Local Life and Lore in Knoxville

Pass for a Knoxville, Tennessee, native by knowing these key terms and pronunciations.
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PRONUNCIATION GUIDE

Don’t believe your eyes -- some Knoxville names don't sound like they look.

Krutch Park: (KROOTCH, not "crutch")

This downtown green spot is named for a local photographer of German heritage who willed his considerable money to the city.

Ijams Nature Center: (EYE-ums)
Named for the family who created the wildlife sanctuary that eventually became Ijams Nature Center, the name is easier than it looks.

Bearden: (BEER-duhn)
West Knoxville neighborhood that you might think sounds like "bear den," but doesn't.

Neyland Stadium: (KNEE-luhnd, not NEIGH-luhnd)
Even locals can't seem to agree on this, but those close to the Neyland family swear it sounds like the joint in your leg, not what a horse says.

Maryville: (MURR-vuhl)
Bedroom community whose local pronunciation is a litmus test. If you say "Merry-ville," you ain't from here.

Blount: (BLUNT)
"Blunt" County is where "Murrvuhl" is

KEY TERMS

These people, places and things are familiar landmarks in Knoxville conversation:

  • Knox Vegas, Knoxpatch, K-Town -- common nicknames for Knoxville

  • The Ball -- the Sunsphere

  • The Old City -- historic section of downtown and popular nightspot whose main arteries are Central Avenue and Jackson Avenue

  • The Strip -- the section of Cumberland Avenue adjacent to the University of Tennessee campus; parking there is a local joke

  • The Rock -- big boulder on campus where messages, slogans and personal philosophies are painted, usually in the middle of the night and often under the influence

  • SmartFix40 -- the current construction snarl around Interstate 40 through downtown, so named to remind drivers that the project is a good idea

GOOD TO KNOW

For your information:

  • The word "scruffy" is sort of a compliment in Knoxville. A Wall Street Journal reporter once expressed astonishment that the 1982 World's Fair was being hosted by such a "scruffy little city," and what was first an insult has now been adopted as a badge of honor. Scruffy and proud of it, Knoxvillians say.

  • It's been covered by The New York Times, so there's no point pretending otherwise: local politics here are thorny. Knoxville has two governments and two mayors (county and city), which sets the stage for heated jurisdictional squabbling and some soap opera-worthy plot lines. To get started on your background reading, Google "Knox County Commission" and "Sunshine Law."

  • The buildings of Knoxville are not actually connected by a secret underground passageway frequented by spies -- a myth whose origins likely lie in the fact that the city is built on hole-riddled limestone -- but you're welcome to pretend all you like.

  • Finally, "Rocky Top," UT's fight song, is a joyful little ditty and never suffers from too much repetition. Embrace it!
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