on October 12, 1998
Correct Mispronunciations of Some South Carolina Names Claude and Irene Neuffer University of South Carolina Press, Copyright 1983
This collection of witty and informative sketches provides an entertaining and educational look at over 300 years of French Huguenot, German, Scotch-Irish, and other ethnic influence on family and place names in South Carolina.
Although it is not an academic treatise, nor was it intended to be such, it is probably the only volume on the subject. However, there is a lack of thoroughness and research on the authors' part to cover some of the more glaring examples of mispronunciation, most of which are places in the Up Country. For example, there is no mention of the Edgefield County town of Trenton, yet this is one of the most frequently mispronounced names in the state (by the way, it is pronounced "TREN-nun"; the middle "t" is silent).On the other hand, the Laurens County town of Clinton (correctly pronounced as "KLIN-nun" by the residents of that fine town; similar to Trenton - the middle "t" is silent) is mentioned, but incorrectly pronounced by the authors as "KLIN-tun". In addition, although the authors do point that Lancaster, my hometown, is often mispronounced as "LAN-KAS-ter", they also miss the point by mispronouncing it as "LANG-kus-tuh", instead of "LANGK-ester" (spoken almost as one syllable). Such seemingly inconsequential differences are like night and day to the folks who live there. In another case, the authors state that Catawba can only be pronounced correctly as "kuh-TAW-buh", and definitely not as "kuh-TAH-buh". Having spent more than 18 years within three miles from the Catawba River, I can assure the authors that both pronunciations are correct, accepted, and are used equally by the residents of Chester, Fairfield, Lancaster, and York Counties, whose boundaries abut this river.
There also appears to be a definite Low Country bias towards pronunciation of names and places that end in "er"; (i.e., Chester, Haltiwanger, Eastover, etc.). The authors cite, as the definitive pronunciation, the Low Country habit of slurring "ers" to become "uhs"; (i.e., CHES-tuh, HAWL-ti-WAHNG-uh, EEST-OE-vuh). These pronunciations, unfortunately, couldn't be further from the truth for most South Carolinians. The Low Country dialect is only present in a fairly small segment of South Carolinians; the vast majority pronounce using the hard "er". Perhaps this provincial view is continuing evidence, by the authors, of the controversial Low Country arrogance that has persisted in South Carolina for all 300 + years of its existence (note: Mr. Neuffer's - pronounced "KNIFE-er"- ancestors were originally from Charleston; Ms. Neuffer's were the LaBordes, also originally from Charleston). At the very least, in cases such as the above, the authors should acknowledge both Up Country and Low Country dialectic pronunciations as being correct, or err to the majority, instead of smugly rendering only one geographic area of the state. More research on the Up Country is recommended, since information on this area in the book is woefully inadequate. A little less name-dropping would be advisable as well.
To their benefit, the authors do a very good job to cover most all of the wealth of French Huguenot names that remain in South Carolina and are most often mispronounced by residents and out-of-staters alike. Although the authors do cover some interesting facts of previous place names, such as Prosperity previously being named Frog Level, they miss several other equally prominent ones, such as Great Falls and Flopeye, Ridge Springs and Shake Rag, and Monetta as Who-de-peck. Hopefully, they will be included in later revisions and printings of this book.
Acknowledging that an exhaustive book on this subject would be difficult, what the authors have presented here is an extremely readable and interesting book, albeit subjective, for all Palmetto State residents, of all ages. Read the book for what it is - entertainment, not cited historical research - and you will find yourself pleasantly informed. Y'all enjoy....
Reviewed by D. Williamson Columbia, SC
on December 11, 2013
Please note, the title is "Correct Mispronunciations of SOME South Carolina Names." It is not intended to be comprehensive, but it is extremely accurate for many state names, especially around the midlands and coast of South Carolina. In fact, I have been quite tempted to get copies for several area TV stations and broadcast networks because they inevitably have problems with such names as "Edisto" and "Cayce." The stories behind the names are generally amusing and for the most part quite accurate.
Note as well that the Neuffers use their own form of pronunciation guides rather than Merriam-Webster's symbols.
If you live in South Carolina, and especially if you teach state history or geography, this could be a very helpful resource.