Today in NC State History: Campus sees a prounounced shift

May 16, 2012
By Chris Saunders

PrintIt’s an age-old debate really, not limited to the culinary world. Some say tomato, accenting the long “a” sound. Others prefer the “tomotto” pronunciation of the word. And on NC State’s campus, a similar debate arose in the 1960s about Syme Residence Hall.

On this day in 1962, students learned that the correct pronunciation of the dormitory was actually “sim,” sounding like “dim.” In a survey by the university, more than half of the student body thought the pronunciation was “sime,” with a long “i.”

That thought is still around today, as the university’s facilities website lists the pronunciation as “sime.”

Syme Residence Hall in 1955. Photo courtesy of NCSU Libraries.

Syme Residence Hall in 1955. Photo courtesy of NCSU Libraries.

The residence hall was named for George Frederich Syme (prounounced “Sim,” like “him”), a civil engineering student who graduated in 1898 and garnered a reputation when he worked with C.L. Mann, an NC State professor of civil engineering, to survey the prospects of building a canal across Nicaragua after the turn of the century.

But as Hardy D. Berry writes in Place Names on the Campus of North Carolina State University, “It is said the heat, insects, and hostile surroundings discouraged their enthusiasm for the canal location.”

Syme, who was the first president of the Raleigh Engineers Club, came back to North Carolina as a highway and bridge specialist with his reputation, but apparently not his name, intact.

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One Response to “Today in NC State History: Campus sees a prounounced shift”

  1. Tricia says:

    This is fascinating. I lived in Syme for two years in the 80s and never heard it pronounced with a short i. Of course, it made it easier to make fun of to say it with the long i, i.e., “Slime,” as some called it. I absolutely loved that dorm because of the high ceilings and huge rooms. Because my roommate and I were in a corner room, we had an even larger room than most in Syme. It was a fabulous dorm experience and I’m glad to know the story behind its name.

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