Tuesday, June 13, 2017

To for At

A distinctive element of the Ocracoke Brogue is the use of "to" where you might expect "at." For example, it is common to hear native islanders say, "She is to the store," or "He's out to his duck blind this morning."

Walt Wolfram and Natalie Schilling-Estes, in their book, Hoi Toide on the Outer Banks, discuss an interview with Essie O'Neal (1915-1999). In the interview Essie says, " I was working as fast as I could to get them all and put them to the table."

Wolfram and Shilling-Estes write, "This dialect feature is found in only a few areas of the country, including Ocracoke and coastal areas to the north such as Tangier Island, Virginia; Smith Island, Maryland; and the Delmarva Peninsula."

Interestingly, this construction is common in the German language. "Er ist zu Hause" (literally, "He is to house") is translated as "He is at home." According Brian Powers, however, English is not a dialect of German. Powers explains that German and English "evolved separately from a common Germanic ancestor." I wonder if the use of "to" for "at" was common in the Germanic ancestor and/or in Old English. Maybe some of our readers know. If so, please leave a comment. 

Out latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Aleta, Ocracoke's mailboat from 1944-1952, compliments of the Core Sound Museum. Click on the following link for photos, text, and audio recordings about this iconic vessel: http://www.coresound.com/saltwaterconnections/portlight/aleta/



  1. Anonymous9:21 AM


  2. Anonymous4:33 PM

    sounds like bad grammar. where ya'll be larnin' this stuff

  3. The mixture of "to" and "at" is also common in PA Dutch- which is a mish mash of German and English. My 84yo "Dutchie" father could provide better details.