The Magazine of South Carolina

But . . . What IS a "Sandlapper?"

The answer remains obscure, but here's what we know. . . .

When Sandlapper founder and editor Robert P. Wilkins chose the name for the state's magazine in 1967, he wanted "a nickname for all South Carolinians which is unusual and not easily forgotten." He clearly succeeded. In the ensuing years, "sandlapper" has become a household word around the Palmetto State, showing up in song lyrics, in the titles of commercial ventures and even on restaurant menus.

But original subscribers to the magazine disagreed as to the meaning of the word. Some folks rated its choice a gross blunder (it "does not sound very complimentary," grumbled a Columbia woman in a letter to the editor). Some took it as a regional slight; a few upstate readers complained that any word connoting "sand" sounded too coastal. To others, meanwhile, the name summoned fond childhood memories. And more than one individual wrote to say it was just perfect for a magazine about South Carolina.

One of the earliest historical references to "sandlapper" we've found was an entry in an 1865 traveler's diary. The chronicler described as a "piney-woods sand lapper" a backwoods woman in western SC seen spitting tobacco in public. Agreed, that's certainly not an endearing connection. However, Davidson College Prof. Chalmers G. Davidson reasoned that South Carolinians should be proud of the epithet, just as North Carolinians are proud to be called tarheels (a word that also can inspire both positive and negative imaginings). As for regional favoritism, Davidson pointed out the upstate is full of sandy places, too: Sandy River, Sandy Run, Sandy Springs and Sandy Flat, for example.

As for those backwoods 'baccer chewers -- male and female -- just remember that without 'em, America would have lost the Revolutionary War.

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