Column: Homing in on names


I love being at home. It’s where I sleep. It’s where I write. Home is where I watch Netflix. It’s an amazing place. I would be content to stay at home all the time if it weren’t for the fact that my house isn’t also a coffee shop.

We have some interesting names for people where I live. In the state of Indiana, we’re referred to as “Hoosiers.” My home state, Oklahoma, calls its inhabitants “Okies” or “Oklahomans.” While I understand “Okie,” the “Hoosier” moniker is an ongoing mystery.

This got me wondering: Is there a name for the nickname we apply to people from certain places? Of course, there is! Demonyms are the words we use for groups of people from different places. We get the word “demonym” from the Greek words “demos” (people, citizens, tribespeople) and “nym” (name). I have written about demonyms before, but I learned about some new ones recently and simply had to tell you about them.

I grew up in Norman, Okla., where its residents are called “Normanites.” Now, I live in Noblesville, Ind., where I hope we are called “Noblesvillains,” but that can’t be right. People in New York are New Yorkers. Folks in Nebraska are Nebraskans. Yawn.

I’m more interested in funky demonyms (and, boy, there are plenty of them). For instance, people in Mexico City are called “Capitalinos,” as Mexico City is the capital of Mexico. Those living in Tangier, Morocco, are proud “Tangerines.” You can’t make this stuff up.

I can’t pronounce the word for people from Utah without yawning; I can’t even type it. They’re called “Utahns,” which just reminds me of a yawn. Sorry for making you yawn — blame the Utahns. Crossing the U.S., residents of Arkansas are called “Arkensawyers,” although many will contend they are called “Arkansans.” For some reason, all I imagine when I hear “Arkensawyer” is Tom Sawyer floating down the Mississippi in a boat big enough to fit two of every animal.

The capital of my adopted home state, Indiana, is Indianapolis. What are people from Indy called? “Indianapolitans”? Indianapolisians”? “Indianapolites”? If I keep thinking about it, my head might explode.

If you’re from Amsterdam, you’re an Amsterdammer. If you hail from Hamburg, you’re a hamburger. Similarly, residents of Frankfurt are called Frankfurters. Those Germans get all the cool meat names.

So, whether you’re a Honolulan, a Fort Wayner, an Oklahoma Cityan or a Providentian, I hope you take pride in the town or state from which you hail and find solace in the place you call home.


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