21 March 2024

So, How Do You Say Norfolk? 

Nor-FOLK.

NOR-fik. 

NAW-fik. 

NOR-FUK. 

NOR-fork? 

You really can’t go wrong however you say it, unless you go with the last one. We all agree that’s just weird, right? 

Norfolk is a city of contradictions. It’s where North meets South, where the traditional and the modern coexist peacefully and where you can go from enjoying a Doumar’s Coed sundae to tucking into a Foie Gras Torchon at Todd Jurich’s Bistro in no time flat and no one will bat an eye.  

It’s also a place where everybody has an opinion about how to pronounce its name. 

As Spring 2024 dawns, VisitNorfolk is leaning into this dichotomy with our new campaign, “How Do You Say Norfolk?” 

And boy, do people have some opinions on that. 

Old-School vs. Modern 

Spend a few minutes in the cafes of Ghent or Freemason and you’ll quickly hear longtime residents pronouncing it as NAW-fik

Younger residents of the city are more likely to be split along the NOR-fik / NOR-FUK line, with some insisting that the first is correct, while others (often with a mischievous grin on their face) assure you it’s the latter. There also remains a strong contingent of locals who can’t bring themselves to pronounce it as NOR-FUK, lest they be accused of cursing in public.

In recent years, Norfolk’s legendary music venue the Norva even took things a step further by painting a warning sign to visiting headliners on the stairs ascending to the stage that reads, “ IT’S NOT NOR-FOLK, IT’S NOR-FUK.” That sign has probably warded off more spontaneous audience boos than can be counted. `

What most agree on is that pronouncing the L as in nor-FOLK will get you quickly branded as an outsider. As someone who has yet to experience all the charms Mermaid City has to offer, from sweeping ocean views in the north to stunning harbor scenes in the south and seemingly a million different places to eat in between. 

The thing is, many people call Norfolk home for the long-term, while others are only here to soak up the culture for a short time. With the naval base, the port and NATO located here, we get our share of folks who bring their own distinctive way of pronouncing the city’s name and that’s A-OK with us. 

But that’s the beauty of this place, we say. Norfolk has layers just waiting to be peeled back on every return visit. 

So, maybe you aren’t yet sure the answer to the question, “How Do You Say Norfolk?” That’s quite alright with Norfolk. All anyone asks is that you spend a little time getting to know the city’s charms, from its 600+ independent restaurants to its late-night cocktail scene and its staggering historic attractions and outdoor recreation along the Elizabeth River Trail.

Now, we’d love to hear from you. How do you say Norfolk? Tag us on social media with #VisitNorfolkVA to share all the creative and inventive ways you’ve come up with.  

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