The Tuesday Top Ten: 10 Ways to Sound Like a True Charlestonian

By BJ D’Elia IV

Back when I was anchoring a morning show in the Midwest, I made the mistake of not immediately learning how to properly pronounce the names of towns and cities in our viewing area. I’ll never forget the morning I said “Milan” the same way I would say it as if I was referring to the city in Northern Italy. But this was Eastern Illinois / Western Iowa and there they pronounced it MY-lun. You would have thought I insulted their mother the way the switchboard lit up. My boss dragged me down into his office and told me how I’d lose the audiences credibility if I didn’t learn how to say things the right way. Needless to say, I became a quick study and when I  moved here to Charleston, I made sure not to repeat past mistakes. So here are the Top Ten local words you need to learn how to properly pronounce if you want to sound like you’re from here.

BARRE – To improve their strength, posture and flexibility, many women turn to an exercise called the Barre (sounds like bar) Method which incorporates ballet moves. This is not the way we say the word in Charleston. Here it is pronounced like Berry.

BEAUFORT – One of the most popular destination spots in the Lowcountry is the picturesque coastal town of Beaufort. I took French in high school and college so I thought the proper way to say it was BO-fort. But it’s actually BYOU-fert. If you happen to find yourself in Beaufort, North Carolina- forget what I just told you. There they say BO-furt.

DAUFUSKIE – I remember the first time I saw this word. It was while reading an article in the Charleston Post and Courier. Fortunately, I was reading by myself and didn’t have to say it aloud because I would have butchered it. The way to pronounce Daufuskie is duh-FUH-ski. Try saying that ten times fast!

GAILLARD – You can hardly go a day in Charleston without seeing the word, Gaillard.  Not only is it a popular surname but it’s also the name of our performing arts center. Initially I thought it was Gayle-yard, but I was soon corrected. The way to say it is gil-YARD.

HASSELL – How would you pronounce Hassell? Like hassle, right? Wrong! Here in the Lowcountry it’s HAY-zul.

HORRY  – If, as a kid, I’d pronounced Horry like the way it looks, my mother would surely have sent me to my room for being disrespectful to women. But the h is silent, so you’ll want to say OH-ree.

HUGER  – This is one of those words that Charlestonians disagree on how to pronounce. Some say, you-GEE while others will tell you it’s hu-GEE.

LEGARE – Despite seeing this word countless times, I still pronounce it luh-gare. Old timers usually give me a dirty look when I do this. Avoid the same fate as me and say it properly. It’s LUH-gree.

MANIGAULT – The only reason I know the proper way to say Manigault is because I know a guy here in town with that last name. Had I not gotten the pronunciation from him, I probably would have said, manny-GAULT. But it’s actually MAN-uh-go.

PRIOLEAU – This is another one of those words that even locals have a hard time pronouncing. I initially thought the right way to say it was Pre-oh-low. But the correct way is pray-LOW.