I was born and raised in North Carolina. I love it here! I have lived other places I love more, but I always knew my husband and I would return here to settle down for our Golden Years, and here we are.
When we were living in Maryland I had to travel to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina one week for work. I was meeting a new employee there for training. She was telling me her story of how she ended up in South Carolina all the way from New Jersey when she made the remark, “And now here I am living in South Cackalacky!”
The hairs on my arms stood up and I felt prickly all over, and not in a good way.
You might think this endearing term referring to the latter part of my own home state might give me a warm and homey feeling, but it was quite the opposite, I assure you. I felt highly insulted. The word felt like a put-down of the biggest kind. Who in the world came up with such an abomination to describe the treasure that is the Carolinas? It had to be some smug Yankee! (and no, I don’t fly that flag, but “Yankee” was dying to be used as a descriptor considering the cacklacky, and all) I just knew that I did not care for the term one bit.
According to the Word Detective, the origins of this term is a complete mystery.
“There are a number of theories about the origin of “Cackalacky,” but, despite the efforts of folks at UNC, so far no one has been able to pin down its source with any real certainty. Such vagueness is not uncommon in cases of “folk speech,” which may pass from generation to generation by word of mouth for many years without ever being written down.”
There have actually been research studies on the origins of the word cackalacky. The best anyone can come up with is that it is a variation pronunciation of a Native American word in Cherokee, which means Cherokee, and sounds the same as cackalacky. There is also a German word for cockroach and a Scottish word for soup.
While all of those could hold possibilities for the word’s origins, it still makes my nose crinkle in disdain. It is not an attractive word at all. It denotes a lack of manners and decorum. The genteel softness that is the South is completely hosed down and left bedraggled by simply sounding out the syllables that create the twang of the word, cackalacky. I even find it difficult to pound the word out correctly on my keyboard.
I guess that we are stuck with this quaint, albeit redneck, word to illustrate and characterize the striking beauty that are the Carolinas. From soft rolling mountaintops shadowing castles and chalets to the clapboard beach cottages dotting our sandy shorelines along the Atlantic Ocean, I can find so many more suitable words to portray a place I have loved my whole life, and cackalacky will never be one of them.
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