Thursday, August 18, 2005

US State Demonyms: Ans, Anders, Ians, Ers, and Ites, OH MY!

No, not US State Demons! I'm talking about "demo" as in deomgraphics and "nyms" as in names - names of people. For example: the name for people from California is "Californians" (not Sunshine Staters or Hippies or whatever else you've got in mind for us, please!).

We really don't talk about state demonyms enough. Some of you are rolling your eyes and thinking, why would we ever need to? But what do you do when you need to make a gross generalization about a mass of people in another state? When I lived in Wisconsin, people were always talking about how much they hated them "Flatlanders!" The what?! The who?! Unbeknownst to me, Wisconsinites (d'oh, what's an "ite"? this is getting interesting...) consider their state mountainous, or at least a little hilly. And they have an ingrown disaffection for those south of the border, known more properly as Illinoisans or Illinoisians (no one seems to agree on this one, go figure), and love to ridicule their neighbor's flat(ter) geography. Soon after, I learned that those on the other side of the great lake are called Michiganders. "Ganders? You've got to be kidding me!" But it's true.

It got me thinking... if I were in conversation and needed to refer to a stateload of people, what would I have said? "Yeah, those Michigan-- an-- er-- um, those Michigan people are so...."

While Alabamans seems obvious, there are some who go for Alabamians - I'm sorry but that's just too close to Albanians for my taste. Similarly, there is disagreement in Colorado, even among their own state and federal officials - the governor favors Coloradans while the congresswoman from the 4th district leans toward Coloradoans.

And just where did Floridians buy that extra vowel, "i"? Shouldn't it be Floridans?

A person from Utah is a Utahn, rhymes with Yukon. And while many Utahns are Mormons, and many Mormons are Utahns, not all Utahns are necessarily Mormons and vice versa, so let's get that straight.

As I've already mentioned Michiganders, something to keep in mind is that theirs is but a variant of the -er ending with the likes of New Yorkers, Maylanders, and Mainers.

Now Mainers serves as our entre into completely alternate demonyms that truly are nicknames as they don't actually use the state's name as their roots. Some Mainers prefer to be called Down Easters, referring to their far eastern longitudes and not to Easter/Spring chicken down feathers. Indiana Hoosiers are a classic, but what of Massachusetts? They're called Bay Staters? Really? I guess any variant on Massachusetts as a root just end up sounding silly, so the state legislature went so far as to write it into law. Wow.

But my all time favorite must go to our friends in New Mexico. You can't really argue with the cheerful ring of "New Mexicans."


ann carson said...

Very interesting! English teacher in Cal! Great!!!!

Russianspi said...

Wow. This post, and your State Demonym list settled an argument for us, as well as educating and entertaining us. Thanks!