High tider

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"High Tider" or sometimes "Hoi Toider" is a nickname for a native of the rural eastern coast region of the U.S. state of North Carolina, specifically from several small townships such as Atlantic, Smyrna, Sea Level, and Harkers Island in eastern Carteret County, and from Ocracoke. It is also the name of the distinctive dialect spoken by people from these regions.

The term originates from an old colloquial jargon phrase that reflects the story told by an old fisherman: "High tide, can't fish, gotta eat mash potatoes."


People raised in the Down East area of North Carolina have a very distinct accent of which the most evident characteristic is a variation of the hard "I" sound. "I" becomes "oy", so "high tide" would be pronounced "hoi toid". A similar accent can be found in the Tidewater region of Virginia, particularly the island of Tangier.

With a long history of geographical and economic isolation from mainland North Carolina, residents of Harkers Island and other Outer Banks islands, such as Ocracoke, have developed a distinct dialect of English, commonly referred to as High tider, that can be traced back to that of the Elizabethan period. The dialect of Harkers Island developed in almost complete isolation for over 250 years. Harkers Island English shares features with other regional dialects of the US Atlantic coast. Pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammatical constructions can be traced to eastern and southwestern England. The dialect has survived because the community continues to depend on traditional trades, like fishing, boat building, and decoy carving, and the coastal tourism trade developed on Harkers Island much later than islands like Ocracoke.[1][2]

Pronunciation in Harkers Island English can be different from the English spoken in the rest of the United States. "High Tide" spoken in Harkers Island English might sound like "Hoi Toide," "Time" sounds like "toime," "fish" is pronounced close to "feesh," "fire" sounds like "far," and "cape" is pronounced "ca'e." The island dialect has also retained anachronistic vocabulary in regular usage. Some examples include "mommick," meaning to frustrate or bother, "yethy," describing stale or unpleasant odor, and "nicket," meaning a pinch of something used as in cooking. The islanders have also developed unique local words used in regular conversation, including "dingbatter" to refer to a visitor or recent arrival to the island, and "dit-dot," a term developed from a joke about Morse code, and used to describe any visitor to the island who has difficulty understanding the local dialect.[3]

As many as 500 islanders on Harkers Island are directly descended from the Harkers Island and Outer Banks settlers that developed this distinct dialect. Linguists from North Carolina State University, East Carolina University, and other academic institutions continue to conduct research on the island dialect.[1]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ a b North Carolina Life and Language Project (2006). Linguistics at North Carolina State: Harkers Island. Retrieved July 28, 2006.
  2. ^ Linguistic Diversity in the South (2004). Linguistic Diversity in the South: Changing Codes, Practices and Ideology. (University of Georgia Press: Bender, et al.)
  3. ^ Prioli, Carmine and Martin, Edwin (1998). Hope for a Good Season: The Ca'e Bankers of Harkers Island. John F. Blair Publisher, July, 1998.