Examining the origins of NC’s nickname, “North Cackalacky”


It’s a place, it’s an identity, it’s a product. I Photo by Page Skelton

The Old North State. The Tarheel State. The Superior Carolina. While North Carolina has many official and unofficial monikers, we’ve always had a fondness for the nickname North Cackalacky and its variants like Cackalacka + North Cack. Since many have wondered where this term came from, today we’re bringing you the scoop.

While it’s been mentioned in hip hop, addressed in academic tomes, 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.


The “Cacklacky” brand of sauces. I Screengrab from Etsy

One hypothesis traces North Cackalacky to the rhythmic chant “clanka lanka” associated with a capella 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 North Cackalack is a blend of Cherokee + Scottish words: “tsalaki” (pronounced cha-lak-ee) and “cocklaleekie,” a Scottish soup. Former UNC Chapel Hill Professor Paul Jones thinks it’s most likely a pejorative term used in the 1960s by military members who were not NC natives but stationed here, especially at Fort Bragg. Other scholars say it’s likely a term used to parody the ways of native rural North Carolinians.

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

More from AVL Today