Down East Regional Dialect

A book published in 1997, Hoi Toide on the Outer Banks: The Story of the Ocracoke Brogue, called attention to the unusual Down East Regional Dialect shared by islanders throughout the Down East region of North Carolina. Linguists call this High Tider and link it to Elizabethan English, claiming that these remote island communities retained Old World speech patterns in almost complete isolation for over 250 years.

“Time” is pronounced “toime,” “fish” is “feesh” and “fire” is “far.” Then, there are vocabulary usages found nowhere else. “Mommick” means to frustrate or bother, “yethy” describes a stale or unpleasant odor, and “nicket” is a pinch of something used in cooking. Any stranger on the islands who doesn’t understand this plain and simple terminology is known as a “dingbatter.”

On up the Coast

The following is a verbatim transcription of an actual conversation that took place between a Female Motorist and a state employee of the Cedar Island Ferry:

FM: When is the next ferry to Ocracoke?
CIF: As soon as we can get it fixed, ma’am.
FM: You’re saying that might be a few hours?
CIF: I’m saying that probably won’t be today.
FM: So how do I get to Ocracoke?
CIF: You’ll probably have to drive around, ma’am.
FM: Drive around? What about the Swanquarter Ferry?
CIF: Do you have reservations?
FM: No, not there. I have reservations here.
CIF: Well, you can try it. But you’ll probably have to drive around, ma’am.
FM: Drive around what?
CIF: Let me show you on this map. If you go back down Highway 12 here and get on Highway 70, you can just follow the signs over to Highway 264. That takes you on up to Manteo where you go over the big bridge. Then you come back on down the island from Nags Head and get on the ferry that runs between Hatteras and Ocracoke.
FM: That has to be 200 miles.
CIF: Yes, ma’am. It’s 265 miles, ma’am.

Sometimes it’s probably best just to be happy with where you are. Cedar Island has a lovely National Wildlife Refuge that you would have to drive through in order to learn that the ferry isn’t running. Maybe you could kill a few days there and check back next Tuesday.