Thursday, June 13, 2024

Listen here: The Kerr vs. “Carr” debate lives on. So, which is it?

How do you pronounce Kerr Avenue? Anecdotally, the pronunciation of the Wilmington road can show if you're really a native. As it turns out, natives may not have it right.

How is Kerr of Kerr Avenue really pronounced? It's a debate that has divided the Wilmington area since the 19th century. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna Ferebee)
How is Kerr of Kerr Avenue really pronounced? It’s a debate that has divided the Wilmington area since the 19th century. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna Ferebee)

WILMINGTON — A 6-mile road in Wilmington’s midtown is the source of a century-old debate.

Many Wilmington natives claim the road ought to be pronounced “Carr,” based on the family it was named after.

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The co-author of “Talkin’ Tar Heel,” one of the only existing studies of linguistics including southeastern North Carolina, said the original Kerr family split in the 19th century.

“There was a split in the family rather early on,” Dr. Jeffrey Reaser said.

But in Wilmington’s case, Reaser said the locals may have it wrong. Dr. John Stevens, a Universtiy at North Carolina Wilmington professor of linguistics, said choosing to pronounce the name either way signifies “insiders” versus “outsiders.” Even Wilmington native and long-serving mayor Bill Saffo weighed in on the running debate.

So, is the “e” really an “a”? Listen to find out:


Send tips and comments to Johanna Ferebee at johanna@localvoicemedia.com

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