David Lauderdale

Clemson football natty: Show Dabo’s Tigers some respect by pronouncing it right

Clemson fans climb trees, flood streets after national championship win

Clemson fans react to the football team's 44-16 victory over Alabama at the national championship at Santa Clara on January 7, 2019.
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Clemson fans react to the football team's 44-16 victory over Alabama at the national championship at Santa Clara on January 7, 2019.

Little old bitty Clemson, as Dabo would say, up and beat the joyless Evil Empire of Bammer for the college football championship Monday night, and we need to talk.

We need to talk correctly.

But first, let me channel a former Clemson Tigers coach, tobacco spittin’ “ole Danny” Ford, and say the boys in orange from the tiny town in the Upstate of South Carolina did not simply beat the Alabama Crimson Tide, whatever that is. They beat the snot out of them.

Clemson looked like the Harlem Globetrotters playing against the high school English faculty in a fundraiser for band uniforms.

And how about Nyles Pinckney of Beaufort and our own Whale Branch Early College High School in greater Seabrook? He seized a starlit moment we’ll never forget when he swallowed that 6-foot-2 Alabama player who thought he’d sneak a faked field goal by the Tigers. Nyles, 1. Bammer, zero.

That being said, if you’ll forgive the language, let’s move on to the point at hand.

Now that little ole Clemson, which the late Lewis Grizzard dismissed as “Auburn with a lake,” has become elite in the world of college football and can’t hide it anymore, that same world needs to pronounce it correctly.

It ain’t “ClemZun.”

That’s how the unwashed pronounce it. It’s one of those mispronunciations that, once it starts bothering you, it drives you nuts or nutz.

It’s so important to Clemson people that the assembled 80-some-odd-thousand — some much odder than others — who descend on tiny Clemson on a football Saturday in the foothills barely get to see the game because they spend all day spelling the school name. They come from near and far to stand up on cue and shout out the letters: C-L-E-M-S-O-N.

So we’re all pretty sure that there is no “Z” in it.

And there’s no “P” in it either, although the correct pronunciation does have a hint of the “P” when the “M” slides into the “S.”

My friend Hamp Greene, who by now has surely dyed his hair, or his head, bright orange, says the quickest way to tell a Yankee in South Carolina is when they say “Clempson” or “Sumpter.” He calls it the “South Carolina silent P.”

Here in the Lowcountry, there’s actually good reason for people from off to mispronounce things. Who could be expected to say Combahee as Comby, or Coosawhatchie as Coosahatchy? And you’d have to have swallowed a little bit of pluff mud to come out with Bewfurt on the elegant word Beaufort, which looks more like Bow-fois.

All our newcomers to O’Katy can get O’Caught Up on all this when Grace Cordial of the Beaufort District Collection in our Beaufort County Library gives a lecture called “ ‘Correct Mispronunciations’ of Some South Carolina Names” on Jan. 31 at the Coastal Discovery Museum on Hilton Head.

But dear old Clemson now has a greater worry than people somehow seeing a “Z” in Clemson.

Bammer is going to come after their coach Dabo Swinney so hard, because he’s from Alabama and he played at Alabama and he can beat Alabama, that they’re going to promise to change the name of the state to Dabobama if he’ll come when Bama calls.

That’s the mispronunciation Clemson needs to worry about.