Thursday, April 07, 2005

Strangers in a stranger land

Seeing an article on the death of Prince Rainier of Monaco made me start thinking about those funky differences that sometimes occur between a place name and the people who hail from said place. Apparently, people from Monaco are called Monegasques”, which frankly makes me think of monkeys. Similarly, the term “Cypriot” (referring to someone from Cyprus) strikes me as a derogatory term for someone of lesser intelligence – probably because it’s so close to “idiot”. “Neapolitan” of course, was someone from Naples way before it was an ice cream flavor, and so on, and so on.

Come to think of it, many of the places I lived don’t really even have names for “someone who comes from this place”. Particularly, city names are really lacking. Maybe it’s that only urban areas above a certain size are significant enough to come up with a new term for someone-who-comes-from-there. I mean Minneapolis has one (“Minneapolitan”) but St. Paul doesn’t (that I know of). So logic would dictate that a city would need to be at least as big as Minneapolis to “name its people”. Or, maybe it’s just that people from St. Paul are just more humble. Maybe is when a community has some sort of defining quality that natives want to call out about themselves to the world. For example “Texan”, “New Yorker”, and “Parisian” all refer to places people are proud to be from. But I can’t think of terms for someone from Erie, PA; Gary, IN; or Detroit, MI. Of course there is “Clevelander”, but I think that’s more because people from Cleveland take a weird sense of pride in their squalor.


It gets trickier for states though. I mean once we’re talking about a state, one would think that everyone would have a term from someone from there (even someone from St. Paul is a “Minnesotan”). But the names themselves aren’t always a clear derivative. Originally hailing from North Dakota, I know to call myself a “NoDaker” rather than a “North Dakotan” (although both are appropriate, the former term is more familial to natives). But what does one call a person from Wyoming? Utah? Maine? Could they be compounded with other adjectives about the person? Is a jazz bassist from Wyoming called a “Wyomingus”? Would you call a person from Maine with an unnatural fear of islands a “Mainelander”? Is a prostitute from Idaho called an “Idahoho”? If so, would Hostess file a lawsuit for trademark infringement? Or maybe Santa?

7 comments:

J.Po said...

I am deeply offended that you connected the word "squalor" with "Cleveland". And you KNEW I'd read it. I'm deeply saddened and hurt.

In other news, I lived in Seattle for a summer and they called us Seattlites. This sounds far too NASA-esque for me and for a fantastic city that defies explanation. I think SF residents might call themselves San Franciscans. But I could be wrong.

grrrbear said...

My dearest J.Po, I am sorry for hurting your feelings. But you know how I felt about my 3.5 years out there.

This just emphasizes the point though. People from Cleveland refer to themselves as "Clevelanders" because they have a certain pride in where they come from (for whatever reason). Which seems different from the folks in Erie or Detroit (unless someone can think of a name that those people have for themselves, which I couldn't think of).

In J. Po's defense though, I *will* grant that the countryside surrounding Cleveland is very pretty. Lots of rolling hills and woody areas. Some excellent drives/walks/bike ride areas out ease along the Chagrin River. I do miss that. Sure beats the cornfields outside of Chi-town. And the golf was cheaper, too.

Sophist said...

I like that people from Flanders are Flemish.
And people from Glasgow are Glaswegian.
And people from Cambridge are Cantabridgian.

Sophist said...

My friend from Utah called herself a Utahrn. With a very pronounced "r".

grrrbear said...

Ooh, and last night I remembered my favorite one. "Michigander" - referring to someone from Michigan.

Anonymous said...

St Paulite

grrrbear said...

Unless it's a woman, then you're allowed to call her a "St. Pauli Girl". Especially if she's wearing lederhosen and carrying multiple mugs of beer.

After all, Elmo seems equally disinterested in both...

I have a hard time believing that Elmo was traumatized by Katy Perry's decollatage after discovering that he had already "been arou...