The origin of NC’s nickname, “North Cackalacky”

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The Old North State. The Tar Heel State. The Superior Carolina. While NC has many official and unofficial nicknames, we’ve always had a fondness for North Cackalackyand its variants like Cackalacka and North Cack.

While North Cackalacky has been mentioned in hip hop songs and even serves as the brand name of sauces, coffees + snacks, there are no clear answers to the term’s origins, which can be traced back to 1937.

Here’s what we discovered — one hypothesis traces the nickname to the rhythmic chant “clanka lanka” associated with a cappella gospel songs in the American South, circa the 1930s. Another theory considers the term to be an Americanization of “kakerlake,” the German word for cockroach.

Yet another muses that cackalacky is a blend of Cherokee + Scottish words: “tsalaki” (pronounced cha-lak-ee) and “cockaleekie,” a Scottish soup.

According to WFDD, UNC Chapel Hill Professor Emeritus Paul Jones first heard the term used in the 1960s by military members who were stationed here.

“Particularly people at Fort Bragg, who were not from North Carolina, used the Cackalack word,” he told WFDD. “‘We’re stuck down here in the boondocks, in Cackalack.’”

Other scholars say it was likely created as a term to parody the ways of native rural North Carolinians.

While we may never know the term’s true origins, we love how it’s been embraced by NC natives + enthusiasts as a positive term.

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