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Welcome to the Greenwood.Net Curiosity Corner

Sandlappers and more

Oct 17, 2018

Curiosity Corner
Dr. Jerry D. Wilson,
Emeritus Professor of Physics
Lander University

Question: Why do they call South Carolinians “Sandlappers?” (Asked by Joe Scott of Greenwood, SC.)

Reply: You hear the nickname “Sandlapper” applied to people from South Carolina now and then. The term is an old one. South Carolina is well-known for its sand, but it doesn’t stop at the coast; the Sandhills region, which covers most of the Midlands, is a mixture of clay and sand. Even in the Piedmont, there are some sandy places as evidenced by names like Sand Creek (Laurens County) and Sandy Flat (Greenville County). Even so, some think the term Sandlapper applies to those living near the coast.

That explains the “sand,” but how about the “lapper?” Most of the stories come from the Revolutionary War. One tale is that “Sandlapper” was a British taunt used to denote that colonials dove into the sand to seek cover from their fire. Another is that colonial guerrillas often crept around with their heads and mouths near the ground (sand). Even so, we won the war, and school children went on to sing the Sandlappers song: We are good sandlappers; yes, we’re good sandlappers; and we’re mighty proud to say; that we live in the very best state of the USA! (Nelle McMaster Sprott)

Let’s look at some other nicknames! There’s the Georgia Crackers, and the North Carolina Tar Heels. And let’s not forget my Calhoun Chronicle readers, the West Virginia Mountaineers.

For the Georgia Crackers, the story goes that in the nineteenth century, Georgia ranchers drove their cattle down to the grassy flatlands of central Florida, north of the citrus groves, to graze in the winter. It was a common practice for the drivers to use the cracking of bullwhips to drive the cattle, and the Floridians referred to them as Georgia Crackers. That’s one tale. Another possibility is that the term “crack” was an old English word meaning “entertaining conversation,” like cracking a joke. Some think that “Georgia Cracker” is taken to mean a jocular self-description of folk from the Peach State. Take your choice!

“Tar Heel” is a nickname applied to North Carolina. It is believed that the “tar” part came from the fact that tar, pitch and turpentine came from the vast pine forests of North Carolina. In the early days, this was an important source of naval stores—particularly for the British navy. Tar and pitch were used to seal the bottoms of the wooden ships. As for the “heel” part, it was said that during the Civil War, the North Carolina troops stuck to their ranks like they had tar on their heels—hence the name “Tar Heels.” Now you commonly hear “Tar Heels” associated with the athletic teams of the University of North Carolina.

And finally, the West Virginia Mountaineers. The name is derived from “The Mountain State,” which is the state name of West Virginia. The rugged terrain of the scenic Allegheny Mountains aptly merits the description. (Thanks to John Denver’s song, West Virginia is sometimes referred to as “Almost Heaven.”) So not surprisingly, WV folks have the nickname of “Mountaineers.” And as with North Carolina, the state’s nickname is associated with the athletic teams of the University of West Virginia. You can see the Mountaineer mascot appearing in a buckskin costume carrying a rifle at the games.

C.P.S. (Curious Postscript): It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to. –W.C. Fields

Curious about something? Send your questions to Dr. Jerry D. Wilson, College of Science and Mathematics, Lander University, Greenwood, SC 29649, or email jerry@curiosity-corner.net. Selected questions will appear in the Curiosity Corner. For Curiosity Corner background, go to www.curiosity-corner.net.

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