Who is Called What
Posted on July 13, 2020
Suggested headline: Who is called what where
(My regular column is suspended during the COVID 19 pandemic, but we decided to run some old ones I thought readers might enjoy. They originally were published in The Idaho Statesman early in my career there. Many will be humor columns. In times like these, we need humor.)
One of the surest ways to annoy Boiseans is to call them Boizeans.
People tend to be touchy, according to a recent Smithsonian article, “about what other people call them. Call someone from Indiana an Indianan and you will be reminded in no uncertain terms about the word Hoosier. North Carolinian is often acceptable, but not to diehard Tarheels. In Utah, folks prefer Utahn over Utahan.”
Formal rules exist for deciding who is called what where, but they are far from foolproof. If the name of a place ends in y, for example, the rule says to change the y to an i and add an. This works well enough for, say, Kansas City (Kansas Citians), but transforms people from Albany, N.Y. into Albanians.
Exceptions to the rules vary from place to place.
Do people who live in Hamburg, Germany go by the rules and call themselves Hamburgers?”
But are residents of Tobago, in the West Indies, Tobaggans?
The rules, in other words, tend to be ignored more or less at will. Local preferences are commonly used for countries and states. Everyone knows that someone from Scotland is a Scot rather than a Scotlander, and someone from Indiana is a Hoosier.
But what about lesser known places such as small towns in Idaho? Idaho has towns that even some Idahoans haven’t heard of, so it isn’t surprising that not everyone knows what to call the people who live there.
Dalton Gardens, for instance. Is a resident of Dalton Gardens, in North Idaho, a Dalton Gardener?
And what about Marion, south of Burley? Are people who live there Marionettes?
To carry it to fanciful extremes, what about Dingle, in southeastern Idaho? Are people from Dingle Dinglelings?
The rules are silent about that one.
Residents of Paris, France are Parisians, but what about residents of Paris, Idaho? A strict interpretation would make them Parisites.
Inhabitants of Stites, in north-central Idaho, would go by the ungainly appellation of Stitesites.
The applicable rule (adding either ites or er to names ending in consonants) would produce Kelloggers, Rexburgers, Rathdrummers and Heyburners.
The results can sound pretty silly. Consider, for example, Sweet, Idaho. Sweeters or Sweetites would sound ridiculous, especially when there is an appealing alternative:
By stretching the rules only slightly, citizens of Eagle would become Eaglets. People from Grangeville could ominously become Grangevillains. Declo would be the home of the Declones.
Basketball would be the logical sport of choice for the Lakers, namely residents of Bear, Hayden, Spirit and Mud Lakes.
The rules, or lack of them, raise some intriguing questions.
Are people who live in Bliss Blissters?
Are the males of Hagerman Hagermen?
Are there Marsingers who can’t sing?
Idaho has so many places with so many possible variations of what to call the folks who live in them that the state might want consider consider hiring a consultant. An expert who could help decide the best names to use.
Someone from Council, perhaps. A Councilor.