How to Sound Like a Local in Charlotte

Dana Boone
Last Updated on May 8, 2024
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Finding a Charlotte native these days is akin to discovering an endangered species. The transplant population is thriving thanks to a decently healthy job market, apartment boom and a growing “cool” factor most attribute to the rise of craft breweries.

Just because many of its citizens are from out of town, doesn’t mean Charlotte residents don’t have a lingo all their own. Stick with us and you’ll be commiserating like a local in no time.

We’re not picky about our nicknames

CLT, Queen City, the QC, Crown Town, Buzz City, the 704 – choose your favorite and roll with it or use them all interchangeably. The important thing to know when you’re talking about Charlotte isn’t which nickname is most popular, it’s which state we’re in. North Carolina and South Carolina are NOT interchangeable.

There’s no such thing as downtown

This is one of the most common mistakes newbies make in the QC. Every other city has a downtown, but Charlotte has Uptown – yes, capital ‘U’. The rebrand happened in 1974 when the city council was trying to increase shopping and dining business in the center city area. Plus, that part of Charlotte sits on a hill. Something we’re all keenly aware of when summer flash floods trap cars in Uptown.

CATS isn’t just a musical, it’s the public transportation system

When someone asks if you’re pro-CATS, they aren’t asking about your affinity for the Broadway show. For better or worse, the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) operates the city buses, para-transit and the Light Rail (aka LYNX).

The Carolina Panthers have another name

Charlotte’s NFL home team is better known to locals as the Cardiac Cats. The name goes back to the Panther’s first Super Bowl appearance season in 2003, where 14 of 20 games were decided by a touchdown or less. The 2017 Cats, led by Cam Newton, are earning their nickname yet again with disappointing interceptions and wins that come purely from 3-point field goals (and a little bit of luck). Whether a game is won by two points or lost by a last-minute play, Charlotte will shake its head and grumble about the Cardiac Cats.

It’s Bo-time!

Bright yellow boxes of made-from-scratch fast food biscuits are staples everywhere from tailgating setups to office breakrooms. Bojangles’ restaurants can be found across the Southeast, but its corporate office calls Charlotte home. From Bo rounds (circular hashbrowns) to Boberry biscuits (blueberry studded biscuits drizzled with icing), no matter what time of day it is in the Queen City, it’s always Bo-time.

There are two lakes, but only one is THE lake

On the shores of Lake Norman.

While the Charlotte area is home to both Lake Norman (found to the north of the city) and Lake Wylie (to the south), when a local says they’re “going out on the lake this weekend,” they invariably mean Lake Norman. Don’t get confused or you’ll wind up alone in South Carolina while your friends live it up at the Lake Norman sand bar.

When the mountains call, know their name

Northern transplants inevitably get an eye roll the first time they say the name of the closest mountain range out loud. To save yourself similar embarrassment, just know that it’s pronounced App-uh-latch-un not App-uh-lay-shun. Just typing it invokes a shudder.

Know your dirty words

If you want to commiserate like a local, just throw out the following road names: Interstate 77 North and Independence Blvd.

I-77 headed towards the lake (you know the one), is the proverbial thorn in Charlotte’s side. Between constant construction, a potential toll lane and rubbernecking at the lake view, it’s always congested and you’re consistently going to be running at least 15 minutes behind.

Start-and-stop construction has plagued Highway 74, better known as Independence Blvd., for several years as the city tries to widen the over-used “expressway” connecting Uptown to Southeastern suburbs. Need to go somewhere at 8 a.m. or 5 p.m.? Forget hitting Independence if you want to make it on time.

Make it craft

Speaking of dirty words, prepare to be shunned if your beer order consists of Bud, Busch or Coors and some form of the word “light.” Charlotte is a craft beer hotspot, and it’s the ultimate no-no to start your night with anything that doesn’t have a punny title and the overwhelming taste of hops.

Armed with these nine insider tips, you’ll be sipping a Hop, Drop and Roll at a Bo-time tailgate while waiting to cheer on the Cardiac Cats in no time. See? You’re feeling like a local already.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on October 30, 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Dana Boone

Dana is a digital content specialist based in Charlotte where she spends time exploring breweries, escape rooms and patios.
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The SpareFoot Blog offers tips about self-storage, information about storage auctions, advice about home organization, news about SpareFoot and much more.
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