Sunday, April 03, 2011

Island Dialect

One evening last week when I was visiting Blanche she commented on an old island expression: "Don't eat that [usually unripe fruit]. You'll get the collamaugus."

The next day I stopped in the Post Office to see if Dale knew the expression (Blanche thought he would, but I was doubtful [Dale is only in his 40s]....Blanche, as usual, was right.). That got Dale started. "Younguns," he said, "we say that Down Point all the time when you're sick to the stomach. But we pronounce it collabogus."

Later in the day I was buying a few groceries at the Variety Store when Lisa walked in. She stopped to talk with Trudy, then came over to me. "What is that word again you and Dale were talking about?"

"Collamaugus," I said. Trudy looked perplexed. She'd not heard that word.

Lisa turned to me. "Didn't Dale pronounce it differently?" she said.

"Yes, he says collabogus."

Trudy's eyes lit up. Of course she knew "collabogus." That's the word Pointers use! Creekers speak a different language. They say "collamaugus."

In case you're not familiar with Ocracoke village geography, Down Point is the section of the village from the Island Inn down toward the lighthouse, and including the Castle B&B, etc. Around Creek is that part of the village on the other side of Highway 12, including Howard Street, School Road, the British Cemetery, etc. There's not simply a distinctive Ocracoke brogue...there is a Down Point brogue, and an Around Creek brogue!

Both words, collamaugus and collabogus, are corruptions of Cholera Morbus, a term used in the nineteenth century for what we today would call gastroenteritis...upset stomach with diarrhea and vomiting.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a list of traditional island remedies. You can read them here:


  1. Anonymous3:21 PM

    So I guess that makes you a "creeker". Wasn't there kind of a social caste system between the "pointers" & the "creekers" at that time?

  2. I built a house on Lighthouse Road (traditionally called Point Road) some years ago. My father's comment was "Never heard of a Howard living Down Point before."

  3. Anonymous3:45 PM

    Love the Ocracoke Island history and you certainly tell it the best, Philip!

  4. Anonymous10:33 PM

    That's funny since they were all basically related. My g.grandad Garrish & g.grandmom Fulcher, I am guessing , must have been pointers.