Even though we pride ourselves on our knowledge of the history and culture of “North Cackalacky,” when it comes to this unusual nickname, we’re absolutely stumped. We’d heard the name for years, and it seems to be pretty widespread, be we can’t figure out where in the world it came from. We tried the usual authorities – Norman Eliason’s Tarheel Talk (UNC Press, 1956), and the comprehensive Dictionary of American Regional English (Harvard University Press, 1985-) – but with no luck.

The folks at Cackalacky Hot Sauce (note the nice photograph from the North Carolina Collection on their home page) are on the hunt as well. They’ve brought new attention to the name, but so far haven’t been able to dig up anything authoritative on its origin. If you have suggestions or ideas about how we came to be “Noth Cackalacky,” we’d love to hear them.

15 thoughts on “Cackalacky”

  1. I heard it first in the Army; so I guess service members at Bragg, Pope, or Lajuene referred to the great State as Fort Bragg, Norf Cackalacky… and it just stuck.

  2. Growing up I mostly heard it from military people from other states. Mainly people who were from California. It was used in good humor to make light of our back wood Southern ways.

  3. I was born in 1950 and my grandmother schoolteacher often referred to our state as North Cackalacky. I’m sure she probably told me why, but I don’t remember for sure. Her German ancestors came to NC’s western part of the state in the 1600s, and my grandfather’s, ancestors were part of the first Scots to come here in the 1700s. I’m thinking it may have been a nickname given by the Scots.

  4. Kathy, – I too am told my great-great-great something or another was 1 of the first 2 white men in Western NC, and our ancestors settled the western part of the state. “We” supposedly donated the land that became Hickory to the King or Queen or governor or somebody. I quess I need to read our family history again. Anyway, I thought North “Cackolacky” came from something re: the “tobaccy” road, or words to a blue grass song about eaking out a living off of money from “tobaccy from North Cackolacky”!

  5. In Swedish, _kackerlackor_ means “Cockroaches” (singular: _Kackerlacka_) — about 30 years ago the distinquished Swedish novelist Inger Alfven published a novel called _Kackerlackornas ljud_ (“The Racket of the Cockroaches”) about some Swedes marooned in Mexico.

  6. I lived in North Carolina and was confused by this term too. I could never find the origin but I always wondered if it was derived from the term “kallikak” which was a fake name given to an inbred family (to hide their identity) in appalachia that was studied by geneticists (some old genetics textbooks highlight the kallikaks as a case study). People in older generations sometimes would use the word “kallikak” as a derogatory term for a southern hillbilly, etc. Maybe North Carolinians adopted a version of this name as a tongue-in-cheek reference? Just a thought.

  7. I was curious about the word “Cackalacky” and have been using Google to locate web sites discussing it. However, I haven’t seen any references to (UNC graduate) Kay Kyser’s use of the name in a movie in the early 1940’s. I don’t remember the exact movie, but it could have been “You’ll Find Out” (1940). I remember him doing the Kollege of Musical Knowledge show in the movie, and I remember him saying that someone wrote in from Chapel Hill, North Cackalacky. I can’t attest to the details, but I do know for sure Kay Kyser said “Cackalacky” in a movie around 1940.

  8. I grew up in Fort Lee, NJ. I was born in 1951. My first name is Katherine. I can remember that my dad always called me Cackalacky and I remember always laughing thinking that he could not say my name right. Recently I went on the Cheerwine website and they have a barbeque sauce by that name. As far as I can remember, I never heard my dad say anything about North Carolina or South Carolina….so how he came to call me that….I don’t know.

  9. IMHO It is the same way Saint Nicholas became Santa Claus. It’s Ebonics thus no documentation.

  10. I have lived in North Carolina 99% of my entire life of — so far — over 75 years, the child of people who had lived in North Carolina for generations (since the 1750’s in fact), and I never, ever, heard anyone talk about North Carolina and use the word Cackalacky. Until I was in my 50’s or 60’s I never, ever, heard the term. I have no idea where it came from, why anyone has ever heard it, and I am mystified about where it came from. I have a terrible feeling someone in the late 2000’s or early 2010’s made this whole thing up and has sold us a bill of goods about its historicity.

    1. I was in the Navy stationed at NAS Oceana in Va. Beach from 1983 to 1986. My shop supervisor was from North Carolina and he called it North Cackalacky. That’s when I first heard it, so the idea it came from the 2000’s is wrong.

    2. I agree — I have lived here 55 years and never heard North Carolina referred to as Cackalacky. We called ourselves Tar Heels. Perhaps jealous State fans came up with Cackalacky to avoid being associated with the Southern part of Heaven. Although according to Paul Jones, it had its origins in military slang from the 1960s.

  11. In the early 1970’s as a kid my best friends Dad was taking us fishing to a mystical place ….South Cackalacky..where we would catch monster catfish….I was at the age where I thought I knew all 50 states….I was befuddled!!!! Upon asking my mother she laughed and told me South Carolina!!! This I remember clearly to this day… lake Wylie that weekend I caught the biggest catfish our trip would land….in good ol South Cackalacky !!!! I’m from the foothills!!!

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