Welcome to Columbia! Being new to the area, it’s important to familiarize yourself with insider pronunciations, train-track intersections to avoid as if your life (and time!) depend on it and fun facts about Columbia-born celebs from this “famously hot” capital city.
Never miss a local story.
1. Is it “Hoo-ger,” “Eu-ger” or “Eu-gie”?
There are two streets in Columbia that are challenging to pronounce and spell if you’re not a native. Gervais Street, named after statesman John Lewis Gervais, is pronounced “Ger-vay.” Huger Street, named for Brigadier General Isaac Huger, is pronounced “Hue-gee.”
2. Will the real USC please stand up?
The University of South Carolina (USC) is often confused with the University of Southern California (also USC). But we all know which one is the real USC. According to Start Class, University of South Carolina is less expensive (both in-state and out-of-state tuition) and has a higher acceptance rate. University of South Carolina also has more students with GPA’s 3.75 or higher than its California doppelgänger. University of South Carolina also is older, founded in 1801 while the other in 1880.
3. Football (tailgating) is huge here
Whether you’re a USC Gamecock or Benedict Tiger, football in Columbia is a force of nature. It follows that tailgating is the chaos before, after and even sometimes during the game. (For those unfamiliar, tailgating is when people park their cars close to a stadium and display all manner of food and drink from the back of their vehicle. The setup can range from a card table, to a tent, to a “cockabooose.”) For each home game at Williams-Brice Stadium, you can expect nothing short of an organized mob scene. If you’re not a football fan don’t worry, there’s still lots you can do in Columbia away from the fray.
4. “Bless your heart” is not as friendly as it sounds
“Bless your heart” is a bit of a two-prong expression. On the one hand, it could be a term of endearment to offer sympathy or compassion for someone handling a tough situation. On the other hand, it’s like saying, “I’m going to pray you get some common sense,” followed by an explanation of something deemed rather sensible. We trust you’ll figure out the difference right quick.
5. Y’all listening?
Some of the most common slang used in Columbia is “y’all” (short for you all) or “all y’all (the pluralization), as well as “fixin’ to” (e.g. I’m fixin’ to head to the store, can I get all y’all anything?). Only locals or other Southerners feel comfortable — or sound natural — using these expressions, so when you hear it, it’s the sound of a true Southerner. These folks can point you in the direction of good barbecue, a cheap drink and back road directions to anywhere.
6. Beware the trains
Traffic during football season makes the southern half of Columbia impossible to navigate (see number 3), and during the week, it’s doubly impossible because of the trains. Trains have been a thorn in the side of commuters, officials and even service vehicles. They routinely block Assembly and Blossom streets, typically around rush hour in the morning (sometimes in the evening) and almost always during midday lunch hours.
7. Cockroaches are called “Palmetto bugs”
Anywhere else, a brown bug that crawls around on eight legs is called a cockroach. Here, if said cockroach has wings, they’re called Palmetto bugs. According to Catseye, the bug earned its nickname for its affinity for hanging out on palm trees, so it’s no coincidence they love it in the Palmetto State. These giant, flying cockroaches have become an unwanted staple in many residences in Columbia. Save yourself a panic attack and, if you haven’t already, contract an exterminator. You’re welcome in advance.
8. Pimento cheese on burgers is a thing (a very, very good thing)
Known locally as the “caviar of the South,” pimento cheese is used a number of ways. First, you can use it to make a sandwich, i.e. a pimento cheese sandwich, like the one found at No Name Deli or on the grilled pimento cheese from Michael’s Cafe & Catering. You can use it as a topping, like they do for Rockaway’s pimento cheeseburger or Pawley’s Caw Caw Creek burger. Or you can just eat it as a dip: try Bourbon’s spicy pimento cheese dip served on thin crispy wafers or DiPrato’s pimento cheese spread served with in-house baked pita chips. Check out our feature on “where to get the best pimento cheese in Columbia” for more details.
9. Columbia is to Cola as Famously Hot is to Soda City
Over the years, Columbia has coined two prominent catchphrases: Famously Hot and Soda City. Both refer to the city in different ways. The first is a nod to Columbia’s famously hot summers and humid climate. (An old expression here: if you don’t like the weather, just wait 10 minutes.) So in the warmer months, don’t be surprised when the sun goes down and it still feels like an oven outside. Columbia derived its nickname “Soda City” from its other nickname, “Cola.” Every Saturday, a portion of Main Street is blocked off for the “Soda City Market,” and the city’s latest effort to provide free public transportation is called the “Soda Cap Connector.”
10. Don’t be surprised by the number of “Cocks” you’ll see
Gamecocks are very proud of USC. They wear their loyalty on their sleeve, their head and sometimes across their hats. You could say part of the pride stems from the fact that the school has used the truncated “Cocks” to promote the athletics program and its mascot, Cocky. So around town try not to act surprised seeing someone wearing “Cock” emblazoned on them. Popular phrases you might see are: “You can’t lick our Cocks,” “Respect the Cock,” and “Show ‘’em your (game) Cock.” During the years, Chris Smelley was a starting quarterback at USC, a popular Tt-shirt simply said, “My Cock is Smelley.” It’s funny and relatively harmless, but shocking to see at first (to say the least). After a while, you’ll grow accustom to it. (Disclaimer: All bets are off beyond state lines.)
Did you know these celebs are from Columbia?
Angie Stone, R&B artist; Kristin Davis, actress (“Sex and the City”); Mike Colter, actor (“Luke Cage”); Aziz Ansari, actor and comedian; Ainsley Earhardt, correspondent for Fox News; and Gov. Henry McMaster