Do You Speak Charleston? Pronunciation Guide

Credit: DrewSineath.com

Credit: DrewSineath.com

This entry was inspired by a Twitter conversation I saw a few months ago. With a diverse group of residents, the dialect in Charleston can be quite unique...and confusing.

Here's a pronunciation guide featuring some of the more confusing words and their correct or most popular pronunciations if the "right" way isn't clear:

(FYI - Most of these pronunciations came from SCIWay.net. There are even more listings and an explanation on how they reached their conclusions on their website):

  • Awendaw: AW-win-daw, AW-en-daw
  • Beaufain: BYOO - fain ("BYOO" rhymes with "you")
  • Beaufort: BYOO - fort, BYOO - fert
  • Beidler: BYE - dler
  • Blenheim: BLEN - um
  • Bonneau: BOHN - oh
  • Cayce: KAY - see
  • Clemson: CLEM - zun, CLEMP - sun, CLEM - sun
  • Gaillard: gil - YARD
  • Givhans Ferry: GIV - ANZ
  • Hasell: HAY - zul
  • Horry: or - ree, o - ree
  • Huger: u - GEE, HU - gee
  • Lancaster: LANK - uh - stur
  • Legare: le - GREE
  • McLeod: muh - CLOUD
  • Moultrie: MOOL - tree, MOW - tree
  • Pamplico: PAMP - li - koe (Edit: One agitated reader swears this should be pronounced Pam-li-coe. SCIWay.net and Google disagree, but that's the whole point of this list. People pronounce things differently).
  • Pinopolis: pie - NOP - uh - lis
  • Prioleau: PRAY - low
  • St. Stephen: STEE - ven, STEE - vens (Some add the "s" on the end)
  • Sumter: SUMP • tur
  • Vanderhorst: VAN - der - HORST, VAN - dross

When it comes to town/street names, it's almost impossible to know what's "right." Plus, pronunciations change over time. Some people adapt to the "new" way of saying a word, while others don't. If you don't like what's above, that's ok! These are all up for debate.

These pronunciations came from SCIWay.net. There are even more listings on their site.

46 comments

  1. BH 1 October, 2013 at 14:05 Reply

    wrong as hell on many of these ……… Beaufort = Byoo-fert, Blenheim= Blenn em, Clemson = Clem sin, Lancaster= Lan caster or Lan casser,
    MCCloud= Mickcloud, PAMP Li KOE?????? you gave it away there for sure , there ain’t a person I’ve ever known in the low country who proununciates the “P” ……… big fail it’s Pam li coe

    • Chelsea 1 October, 2013 at 21:01 Reply

      You are not the only person that lives in the lowcountry, I am a native and I have heard other natives pronounce these words very differently…and pamplico is not even in the lowcountry….it’s considered the midlands. so…yeah…big fail…

    • Mary Grady 2 October, 2013 at 18:55 Reply

      “Pam li coe” is a misunderstanding because of that body of water off the coast of N. Carolina – Pimlicoe Sound. Locally, this town is PAMP li coe.

  2. Christina 1 October, 2013 at 14:46 Reply

    Ahhhh what I love about this is how screwed up some Southern accents are which makes people THINK they’re pronouncing them correctly when they’re not, phonetically speaking. ; ) Nice list, friend!

    • Anonymous 1 October, 2013 at 16:47 Reply

      Haha yeah and Yankee accents like I’m sure you have make my ears bleed like taking a cheese grader to a chalk board , just sayin 😉
      -Yours truly
      Barry Goodwin

      • Chelsea 1 October, 2013 at 20:57 Reply

        What does this comment even mean?! He is not saying anything is wrong with the way things are said…just writing about it…

  3. lynn Norman 1 October, 2013 at 16:24 Reply

    I LOVE these pronunciations, but the title to the story should not be “Do you speak Charleston” when the picture is clearly in Columbia.

    • Holy City Sinner 1 October, 2013 at 22:32 Reply

      Sigh…I didn’t think people would be so confused by the picture, just read the editor’s note above

      • bert 2 October, 2013 at 03:13 Reply

        …But why would you include the photo at all except for the fact that you did all of your “research” by skimming the internet? Uninformed, biased, lazy writers usually end up with egg on their faces.

        • Holy City Sinner 2 October, 2013 at 07:19 Reply

          Biased? Yea, I’m so biased against Charleston that I created an entire blog dedicated to how much I love the city, its culture, and (some) of its people. Then I made a post dedicated to the proper way(s) to pronounce some commonly mispronounced names, so tourists and newcomers will be informed instead of screwing up.

          • Holy City Sinner 2 October, 2013 at 19:10

            The original picture was a highway sign near Columbia showing “Huger Street.” I changed it after a few people said it should be a Charleston picture

  4. Ashley 1 October, 2013 at 21:46 Reply

    I can tell you right now that no one , and I mean NO ONE pronounces Clemson clem-zun. You would know that if you were actually from South Carlolina or even bothered to do any research.

    • Holy City Sinner 1 October, 2013 at 22:29 Reply

      For one, I have heard a handful of people pronounce it that way. Secondly, if you bothered to actually read the post, then you would have seen that research WAS done by another entity. They polled residents and a percentage (yes, a small one) pronounced Clemson as “clem-zun.” That doesn’t mean they are right, so relax. In fact, I don’t even pronounce it that way. But what do I know, I’m just a stupid non-native who doesn’t know anything 🙁

      • Bert 2 October, 2013 at 02:59 Reply

        I’d like to agree…with your last sentence. You might want to stick to something you actually know about. Painting yourself as an expert on Southerners and the funny way they talk is just weak.

        • Holy City Sinner 2 October, 2013 at 06:08 Reply

          I never once said I was expert, nor did I make fun of the way people talk. I even wrote at the beginning and end of the list that most of the pronunciations came from a local website – lest anyone believe I thought I was an expert.

          The only people I’m poking fun at are the people who refuse to believe that their way of saying something is the only way.

          Lazy reading, much like lazy research is weak.

      • Ashley 2 October, 2013 at 08:05 Reply

        If you heard them say Clemzun or Clemsin, then they were not from the south. Also, did you go to college? Or even high school? Because I don’t know any research paper that is acceptable with only one source. That is not research.

        • Holy City Sinner 2 October, 2013 at 08:38 Reply

          Actually, some of those people were from the south. Yes, I did go to college and am well aware of what constitutes a research paper. Good thing this is just a blog and not a research paper then, huh?

      • Lori 2 October, 2013 at 16:50 Reply

        I had a friend in high school who would swear up and down on her life it was pronounced clem-zun. It drove me crazy! There definitely are a handful of people who swear by that pronounciation.

    • Mary Grady 3 October, 2013 at 15:33 Reply

      Then they would be wrong, wouldn’t they? Usually the people I hear saying this sound like they have that “Midwestern-No-Accent” so cherished by television/radio announcers from off. That doesn’t make them right.

  5. Apologetic 2 October, 2013 at 05:56 Reply

    Wow, sorry Sinner. I liked the piece. I find it interesting how everyone is so down on you. I am not a native, but have been here for over 20 years.
    Every place I have ever been has had places or names that are pronounced differently than they are spelled. Thanks for the piece, it was entertaining.

  6. Lavada Blejski 2 October, 2013 at 08:27 Reply

    Wow, You researched some information basically for amusement purposes, (which I did find amusing}, even made it clear that the pronunciations were from SCIWay.net and still got a bunch of hateful BS instead. Really? This is Southern Hospitality? Sounds like Bert be frontin he is from da souff…more like da hood in Chi-town. Thug,,probably cutting sag, hat cocked to the side, packin, and dealing on a street corner, Yo!

    • Lavada Blejski 2 October, 2013 at 08:38 Reply

      Picturing EMINEM when I read Bert’s entries..LOL! Gotta be down on someone else to build himself up!

  7. Yvonne 2 October, 2013 at 09:13 Reply

    The comment section was better reading than the actual blog. I live in Charleston and he meant no disrespect (obviously) but people are very sensitive about their hometown or current town. Personally I find “southern drawl” charming. And if you[Lavada] think Bert sounds like a thug then you live a very protected life. Thanks Holy City Sinner for an entertaining read!

  8. Louis 2 October, 2013 at 10:43 Reply

    I AM a native and that does not mean that I pronounce all of those words as listed or as some of the commentors listed. It’s pretty ridiculous to generalize all “Charlestonians” as pronouncing these words the same. I’m surprised by how the commentors were so rude and stubborn. Everyone from the south in general, or Charleston specifically does not annunciate every word the same.

  9. Lavada Blejski 2 October, 2013 at 11:05 Reply

    Yvonne..I was being sarcastic because Bert very obviously didn’t get the blog and what is was about. He decided to take the offensive instead of being amused like most of us. Believe me, after 20 years in the military, traveling the world and hearing different people speak, I truly do enjoy different accents and drawls. It can be fun and amusing. Bert had a pejorative take on the linguistics of one tiny area. My last place of employment we had one from Long Island, one from Boston, one from England, one for Southern Georgia plus a whole bunch more. It was more than fun to communicate because often times there would be miscommunication because of the accents. We’d laugh our butts off. There is no room for narrow mindedness regarding accents and dialects in a world as big as ours. Bert is the one the sounds like he needs to get out and about more.

  10. Anonymous Charlestonian 2 October, 2013 at 11:17 Reply

    This born-and-bred Charlestonian found this list rather entertaining. HCS has said time and time again that this list came from SCIWAY.net, so he’s simply reposting something done by another institution. Yes, some of these are a bit off (like the CLEM-zun one; I’ve only heard it said like this on ESPN), but he is just the messenger. And think of it this way: would you rather these people continue to ask where Laygaray Street or Pryoloo Street are, or would you rather them use a pronunciation that is relatively close to the proper one?

  11. Anon 2 October, 2013 at 12:20 Reply

    Pamplico the town in lower Florence County has 2 “P”s and they are both pronounced. Clemson the town about as far as possible from Charleston but still in S.C. does not have a “P” except in its pronunciation.

  12. Zoe 2 October, 2013 at 14:41 Reply

    Thanks for sharing. I’m a native. These are pretty close. I have to argue with SCIway in regards to CLEMPsin as well but whatever. The only other one I wonder about is Vanderhorst – I’ve frequently heard it VAND-uh-hawst.
    Either way – I think it was great to share. What I like most is that you can spot a ComeYa rather quickly when these are blatantly MISpronounced!

  13. Christian 2 October, 2013 at 16:22 Reply

    I’m from Charleston and now live in Columbia. When we first moved here, even I said Hu-ger in stead of U-gee Street, because I just didn’t know. Thanks for the blog. I found it interesting and entertaining. Some people just get too serious to have any fun! Lighten up, people and enjoy life with a SMILE! 🙂 PS: If you really want to have some fun… do a blog about the Geechee way of talking! tee hee

  14. Christian 2 October, 2013 at 16:33 Reply

    I say Lan-caster, even though I know it’s not correct. And I used to say Horry (with an H) before I learned the correct pronunciation. You should hear the different ways people say Pelion, SC. A little town over from Lexington. It’s supposed to be pill-eon … we just have fun with it and say Pee-Lion (even though that’s definitely NOT correct). I get tickled when I hear Northerners say Bo-fort for Beaufort. My Ohio friends and I make fun of the way each other talk all the time. It’s just for laughs!

  15. Lisa 3 October, 2013 at 15:15 Reply

    All of ya’ll forgot the best one – there is no “R” in Chall’ston. I am from the area and upon moving away had to learn the way the rest of the world speaks. I have forgotten many of the words that make us unique. One that I remember very well, though, because I had an epiphany at age 18 when I was moving out on my own and looking for used furniture in the newspaper… What on earth is a Chest of Drawers I asked myself while skimming the For Sale Ad. Then the light bulb lit up when I realized the drawers were not really “Chester”… Good job Holy City Sinner blogger. This article made my day!

  16. Nathan 4 May, 2017 at 20:15 Reply

    Simons (as in Simons Street, up past Hampton Park) is pronounced as if there’s 2 m’s….SIMMONS, NOT sye-mons.

  17. Nathan 19 October, 2017 at 20:40 Reply

    and to the dude swears up and down it’s Pam -likoe with no “p”, that’s a north carolina thing. as in pamlico sound.

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