Monday, March 13, 2006


Colleen posted the following comment recently:

"Ok, Philip,
I know I have a pizer on my house in Oriental, because my porch looks like yours in Ocracoke. My question is, how do you pronounce "pizer" and do you know where the word came from? Is it an Ocracoke word? I'm curious!"

"Pizer" has a long "i" and rhymes with "wiser." It is a local corruption of the Italian word, piazza, meaning "an arcaded and roofed gallery," or more particularly, a veranda or porch.

Ocracrokers often truncate words, change vowel sounds, and sometimes add "r" after vowels. So "Eliza" becomes "Lizer;" "Epherina" (an old-time island name) becomes "Freener;" "Armeda" (another island name) becomes "Meeter," and "caulk" becomes "cork." I suspect that piazza entered into the English language through contact with Italian sailors. On Ocracoke, over the years, the word was shortened, vowels changed, and an "r" sound was added to the end. The result is "pizer."

I know that some communities in eastern North Carolina use other variations of piazza (I'm sorry but I can't remember the particulars), but to my knowledge, only Ocracokers use "pizer."

My house & pizer:

You can read our latest newsletter here: It's the story of the US Life Saving Station on Ocracoke and the wreck of the A.F. Crockett on February 17, 1885.



  1. Anonymous12:08 PM

    Thanks for the explanation. I'd not found the word in the dictionary and hadn't heard anyone else use it.
    So now when I sit on my porch in Oriental, I can just think about all the similar porches in Ocracoke that are really something else!
    Colleen Crane

  2. TheDuke4:44 PM

    I am a big fan of the author Homer Hickam, and he uses the word in his novel "The Keeper's Son" regarding an imaginary island somewhere below Ocracoke. It is a great read and is very favorable to the Outer Bankers.

    TheDuke in Paducah, KY

  3. Anonymous4:49 PM

    To Mr. Howard:
    I love the Outer Banks, and have been to your store on Howard Street several times. It and the lighthouse are my favorite places on Ocracoke. It takes me back to the 1950's when I first came to the Banks.

    TheDuke, again

  4. I will have to disagree, My great-grandfather referred to his porch as a "Pizer" as well. It bought back many fond memories coming across this article. He was and I am from Creswell NC, a few hours inland from Ocracoke.

    1. Many thanks! I guess we aren't quite as unique as we like to think!