Talk Like a Local: A Lesson in “Charleston-ese”

Local News

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)- The Holy City is known for many charms. One of those being it’s beautiful, historic streets; that can sometimes be a pain to pronounce.

Fanio King has been with the Charleston Historical Society for over 20 years. As a native to these parts, she’s fluent in what she refers to as “Charleston-ese.”

“It is actually spelled L-E-G-A-R-E. So people tend to want to say leg-air, but it’s actually luh-gree,” she explains one of the most commonly mispronounced street names is Legare Street.

Legare (luh-gree) is named after a prominent French Huguenot businessman and silversmith.

“I would say in general, if we had to place blame on the difficult to pronounce names in Charleston, we would pin it on those French Huguenots,” jokes King.

A few other commonly mispronounced streets in Charleston are…

  • Barre (pronounced berry) is often referred to as “bar”
  • Huger (pronounced eu-gee) is mistakenly called “hue-gur”
  • Dafuskie (pronounced da-fuh-ski) not pronounced “da-foo-ski”
  • Hassell (pronounced hazel) is often called “hassle”
  • Vanderhorst (pronounced van-dross) is mainly spoken the way it’s written “vander-horst”

The origins of these tricky titles can be traced back to a few different categories: French Huguenot influence, famous names, and shortening for convenience.

King says that one of her favorites is Vanderhorst Street.

“If you see it, you definitely want to say vander-horst,” explains King, “You know, Charlestonians–they really just want to make things easier. So they’ve made it more compact and just say van-drost.”

There are quite a few street names in Charleston that are easy to pronounce and see where their inspiration stemmed from.

For instance, Water Street, which was named because it simply used to be the Vanderhorst Creek. The homes that line Church St. and Water St. once were waterfront property!

Other examples include Atlantic Street after the Atlantic Ocean, Orange Street because orange trees used to grow there, and of course; King Street after King Charles II of England.

King shared that Zig Zag Alley was named because of it’s meandering zig-zag path. “It has a pretty obvious reason for it’s name,” she says.

All of these fun quirks make up the Holy City we all know and love. Even if some street names may raise a few eyebrows; Charleston has a special kind of charm that you won’t find anywhere else.

If you are interested in learning more about Charleston’s history and perhaps seeing an exclusive look into some of it’s most beautiful homes, click here to learn about the Festival of Houses and Gardens.

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