Local Life and Lore in Knoxville

Pass for a Knoxville, Tennessee, native by knowing these key terms and pronunciations.
Related To:

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!
Keep Reading

Next Up

Local Life and Lore in Kansas City

Blend in with native Kansas Citians by picking up the local history and colloquialisms.

Local Lingo and Lore in New York City

Fit in with NYC natives by learning these key terms and facts.

Local Life and Lore in Albuquerque

From an obsession with chile to the legend of a dreaded ditch witch, find out what it's like to live in Albuquerque.

Local Life and Lore in San Diego

Get to know the ins and outs of San Diego with these local insider tips.

Local Life and Lore in Tampa Bay

Learn these terms and teams to blend in with the locals.

Local Life and Lore in Pittsburgh

Learn why Pittsburghers are so proud of their city, and master the local lingo.

Local Life and Lore in Seattle

Seattle's locals share best-kept secrets, lingo and some hidden treasures.

Local Life and Lore in Charlotte

From halfbacks to back roads to barbecue, learn about local lingo, geography and cuisine in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Local Life and Lore in Portland

Master these quintessential key terms and pronunciations and blend right in.

Local Life and Lore in Orlando

Study up on these insider secrets from Great American Country and get mistaken for an Orlando native.