Knoxville: It’s a tough town. And if you don’t learn the ropes fast, you’re liable to get bruised. But don’t worry—we’re going to make life easier for you. All you have to do is read our second volume of tips, pointers, and words to the wise on getting by in this burg, and you’ll be on easy street. (Results may vary.)
Do Not Cross: Intersections to Avoid
Because of its geography and sometimes haphazard patterns of development, Knoxville has a lot of badly designed street intersections. Here are a few that it’s worth going out of your way to miss:
• Gay Street and Union Avenue: There’s a Proposition 8 joke in here somewhere about the difficulties of gay union, but this oddball downtown dogleg has possibly the most confusing signaling for both vehicles and pedestrians of any crossroads in town. There are times when the assorted red lights seem to indicate that nobody is supposed to go anywhere at all. In any case, it’s best to proceed with caution whether behind the wheel or on foot.
• North Peters Road/Cedar Bluff: This monstrous tangle of turn lanes and Interstate 40 entrances and exits is wide, weird, and woefully marked. Keep an eye for sudden lane switches as drivers belatedly realize they’re not where they need to be to get where they want to go.
• 17th Street and Clinch Avenue: A four-way intersection with only three stop signs. Because of the steepness of the slope as 17th Street climbs up from the Strip, northbound traffic goes straight through—which means cars at the other three sides of the intersection have to juggle not only the normal who-goes-first etiquette but also watch out for any traffic heading up the hill. If that sounds dangerous, it’s because it is. (The bifurcated intersection of 17th and Highland just up the street isn’t much better. The real lesson here may be, stay off 17th.)
• Henley Street/Broadway/Summit Hill/Western Avenue: Two streets with four names bring something like 20 lanes of traffic together at a wide crossing that includes a north-south hill, a no-stop merge turning east onto Summit Hill from Henley, and a semi-blind curve heading west from Summit Hill toward Western. The left-turn arrows help, but there are so many variables that it’s easy to miss an oncoming vehicle until it’s almost on top of you. (The intersections at both ends of the Henley Street Bridge are also pretty terrible. Of course, TDOT is about to make it not just easy but mandatory to do without those, when it closes the bridge in January.)
• Lindy Drive/Linford Road/Chapman Highway: Really, you’re taking your life in your hands at any non-traffic-lighted intersection on Chapman Highway. But this one, next to Kay’s Ice Cream, is particularly tricky because Lindy comes in at an angle and doesn’t quite line up straight with Linford across the way (if you’re foolish enough to be trying to actually cross Chapman and not just turn onto it). (J.F.M.)
Eat With Your Dog On Restaurant Patios Without Getting Kicked Out
You can be with your pup at every meal if you want. Knoxville’s nearly new “dogs on restaurant patio” laws mean that many restaurants—martini bar and fancy French bistro to coffee bar and Chick-fil-A—will let you bring your dog when you dine. Here are a few important rules to remember: The dog can’t get on the chairs, tables, or other furnishing; can’t go inside; and must be on a non-retractable leash no longer than 6 feet. And if the pup’s out of control, out you go! It’s always a good idea to call ahead for the availability of patio seating. (R.K.)
524 S. Gay St, 971-5449
Downtown Grill & Brewery
424 S. Gay St., 633-8111
418 S. Gay St., 524-4747
The French Market
526 S. Gay St., 540-4372
31 Market Square, 566-0275
20 Market Square, 521-0600
28 Market Square, 524-2224
Rita’s Water Ice
26 Market Square, 673-4888
516 S. Gay St., 566-9800
428 S. Gay St., 637-8181
Shonos in the City
5 Market Square, 544-5800
9 Market Square, 544-4471
Agave Azul Mexican Grill and Tequila Bar
4405 Kingston Pike, 212-9966
5200 Kingston Pike, 330-9862
7063 Kingston Pike, 690-5447
5107 Kingston Pike, 584-8739
Pelancho’s Mexican Grill
1516 Downtown West Blvd., 694-9060
Rick’s Place Neighborhood Sports Bar
1537 Downtown West Blvd., 693-4028
6701 Kingston Pike, 588-2020
Downtown North/Old City
Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria
200 E. Jackson Ave., 521-0092
Urban Bar & Corner Cafe
109 N. Central St., 546-2800
1204 N. Central Ave., 540-8346
UT Campus Area
1817 Lake Ave., 522-6417
2109 Cumberland Ave., 524-7979
Eleven Things You Can Do or See Only in Knoxville
Identifying uniqueness is kind of a challenge because for years many Knoxvillians appraised success by the precision with which Knoxville institutions resembled those in other cities. For years, the city seemed to strive to be anything but unique. All through the decades of being called the dirtiest city in the world and the ugliest city in America, the most sinful city, scruffy, whatever, whatever, Knoxville only wanted to be normal. To play with the other cities and not be laughed or stared at. But somehow, along the way, we have found ourselves with a few attractions that are not exactly like anything else in the world.
Rachmaninoff Statue: Maybe there are other big statues of Russia’s most famous 20th-century pianist/composer somewhere in the world, but the Internet suggests probably not. (His relations with the statue-mad Soviets were uneasy.) Russian sculptor Viktor Bokarev wanted this one to stand in the city where his idol gave his final performance in 1943.
The Time Warp Tea Room: Part tamale joint, part cappuccino shop, part British motorcycle museum, part vintage pinball arcade—but with a genuine saloon-era bar—there is, we are confident, nowhere like it in the world.
WDVX’s Blue Plate Special: Every day at noon, it’s a live daily Americana radio show right on Gay Street. Bonus: In Knoxville, you can actually watch two live shows during one good lunch break. Knox ivi’s live-video variety talk show 11 O’Clock Rock is on Market Square every weekday at the title’s time. Are there other cities that offer free live music, broadcast on the radio, every day? We’ll stipulate the possibility. But we’ll warrant that there are no cities where two unassociated studios offer live daily shows within a four-minute walk of each other.
The Sunsphere: Announced in 1982 as the only spherical building in the world, maybe it still is. And it’s partly made of powdered gold! We take our Sunsphere for granted, and some of us hate it, but have you ever seen anything like it?
Rossini Festival: Okay, sometimes we forget to include the actual Rossini part, but the annual springtime wine-and-singing-in-the-street fair is the only festival in the Western Hemisphere honoring Italy’s early opera genius.
Alex Haley Statue: When it was built in 1999, sculptor Tina Allen (1949-2008) claimed her work was the largest statue of an African-American in the world. It’s still the biggest one we’ve ever seen, and it’s made to be climbable.
The Vol Navy: There are a very few football stadiums as big as Neyland, but none are beside a navigable river that suggests anything as weird as the phenomenon of the floating bright-orange party.
Farragut Museum: We have looked for other collections of 1930s Hollywood star Wallace Beery’s scrimshaw depictions of Civil War naval battles, and found none. The museum, in Farragut Town Hall, is further enhanced by a new bronze statue of the intrepid Union commander outside.
Biscuit Festival: Believe it or not, the first one ever, in June, was somehow the only one in the history of the world. And hence, extremely popular.
Airplane Filling Station: Built on Clinton Highway in 1930, it’s said to be the only one of its kind, a filling station where you could gas up under the port wing. It hasn’t pumped gas since the 1960s, but an earnest preservation effort has stabilized it, and is raising money for a full restoration.
Ijams Nature Center: Swamp, forest, river, field, caves, lake, canyon, and now even a tiny desert, Ijams is a serendipitous kaleidoscope of ecosystems within walking distance. If there’s another place like it, you’ll have to show us.
And still to come, though parts of it are already open to the public: Legacy Parks Foundation’s Urban Wilderness and Historic Corridor, a long term project expected to be the only park linking multiple ruins of Civil War forts within view of a central business district. (J.N.)
Neighborhood Joints That You May Not Know About if You Don’t Live in the Neighborhood
Sure, we all know the places everyone likes to eat in Knoxville. Litton’s, Calhoun’s, Tomato Head, Regas, Chesapeake’s, and so on. But there’s another whole category of out-of-the-way places frequented only by people who actually live near them. They might not have the best food in town, but they’re reliable and friendly and once you get to know them, they feel like your own little place. A few local favorites:
Three Brothers Pizza
200 W. Woodland Ave.
It’s easy to miss this pizza-pasta-sub shop on West Woodland Avenue between North Central and the Interstate 275 overpass. It’s set back from the road, next to the Woodland Mart & Deli. But for residents of the area rapidly becoming known as Downtown North, it’s a go-to for takeout or pizza delivery. (It was known as Woodland Pizza until sometime last year.) If you want to eat in, you can expect a no-fuss/no-frills set up.
2412 Washington Pike
A Mexican restaurant that doubles as a grocery store, this unassuming place gets raves from North Hills and Fairmont/Emoriland diners. Not as well known as the nearby Senor Taco on North Broadway, but more auténtico—or so its advocates claim—and not so likely to be crowded.
Firedog Pizza/Deli Market
310 13th St.
A real student-ghetto sort of place, with your basic convenience-store supplies and a full deli menu including well-made pizza, all-day breakfast, and subs. But the things to look for are: the Middle Eastern features, including falafels, hummus, and Mediterranean salads; and the “Wedge” selections, which like the menu says are “baked like a pizza and served like a sandwich.” And Juggalos take note: The store is the only one in town we know of to offer several flavors of Faygo.
The Round Up
3643 Sevierville Pike
This South Knox standby is a classic meat-and-three place, with the daily menu handwritten on a wipe board and cozy booths and café tables filling the modest room. There are a few coin-op games for kids to play around with, and if that doesn’t keep them happy, the banana pudding probably will.
1210 Kenesaw Ave.
Located in Sequoyah Hills’ small and often overlooked commercial district, this friendly, spacious place offers breakfast and lunch Monday-Friday, and brunch until 1 p.m. on Saturdays. Then there’s the coffee: fair trade, organic, and aromatic. (Also an assortment of teas for those so inclined.) If you live anywhere near here, there’s no reason to ever darken the door of a corporate coffee chain. (J.F.M.)
Find Your Place in Society
Can’t quite connect to traditional social scenes in town? Don’t worry—there are all sorts of odd clubs in town tailored to very, very specific interests. Here are just a few examples:
New Comic Book Day Discussion Group
Organized Play, 221 Cumberland Ave., 865-521-0690
Hardcore comics nerds know that new comics are released every Wednesday. So what better day to hold a discussion group about comics—the characters and storylines, as well as the big business behind them—than the day when readers come in to pick up their new stacks? Since January, downtown’s Organized Play has been doing just that with a weekly roundtable discussion group on Wednesdays at 6 p.m.
Tennessee Valley Exotic Bird Club
The fact that there’s a local club for owners of exotic birds—parrots, cockatoos, cockatiels, macaws—might not be a big surprise, but the fact that it’s been around since 1968 is.
Rationalists of East Tennessee
Pay attention to local politics and you’ll notice that reason and logic aren’t necessarily at the top of the list of East Tennessee’s cultural attributes, which makes this long-running club extra-noteworthy. The Rationalists meet several times a month for roundtable discussions, lectures, and reading groups. Some recent topics: “The Decline, Fall, and Potential Resurrection of American Education,” the state of journalism, and “Reflections on Privacy.”
The Society for Creative Anachronism
The local chapter of the international organization is the Barony of Thor’s Mountain, a sub-group of the regional Kingdom of Meridies. Participation is immersive—it’s pretty much a finely detailed recreation of life in the middle ages—and the monthly calendar is full of everything from classes on how to swordfight and metallurgy to business meetings, with three epic tournaments every year. (M.E.)
How to Busk and Panhandle Without Getting Busted and Manhandled
Busking, or street performing, has gotten some attention this year thanks to Bill “The Busker” Page (or rather, thanks to some overzealous city police and the Regal employees who called them). Back in May, Page—often seen downtown with his guitar and dog—was issued a citation for obstructing the sidewalk in front of a vacant storefront next to the Regal Riviera theater. Page fought the charge and won. His ordeal reminded people that busking is perfectly legal, but some things you might do while engaged in busking are not. So if you’re going to share your talent with the world, here’s what you need to know: The city code says you can’t “willfully loaf, loiter, idle, lounge, swing or promenade” in, near, or in front of “any public place of business, worship or other public place,” or any “public street, highway, bridge, sidewalk or other public thoroughfare or public place” in a way that would obstruct or impede its use by others. And that’s pretty much it—don’t block anyone. And that applies to everyone, not just the swingers and promenaders out there.
If you’re going to pass the hat, however, things get a bit more complicated. The aggressive solicitation ordinance—known to most as the “panhandling ordinance”—says you can’t solicit in an aggressive manner. The rub, of course, is how “aggressive” gets defined. The city code spells out in legalese all the things that qualify as aggressive, but here’s a Cliff’s Notes version of what you can’t engage in while trying to earn a buck:
1. No touching! You can’t intentionally or recklessly make physical contact with another person without his or her consent.
2. No following! You can’t follow someone if you’re trying to:
a. cause a person to fear imminent bodily harm or a criminal act upon the person’s property; or
b. intimidate the person into giving you money. As you might have learned from living in the world, there’s not really any good reason to follow anyone, ever.
3. No means no! You can’t continue to solicit within 20 feet of a person after he or she has said no, if continuing is:
a. See No. 2.
4. No obstructing! You can’t block someone’s way, or require someone on foot or in a vehicle to take evasive action to avoid contact with you.
5. Keep the hustle clean, folks! You can’t intentionally or recklessly use obscene or abusive language or gestures, if it results in:
a. See No. 2.
6. And finally, you can’t approach anyone in a way that involves any of the reasons from No. 2. (In case you haven’t noticed, subsections A and B of No. 2 are the gods of the panhandling universe.)
But wait! There’s more. There are also restrictions on when, where, and how panhandling can take place, so beggars, bring your tape measures and international clocks because you can’t solicit:
1. After sunset and before sunrise (defined by the U.S. Naval Observatory, something most panhandlers should be checking daily if they’re not).
2. In any public transportation vehicle—so no buses, or buses cross-dressing as trolleys—or within 20 feet of any bus station, bus stop, or taxi stand.
3. From someone in a vehicle, or entering or exiting one.
4. Within 20 feet of: a crosswalk, bank, check-cashing business (c’mon people, these are reputable establishments), or ATM; an entrance to or exit from any public toilets (good thing we got rid of these!), which includes any temporary-use site or portable toilet (never mind); a parking-lot pay box, pay telephone, sidewalk cafe, or outdoor dining area.
8. In any parking lot or garage owned or operated by the city, including entryways or exits and paystations.
10. From a person waiting to enter a business.
12. On private property if the owner or tenant has asked you not to panhandle there, or has posted a sign that solicitations aren’t welcome.
13. From drivers, in exchange for cleaning a vehicle’s windows, blocking, occupying or reserving a public parking space, directing the occupant to a public parking space, etc. You can, however, ask for money if you help someone out with car trouble, but only if the person asked you for help. And if you’re going to rely on this happening enough to make a living, you might as well become a mechanic.
The takeaway? Panhandlers, save up and invest in a harmonica. (F.C.)
Local Bands You Should Know About
(Thus Demonstrating Your Inside Knowledge of “The Scene”)
There are plenty of good bands you already know about. Here are a few that will earn you a few points among insiders if you drop their names in casual conversation.
The four-piece crew has been around since 2006, and, despite their name, their bouncy, inventive production (think the Neptunes and N.E.R.D.) and smooth raps put them on the varsity team for Knoxville hip-hop.
You never know exactly what format you’ll get at a Double Muslims show—the lineup revolves around iconoclastic guitarist Eric Lee and drummer Jason Boardman, but a performance could include cello, electronics, or former Tenderhooks guitarist Ben Oyler—but you can expect mostly improvisational playing that rubs up against the boundaries of post-rock and experimental jazz.
This five-piece ensemble makes quirky, sophisticated, and elaborate pop incorporating strings, keyboards, found sound, and intricate programmed percussion. There’s nothing else like it in Knoxville, and the group’s first album, Voyeur, released earlier this year, reveals new details on every listen.
Three Man Band
Will Fist used to be a promiscuous musician and promoter. It seemed like he recorded and released, through his DIY label Whisk-Hutzel, every musical idea that passed through his head, and most of the ones that his friends came up with, too. He’s settled down in the last couple of years with what might be his most reliable project, the Three Man Band, and it’s paid off. The power trio (Fist on guitar and vocals, Abby Wintker on bass, Carey Balch on drums) matches shout-out-loud choruses with the speed of classic punk and the debilitating thud of Blue Cheer. (M.E.)
Restaurant Tidbits for the Fancy Free
It can’t all be caviar and heirloom tomatoes at posh restaurants. Here are a few things you might want to know about ordinary Knoxville dining establishments.
• The clock in the Bearden Lenny’s (near Long’s Drug Store) is stuck, possibly part of a Twilight Zone episode, perhaps meant only for slick, techno-looking decor and not timekeeping, I’m not sure. I’m pretty sure it says 6:40. The takeaway advice here: Do not rely on this timepiece to indicate when you’ve been at the Lenny’s long enough.
• Even if it says “Drive-Thru Now Open,” every once in a great while, the campus Taco Bell is not operational at, say 7 a.m. Just in case you like soft tacos with pico and a Diet Mountain Dew for breakfast on occasion. News that counterbalances this other: The 99-cent crispy potato taco actually resembles breakfast food and is, well, 99 cents. It does involve 3 grams of saturated fat, 13 grams of fat, and 260 calories, but it also has 6 grams of protein, and some of that fat goes away if you get pico in place of baja sauce. And it’s 99 cents. And people don’t look at you quite so strangely when you bring it to the office once you’ve mentioned “crispy potatoes” as a prime ingredient.
• You must pay for a refill on iced tea at the Earth Fare deli-greenie eats spot. It’s very reasonable since the stuff tends to be fair trade, organic, and such, and you get to use stevia and souped-up honey sweeteners on it. But be prepared to have a couple extra coins on you (47 cents) if your thirst is likely to catch a second wind.
• The best value in pickled okra is at Sam’s Club, and it really tastes great. I realize I am trying to overcome the okra stigma, the pickle stigma, and the giant warehouse stigma in one fell swoop, but wow. It’s 64 ounces for $3.36. And it’s crispy and velvety at the same time. Plus, it’s gluten-free, kosher, and involves just six ingredients, none of them high-fructose corn syrup or MSG: fresh okra, water, vinegar, salt, calcium chloride, polysorbate 80, yellow #5. Oh, never mind, you’re still not going to like pickled okra. But how about that glass jar, perfect for pennies? (R.K.)
How to Curry Favor With Metro Pulse’s Editor
Being editor of Metro Pulse is a shadowy position vested with fearsome powers over all facets of Knoxville life, from the halls of government to the dank corners of local nightclubs. Naturally, many supplicants try to lure the editor’s patronage, hoping to gain admittance to the king-making pages of Knoxville’s only alternative newsweekly. But it isn’t easy. Many—probably most—fail. You can learn from their mistakes, however, and follow these simple tips for currying the editor’s favor. (Note: Results not guaranteed.)
1. Do Not Call on Tuesdays, aka “Press Day.”
By tradition, the editor is very irritable and impatient on the day the paper goes to press. This is every Tuesday. Quite often, this is also the day he must tell tardy reporters to rewrite their stories at the last possible minute while the art director gives him the silent treatment for not having all the copy ready on time. So he’s usually in a very bad mood. This can be compounded by a factor of 10 every time the sales manager storms into his office to demand, “Why are we writing X about Y? They’re an advertiser! Do you want to go out of business?!”
2. Do Write an Amusing Cover Letter
Quite often, the editor receives e-mails that simply state, “I AM A WRITER. CAN YOU HIRE ME?” However, he needs more information than that to render such a decision. In fact, he may jump to the conclusion that if you cannot muster the energy to write an engaging letter, then you may not be able to write an interesting story. So, if you are a writer and you want to get the editor’s attention, use your skills.
3. Do Not Tell the Editor He’s an Idiot Before You Demand a Story
The editor realizes he will have his intelligence questioned nearly every day; this is part of his job description. Every single item in every issue is going to upset someone, somehow, guaranteed. However, when it comes to stories not yet covered, he hopes that you can quell your rage long enough to consider: A.) He is not omniscient, and may not know about whatever it is that ought to be covered unless he was actually told about it; B.) He has an editorial staff of five, which makes blanket coverage of the city quite challenging; C.) Maybe he really does know what will make for an interesting story in his publication, or whether he has the resources to cover the story. And then there’s the editor’s favorite, D.) Maybe the story was already covered, but you’re not aware of this since you didn’t actually read the paper.
4. Do Know the Editor’s Name Before Demanding to Speak to the Editor
It’s a little thing, really, but if you’re going to yell at someone over the phone, can’t you at least look up their name first? It’s just common courtesy. Also: Do read the story before actually complaining about the story. This helps! (Also: It’s pronounced KOR-ee TUR-zin.)
5. Do Not Be Offended if the Editor Declines to Attend Your Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony
The editor is very happy about your new initiative, and wishes you the best of luck. He appreciates that you think highly enough of him to send an invitation. However, he barely has enough time to actually do his job, let alone do it well. He is with you in spirit, however, and yearns for the day he can leave the office and meet people. (C.T.)
A Knox Glossary for Newcomers
Our guide to troublesome pronunciations and spellings
Agee, as in James Agee Street. The new Route 11 KAT bus has an automated announcer, a very pleasant-sounding lady who pronounces it James a-Ghee Street, with a hard G, and accent on the second syllable. Over the years, some bus drivers, perhaps not big fans of the journalist/screenwriter/novelist who was born near there, have offered other variant guesses. The correct pronunciation is the simplest: AGE-ee.
Bijou. It’s a French word for gemstone, which means the j is pronounced as a zh sound. People seem to catch on to that much, and nobody ever says By Jow, unless they’re making fun of how they assume fictional hillbillies might pronounce it. At issue is the first vowel. Some old-school Knoxvillians (including our current mayor) tend to pronounce the i short, while educated newcomers try to pronounce it in a more carefully French way, bee-zhoo. Because the word had already been around as a name for American theaters by the late 19th century, it may not seem necessary to revert to the original French. And if you do want to get all French about it, you need to accent the second syllable: be-ZHOO. Gesundheit. So we think either the short i or long e sound will work.
Concord, the old but unincorporated community in West Knox County, was named for a church, which was in turn named for the agreeable concept in human relations. It is not named for any town in New England, or grape, and is therefore not pronounced like “conquered.” Some newcomers pronounce our Con-cord with a droll smirk, as if it’s a redneck mispronunciation. But it’s pronounced the same as, say, the Damascus Concord.
Ijams Nature Center. The j is not pronounced at all, most people eventually do seem to figure that much out. Some longtime visitors and supporters say “eye-ums,” but the correct pronunciation, according to family members, is I’ms. As if it’s one syllable, that rhymes with rhymes.
Kingston Pike. Longtime Knoxvillians aren’t likely to say, “Go straight to Kingston,” if they’re talking about Kingston Pike. Kingston, as it turns out, is an actual town, the venerable county seat of Roane County. Kingston Pike is often abbreviated as the Pike, especially if you’re already in West Knoxville, but not just as Kingston.
Knoxville. It’s a widely believed truism that the secret to Southern speech is adding extra syllables, especially vowels, to each word. That’s not true always, if at all, and it’s certainly not true in the case of the not-particularly euphonious name of our city. Though it’s hard to subtract a syllable, the trick is to try to say it in a syllable and a half. And certainly not to pronounce the i as an i. As Garrison Keillor remarked during his show here in 1999, Knoxville rhymes with “boxfull.”
Krutch Park. It’s pronounced with a long u, like Krootch. It’s German, and originally came with a helpful umlaut.
LaFollette. Campbell County’s metropolis is pronounced with the accent on the second syllable, not the third. Everyone agrees on that much. There’s less accord about the spelling, and whether to include a space. We know a lot of folks who live there, and spell it La Follette, as if it were a French concept that must be spelled in two words. In Wikipedia, it’s La Follette, two words. But that same Wikipedia entry affirms that it’s named for Victorian-era industrialist Harvey LaFollette, one word. LaFollette’s city website, and its utility board’s website, spell it as one word. We prefer the one-word spelling, but respect personal preferences. Postmen, we’ve found, will deliver the mail with either spelling.
Lenoir City. Pronounced like Lenore. It’s named for Revolutionary War officer William Lenoir, a North Carolinian of French Huguenot extraction whose son settled here. We’re not sure whether he pronounced his name Lenwah, but by the 20th century, it was decidedly pronounced Lenore, like Poe’s tragic heroine.
Loudon, Loudoun. Though the British earl for whom the city and county is named pronounced his name “Looden,” here it’s pronounced as if it were a homonym for “loud’n.” Which is a word we use when specifying the kind of fireworks we like to buy there, just across the western county line where they’re legal. If it’s a city or a county, it’s spelled with only one U. If a dam, a lake, or a fort are involved, use two. Reason: The town and county are both more than two centuries old, and date from an era when people weren’t quite as fussy about spelling the names of people, especially British people they’d never met. Back then, Americans were dropping extraneous British vowels, especially U’s, in many contexts, like favour and colour. The rediscovery of the fort in the middle 20th century by historians with reference books prompted a corrected spelling, as they were building the dam and lake, and rebuilding the fort for the tourist trade.
Louisville, the small town just across the river from Keller Bend, is pronounced with an S, unlike the one in Kentucky, which was named for the French king. For whom Louisville, Tenn., was named, no one seems to know for sure. But it could have been for a Mr. Louis who wasn’t necessarily French.
Maryville has about eight pronunciations, all correct, mainly based on the sliding scale of how precisely the vowels are enunciated, but some more correct than others. It’s named for Mary Grainger Blount, the first lady of the pre-statehood Southwestern Territory from 1791-1796. She might have approved the pronunciation “Mary-Ville,” but today it’s the equivalent of saying “I’m a newcomer from Des Moines.” Some locals slur it to Murvl. In 100 years, it will be pronounced Merle. But now, the safest pronunciation is a compromise between the spelling and the slurring, with the “merri” in “merrily” and a “vul” at the end. How you might pronounce a word spelled “Merrivle.”
Neyland Stadium and Drive is complicated. The correct pronunciation, we’re told, is Nee-land. However, don’t be surprised if many longtime Knoxvillians pronounce it Nay-land. It’s understandable, and there’s a town in Wales that’s pronounced that way, with a long A sound. That’s the way it was pronounced almost universally for years. To some Vol fans, it seems the old-fashioned pronunciation, Nay-land Stay-dium—and people from Neyland, Wales, would agree. However, after the warrior-coach’s 1962 death, his widow began insisting that the family always pronounced it with a long E; she sometimes slapped her knee as a visual aid. Announcers eventually fell in line.
Roan, Roane. Roan is a mountain to the east, believed to be named for the color often applied to horses. Roane is a county to the west, named for Archibald Roane, Tennessee’s second governor (who’s buried in Farragut).
Sequoyah Hills. Not Sequoia Hills. Sequoyah Hills and the Sequoia redwood of California are both named for the same guy, the Cherokee leader (1760-1843) who was born about 40 miles from here. But because he didn’t care for the Roman alphabet—in fact, he’s famous for inventing a whole new one he liked better—he never standardized the spelling of his name for the convenience of Anglos. In the neighborhood and in other contexts in East Tennessee, we generally use the H spelling.
Sevier County, Sevierville. It’s a French name. Yes, John Sevier was part French Huguenot; the name was originally Xavier. We’re not sure how he pronounced it. But we pronounce it as if it’s a homonym for severe.
Sterchi Lofts, etc. Named mainly for furniture tycoon James Sterchi (1867-1932), who was son of German-speaking Swiss immigrants from a canton near Italy, it’s pronounced with a hard C sound. The second syllable is just like the “chi” in “chianti.” The Sterchi family, still very much present in the Knoxville area, all pronounce it as if it rhymes with turkey. Note: Literary types may have an unfair advantage—James Agee’s autobiographical novel A Death in the Family includes a pronunciation guide in Chapter One.
Tennessee. Accent the last syllable, please. There’s been a surprising trend to insist to outsiders that real, old-school Tennesseans always pronounce it with an accent on the first syllable. Certainly some do, but we think it’s mainly pockets of rural East Tennesseans, and moreover, pockets of rural East Tennesseans who are trying to sound tough, minimizing that soft pantywaist stuff that comes after Tenn. However, many multi-generational Tennessee old-timers do pronounce it with the accent on the last syllable. If it doesn’t sound as tough, it sounds prettier. If you doubt it, watch Lester Flatt, born in Duncan’s Chapel, Tenn., in 1914, talking about home on The Beverly Hillbillies, nearly 50 years ago. He liked that last syllable. Further confusing matters is that there’s evidence that Tennessee’s founders, John Sevier and them, accented the second syllable. Based on the Cherokee word Tanasi, that maybe makes sense.