Words & Stuff

AAA: Times and Places (Reader Comments and Addenda)

(4 Februrary 2000)

Have received a surprising number of responses on this one -- seems to have struck a chord. Maybe just because I've finally started posting reader comments in a timely manner again (though I've still got an enormous backlog).

DaveJ, of Portland, Oregon, maintains that those who live there are Portlanders, not Portlandites. There's clearly some difference of opinion on this point. Another of my Portland sources, Kami Miller, notes that people from Vancouver, WA (across the river from Portland) are invariably known as Vancouverites ("Vancouverers? I don't think so! Sounds like a fancy brand of vacuum cleaner"), and that this terminology may have influenced Portland dwellers. Meanwhile, a Web search reveals that "Portlandite" is a mineral, Ca(OH)2. Further searching and discussion suggests that a few people who live there do in fact call themselves Portlandites, but the generally preferred term does seem to be Portlander.

Aaron brilliantly suggests that those who (like me) live in a place called Mountain View should follow the model of Zapatistas, Sandanistas, and Paulistas, by calling themselves Mountain Vistas.

Jacob points out that there are some other oddities in names for people from particular places (is there a good general term for such names?), including:

Chechnya: Chechen [I meant to include this one in the column, but forgot it.  -- Jed]
Ivory Coast: either Ivorian or Ivory Coaster (which sounds like something you put a drink on...)
Monaco: either Monacan or Monegasque
Niger: Nigerois
Philippines (Spanish "Repœblica de Filipinas"): Filipino
Togo: Togolese

He also notes that there are nicknames for people from various colleges; there are probably too many such nicknames to list, so I'll limit myself to my favorite, which is "Mawrtyrs" for Bryn Mawr students.

In this New Year's column discussing time, I ought to have mentioned a new word I heard recently: it was something like "deuterokilian," meaning "of or pertaining to the second millennium." It's to be used derogatorily to mean roughly "old-fashioned," as in "That's so deuterokilian," a slightly stronger form of "That's so last week." (Please don't bother telling me the millennium isn't over yet. I know; I just don't care. Yes, that means they're revoking my Pedant's License.)

Joe R points out that A Word A Day had names-for-people-from-places as a theme last week. Interesting items from there include Neapolitan (from Naples), Kosovar (from Kosovo, but see below), East Timorese (from East Timor), and Mancunian (from Manchester). It also reminds me that someone from Ireland is a Hibernian.

And Joe also reminds me of one of the best irregular people-from-places names: someone from Liverpool is a Liverpudlian.

Pierre notes that Kosova and Kosovo are respectively the Albanian and Serbo-Croatian words for the same region, and that Kosovar is the Albanian word for the residents; hence, technically speaking, Kosovars are people from Kosova, not Kosovo. Regardless of its origin, though, and no matter how incorrectly, "Kosovar" has become the American term for "someone from Kosovo." Pierre adds: "Speaking of Albanian, what do you call someone from Albany, New York? ... What about Dominica and the Dominican Republic?"

I should have mentioned in the column that one must be careful not to back-formate place names from people names. I'm always tempted to refer to that country that Hungarians come from as "Hungaria"... And Peter Fyfe makes the same mistake with Canadians -- those people who live in Canadia. He provides a few more names: "People from Newcastle (north of Sydney) are called Novacastrians; those from Sydney are Sydneysiders. I believe the English call those from Manchester Manchuvians." And he adds:

We also have a long Aussie tradition of nicknaming based on obscure roots. Those from Western Austalia are sand gropers (because of the large amount of it over there) and South Australians are croweaters (the state bird is a magpie which is oft mistaken for a crow???).

People from Sydney (and New South Wales) often describe Victorians as "Mexicans" because they are from "down south" -- the US influence on our culture is ever present!

Stacey notes that people from Michigan are called "Michiganders" (or sometimes "Michiganians"). I suppose Yiddish-speaking Michiganders are Michuginahs?

Will Q points out that a lot of names for people from particular states of the US are known by state nicknames: Massachusettsers are called Baystaters, and Oklahomans are "Sooners." And Illinois, he claims, is inhabited by "Illini," which sounds to me like a kind of pasta. (Is the singular Illinus/Illina, depending on gender?) He also notes that stress patterns and vowel sounds often change when discussing people-from-places, as in North Carolina versus North Carolinian -- but that's true in many cases of converting a noun to an adjective, so not all that surprising.

Neo-Futurist Diana Slickman writes:

I always wondered about people from Grand Junction, or Great Bend, or Split Fork, or Rocky Ford, and the like. Grand Junctians? Great Benders? Split Forkers? Rocky Fjorders?

There's a little town in Colorado called Swink. Swinkers? Swinkians? Swinks? Swunk (in the plural?)

Alas, I have no answers, though I'm amused by the questions. Anyone? By the way, swink is is an archaic verb meaning work; interesting name for a town. (Free and unsolicited plug: if you have any interest in brief spoken-word performances -- funny, moving, or sometimes just odd -- you owe it to yourself to purchase the CD of Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind (30 plays in 60 minutes!), available from the Neo-Futurist Web site. It's the closest you can get to experiencing the live show without going to Chicago.)

Mark David corrects an earlier error I'd posted here: Indiananianians, he notes, are known as Hoosiers; "Showmes" are presumably Missourians.

About the Red Line Alphabet ("Alewife, Braintree, Chairfat," and so on), Elliott jests: "Aren't these minor characters from the Gormenghast books?" The words do have a Peakesque air to them -- those books are filled with characters with names like Steerpike, Prunesquallor, and Sourdust. (It's amazing what you can find on the Web; I just learned that Sting played Steerpike in a BBC radio production of the Gormenghast books.) If I ever write a Peake pastiche I'll keep this in mind. Though I think it would be hard to outdo Peake himself.

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Jed Hartman <logophilia@kith.org>