Chapter 21: Outer Banks Speech

[Voices and water]

[Rex O'Neal] Hoi toid? What is it? It's, it's high- hoi, it's hoi toid, [laughs] hoi-, high tide. It's when the tide comes up high, you know, on the sound soid, sound, like Pamlico Sound. This is Pamlico Sound. Hoi toide on the sound soid.

[Narrator] The remote fishing communities along North Carolina's coast inherited the Brogue of their English and Irish forbearers. Over the years they also added many new words and pronunciations to the dialect.

[Voices and boating sounds]

[Rex O'Neal] I knew my uncle used to always say it picking on me all the time, you know, when I was a young'un, you know. We-We'd be fishing, you know, 'n' he'd say, "Come on, let's get going! Hoi toid on the sound soid; last night the water far [fire], tonight moonshine, no feesh! Whattaya s'pose's the matter, Uncle Woods? Get a-going!"


[James Barrie Gaskill] This here's Earl's pot, here, he hain't been here in a couple days. See this pot here belong to my friend Vincent. Any like that, [unintelligible], I done crab mine today so there won't be much in 'em.

[Water splashes]

[David Hill] A lot of times outta Raleigh, and stuff, I mean, I'll go up 'n' talk to people and they'll say well, "well, you got an Australian accent." And I'm like, "no, I don't, you know, I got a Down East or a high tide accent."

[Cheryl Macintosh] Like I told my speech teacher, I don't have a Southern Drawl.

[David Hill] That's right, I don't have it. That's it.

[Cheryl Macintosh] I got a high tide Brogue, you know. And he said, "What is a high tide Brogue?" And I said, "You know, it's where we live, it's called the high tide Brogue."

[Elderly male speaker] High tiders? Yeah, I forgot about that one [laughs].

[Cheryl Macintosh] We want to talk the way we do, and in order to talk the way we talk-

[Male speaker] You have to grow up here.

[Cheryl Macintosh] you really have to had grown up here.

[Mark Lester] If you're born and raised around it, you, everybody just, you know, you just, you know, it's normal to you. It's just like anything, you know. If you're born Japanese, you talk Japanese. You know what I mean?

[Rex O'Neal] "What accent is that?" A lot of people will look at me and say, "What acc-, are you-, is that a Irish-English accent?" and then somebody, the two or three of them together, and then he'll look at the other guy and say "yeah, I think it's more Irish-English than English-Irish." Or something you know like, an' then because I talk funny a lot of people will say, "So how long have you been down here on the Outer Banks, anyway?" You know.

[Roy Parsons] They asked me where I was from. They thought I was from overseas somewhere. They didn't think, wondering if I was American, I said, "Yeah." So uh, they uh, they uh, said, "You talk funny," said, "you don't talk like we do." Well they didn't talk like I did, either.

[Donna Minneli] Yeah, people make fun of us, yeah, you hear people making fun of us. But that's alright because we think they talk different, too, so. [laughs]

[Male speaker, fisherman] Get made fun of where ever you go.

[Male speaker] This is true.

[Male speaker, fisherman] If they didn't like it; they wouldn't talk to you, would they, Jim?

[Nat Jackson] I guess we should be very proud of it. It's nothing to- it's what you're born with. And you take it all your life.

[Roy Parsons singing] "Well, rock was sellin' for twelve cents and flounders 24, shrimp are sellin' for 35 but still they ask for more. But here on Hatteras Island they work for what they get. They work all day in the mighty hot sun and all they get is whipped. They sheve? They seed the reef for mollusks and drag the sand for shrimp. Pay their bills on Saturday night and they haven't got a cent." [laughs]

[Water lapping]

[James Barrie Gaskill] Pull that pot up and we'll flip it over and let all the bait out … and then we'll pull the top out and shake the crabs in there. And then we'll reach down to get bait, fresh bait, to put back in there. And, you know, just throw it right back, I mean, that's all it is, about two hundred and fifty times a day.

[Male speaker] The way we sound. I don't care about changing. I don't think you could teach me over again.

[Male speaker] I wouldn't be able to understand you otherwise.

[Nat Jackson] Dive all reaches right on down. But I don't think there will ever be a time which they won't be some of it, here. Though, you gotta, you gotta job to get it out of something other than sucking through deep. [laughs] I can't help it, but that's the way it is. I'm proud of it to death; I wouldn't take nothing in the world for it.


[Alton Ballance] The accent is one thing, but the energy that- that words and phrases and constructions are given is another. And to me, one of the most attractive things about our dialect and about any dialect is the, is just the overall inflections, the energy that you get a group of people together.

[Gail Hamilton] Get them outside of a classroom, one islander talking to an islander, the speech rate increases, the brogue becomes more pronounced, and it's just wonderful.

[James Barrie Gaskill] one-on-one or something like that is okay but when three or four of us get together, something we're doing, they don't have any idea what we're saying.

[Kenny Ballance] I invited some of my college roommates and classmates to come home with me one weekend. So we came down and we went out that night and got in with some of the local people here like Phil Styron and different ones that I grew up with. So when we got back to the house that night, they said, "Kenny, we just can't understand how that takes place." And I said, "Well, what are you talking about?" and they said, "Well, when you're in Greenville going to college with us, you talk fine, but when you come down and start mixing with people you grew up with, we can't understand a word you say."

[James Barrie Gaskill] I guess it depends on who you're talking with. I try- I try to sometimes, if it'll be talking to somebody for awhile I try to slow down a little bit. I was married 10 years and the problem was she couldn't understand me. That's what she said, anyway.