slang terms. Read up on the history of the Brogue accent and figure out how OBX natives say "Corolla," and you'll be sounding like a local in no time!

"High Tiders" & Outer Banks Brogue

If you've ever spent time in Manteo, Hatteras, or Oracoke, there's a good chance that you've heard locals speaking with an accent that is something between a sharp southern twang and an Irish or Scottish lilt. And no, you're not imaging things! This accent, oftentimes referred to as High Tide English or the Carolina Brogue is one of the most unique accents in the world and has the subject of studies by linguists for decades. Locals often demonstrate the accent through the rhyming phrase "It's high tide on the sound side," which sounds more like "hoi toide on the saind soide" when spoken. Researchers believe the dialect developed from Early Modern English due to the isolation of the area and is most closely linked with eastern and southwestern England during the Early Modern Period (1500-1800). People who speak with this accent and are locals to the area, including on Harkers Island and some parts of the Chesapeake Bay, are affectionately called High Tiders. Check out part of this documentary from NC State describing the accent and the culture that comes with it, and give the phrase a try yourself. It's hard to be in a bad mood when it's hoi toide on the saind soide.

Outer Banks Pronunciations

Now, part of the fun of traveling is hearing new words or learning how to say place names like the locals do. I mean, there have been entire video segments discussing how to say the names of places in North Carolina. With that in mind, and all in good fun, here are some of the words that get pronounced incorrectly most often by visitors - and how to say them like a local. 

Bodie Island: BAH-dee Island, sounds like "body" Island

Chicamacomico: CHICK-a-ma-COM-i-co (and they do this one in the It's a Southern Thing video linked above)

Corolla: Core-AH-lah, NOT Core-OH-la

Currituck: CUR-i-tuck or CUR-ee-tuck. Both work and it just depends how much of a hurry you're in.

Hatteras: HAT-er-is or HAT-ris. Just leaving out the "e" altogether.

Manteo: MAN-tee-oh or MAN-ee-oh. Again, sometimes we just like leaving letters out when we say them. If you go see The Lost Colony, you might hear it pronounced "man-TAY-OH," but that's usually reserved for the person and not the town.

Wanchese: WAHN-cheese. Just like Manteo, it's not actually "WAHN-kees" when you're referring to the town.

Outer Banks Terminology

Along with uniquely local pronunciations and the Outer Banks brogue, the Outer Banks also has some terminology that might be unfamiliar for visitors to the area. Here are some of the more regular words you may hear during your stay. Take a look at this page from NCSU for a little more detail.

dingbatter (n.): A non-native of Ocracoke or the OBX.

mommuck (v.): to harass or bother

beach access (n.): a walkway or area with parking that allows free access to the beach

dune (n.): a hill made of sand; naturally-forming large sand piles that are essential for the environment

pizer (n.): a porch

transplant (n.): someone who moves to the Outer Banks permanently, usually after visiting or vacationing here first


Now that you know a little more about what it's like to talk like a local, why not come and explore the area for yourself?

Give our wonderful Guest Services Team a call today at (866) 884-0267 or take a look at our available rentals to get started planning your next historic adventure to the Outer Banks. And don't forget about our layaway plan, which makes booking your dream vacation easier than ever. So don't wait. We're booking Outer Banks vacation rentals year round and we're excited to help you create memories to last a lifetime. We're here to help make your OBX vacation fun, exciting, and hassle-free. Give us a call today! Be sure to provide accurate information and make any necessary payments. 

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We’ll see you at the beach.

About the Author:  Lauren is an Outer Banks local, mom, trained historian, and travel enthusiast. When she isn’t writing for the Seaside Vacations Travel Blog, Lauren can usually be found with her nose in a book or cuddling with her cats.