photo by Caroline Tigner Moore
To say Folly Beach is peculiar is to say the sun is hot, night is dark, and that Marty Feldman never graced the cover of People magazine as the “Sexiest Man Alive.” After all, Folly Beach is – in the now famous phrase coined by my friend and former boss Bill Perry – the Edge of America.
the late great Marty Feldman
I’ve always liked the sound of the word peculiar. According to my very own OED (whose print Superman with telescopic vision would have difficulty decoding), peculiar comes to English from the Latin peculium, originally meaning “property in cattle.” That cow over there – let’s call her Elsa – belongs to US Representative Devin Nunes. She’s peculiar to Representative Nunes in that she’s his alone. She’s peculiar to him. But it’s also peculiar that Devin Nunes is suing the cow known as “Devin Nunes’ Cow.” I’m not making this up. 
Over time, as words are wont to do, the definition of “peculiar” branched out from the pasture of private ownership and took on the meaning of being different from others. Not surprisingly, being different acquired somewhat of a negative connotation, because to many, especially those intent on keeping up with the Joneses, being different (or unusual) is often not a good thing.
No PR person would ever come up with the phrase “Edge of America” to promote Kiawah Island. Kiawah doesn’t mind being different in an exclusive or unique way, but it certainly doesn’t want to come off as edgy, and it’s succeeded. Kiawah is about as edgy as Jack Nicklaus.
Not to be confused with Jack Nicholson. I remember seeing an interview with Jack Nicholson not long after the actor Hugh Grant’s arrest for solicitation. The interviewer (maybe Barbra Walters) asked Jack why someone rich and good-looking and married to a beautiful woman (i.e., someone like Hugh Grant) would require the services of a prostitute.
“Peculiarities,” Jack said with his trademark leer, “peculiarities.”
So another denotation of peculiar – actually the number one denotation – is “strange or odd,” like walking in “polka dots and checkered slacks,” to borrow a phrase from Elvis Costello (and to avoid examples of possible outré sexual inclinations that might have prompted Mr. Grant to seek peculiar connubial pleasures outside the bounds of his marriage).
Good God, I’ve wandered far afield from paragraph one. Actually, what I want to know is what makes so Folly different from its barrier island neighbors, the Isle of Palms and Sullivans Island? What is it about Folly that makes it so peculiar?
To attempt to find the answer to this ultimately useless question, I did some googling on Yahoo (mixed metaphors is where it’s at) and compared the demographics of the three island communities.
Folly Beach 2,623
Isle of Palms 4,322
Sullivans Island 1,921
That tells us not much at all, except that Folly is the median and the mean population is 2,955.
Folly Beach White: 99.32% Black 0.68% Asian: 0% Others 0%
Isle of Palms White 94.75% Two or more races 2.85% Black 0.25% Asian 1.47% Others 0%
Sullivans Island White 97.11% Two or more races 0.93% Black 0.28% Asian 1.07% Others 0%
Who would have guessed Folly is the least diversified?
Folly Beach 49.7 (43.7 for males, 58.4 for females)
Isle of Palms 56.2 (58 for males, 54.7 for females)
Sullivans Island 48.1 (45.8 for males, 49.6 for females)
Once again, Folly is the median.
Less than 9th grade 0% , 9th to 12th 1.98%, HS grad 11.05%, Some College 23.17%, Assoc. degree 4.29%, BA/S 38.25%, Graduate degree 21.27%
Isle of Palms
Less than 9th grade 0% , 9th to 12th 0.32%, HS grad 11.84%, Some College 14.05%, Assoc. degree 2.49%, BA/S 40.83%, Graduate degree 30.48%
Less than 9th grade 0% , 9th to 12th 0.77%, HS grad 4.95%, Some College 11.13 %, Assoc. degree 3.34%, BA/S 41.93%, Graduate degree 37.88%
All three probably better educated per capita than similar sized SC towns.
Average overall $49,495 ($65,714 male, $38, 324 female)
Isle of Palms
Average overall $53,782 ($74,714 male, $46,161 female)
Average overall $62,750 ($103,947 male, $38,913 female)
Wow, the average Sullivans’ male makes $38, 233 more than the average Folly male, the difference being a mere $91 less than the average Folly female salary. Is that peculiar? No, it’s what you’d expect.
So let’s face it. That was a waste of time. If you’re going to come up with an answer, demographics aren’t going to help. You need to go maybe to history or —
Wait, Caroline just popped into the drafty garret to ask what I was up to, so I told her I was trying to determine via demographics why Folly was more peculiar, funkier, than the IOP and Sullivans.
“More barstools per capita,” she immediately said.
Damn! Being so much smarter, why in the hell do women make so much less than men?
Yes, Caroline: Planet Follywood, Sunset Cay, the Washout, Jack of Cups, Drop-In, Loggerheads, the Crab Shack, the Surf Bar, Taco Boy, St. James Gate, Lowlife, Wiki Tiki (or whatever it’s called), Rita’s, the Tides, Snapper Jacks, Chico Feo.
I’m sure I’m leaving somebody out – and except for one, none of them smack of commerciality.
 Wisely, Bill copyrighted the phrase.
 All data is from the World Population Review website
 Re. the wide gap in medial ages for males and females on Folly: I remember going into Planet Follywood several years ago where the clientele was quite a bit older than the folks gathered on the rooftop bar across the street. Planet Follywood is old school, caters more to locals than tourists. Anyway, sitting across the bar from me was an older woman – and by older I mean Methuselahian, way over the 14-year difference between male and female in the Folly data above. I noticed her looking over at me, excessively batting her eyes, in almost cartoon coquetry. I hate to be ageist, especially given that I myself am an aged man in a paltry thing sort of way, but being hit on by what very well might be the daughter of a Spanish-American War veteran creeped me out. As I was getting up to go, I sneaked a peek at her and discovered that what I had deemed flirtatious winking was actually some sort of spasmodic tic.