Tuesday, August 20, 2013


To be "cunjered" on Ocracoke Island is to be assailed by multiple calamities....when one thing after another goes wrong. This term almost certainly derives from slave culture, where it was believed, for instance, that a well could be "cunjured" by throwing graveyard dirt into it.

"Cunjured," of course, is a corruption of "conjured" meaning "to summon (a devil or spirit) by magical or supernatural power." 

Our current Ocracoke Newsletter is an account of Infant & Childhood Mortality on Ocracoke. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news072113.htm.


  1. Anonymous6:53 AM

    now, is it thought that anyone, simply throwing grave yard dirt in to a well can summon evil spirits. If so, it is the dirt that has these mystical powers. Or, is it a witch doctor of sorts, reciting an incantation to cast a spell and perhaps the grave yard dirt filled with grief and disease, enables the cast spell to take hold. Now , this slave culture you mention, did such a culture exist on OI?

    1. The history of slavery on Ocracoke is meager, but I've written about it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092111.htm

  2. Anonymous5:48 PM

    It's funny that you should bring something like this up. Because we were just talking about the Ocracoke Language last week.

    We have been going to Ocracoke for the past 30 some years, We love the place. To be honest we would not want to live there but we still love to visit. We are use to an abundance of conveniences. However, this doed not necessarly make our world better.

    After we came home and unpacked my wife asked me if I noticed anything different about Ocracoke. I told her no not really except it has less open spaces in town. Everything seems squeezed together. She said no there is something else but I just can’t put my finger on it.

    Well that has been three weeks ago and then out of nowhere, while watching TV, she popped up and said ‘ the brogue’! It’s the brogue, they are losing their brogue!

    We discussed this in length and came to the conclusion that after talking to out usual contacts and friends on Ocracoke we did notice that the special sound in the Ocrocoke language is slowly being watered down. The kids and even the older folks do not use as much of the colorful words that we once use to hear on the island. Please don’t let he be so.

    We tried to flick off this notion but the more that we talked about it the more we agree that the language is being watered down. Whether it’s from the influence of TV, visitors, the internet or from wherever the brogue is not as strong as it once was.

    We hope that we are wrong. But there was a definate drop in the amount of the Ocracoke.accent. This is sad.
    We were just wondering if any other visitors to the island has noticed this.

    1. As Walt Wolfram (sociolinguist and author of "Hoi Toide on the Outer Banks") points out, language is constantly evolving. Many factors, as you note, are contributing to the changes in the Ocracoke brogue. Isolation kept it robust for many years. Now, with TV, increased tourism, marriage to people from off the island, and folks from all over moving to the island, the traditional brogue is increasingly diluted. All the more reason to preserve unique expressions...and to record native speakers for the enlightenment of future generations.

  3. Anonymous5:05 PM

    One afternoon we was on the pizer on the creek waiting for the mail to be called and just watching the dingbaters. One of then was crabbin when he cut a fladget on his finger. His puck got a little quamish when he pulled it off and chunked it into the water. “Crabbait”, his buck said.

  4. Anonymous7:20 AM

    I wonder if Lou Ann ever made any audio recordings --in the early days --of her visits to archive/save/share/post. Perhaps the school board has audio archives.

    1. Walt Wolfram, whom I mentioned above (sociolinguist from NC State University), has made several recordings of native Ocracoke speakers. Several other people and organizations (including Lou Ann) have made recordings also.