How do you identify yourself geographically? Sometimes it's easy: If you live in New York, you're a New Yorker; if you're from Canada, you're a Canadian. But it isn't always obvious, as Mike Pope points out in a recent blog post. Mike lives in Seattle, which is in King County. He's a Seattleite, he says ("We're not Seattlers ... we just aren't"), and a Washingtonian, but what about the county identification? Kinger? Kingite? Kingean? (I suggested "Kingon," with a nod to Star Trek.)
Coincidentally, I'd just been reading about resident names—the technical term is demonym or gentilic—in Garner's Modern American Usage, Third Edition, newly published by Oxford University Press, which generously sent me a review copy. (I'll have more to say about this marvelous book in a future post.) Editor Bryan Garner uses the term "denizen label" and devotes three and a half pages to the subject. He refers readers to the historian George R. Stewart (1895-1980)¹, who devised seven rules for naming denizens; H.L. Mencken called them "Stewart's Laws for Municipal Onomastics" and they were cited, Garner writes, "in the best up-to-date work on the subject, Paul Dickson's Labels for Locals (1997)." The rules are:
- If the place name ends in -a or -ia, add -n (Californian).
- If the name ends in -i or sounded -e, add -an (Hawaiian).
- If the name ends in -on, add -ian (Oregonian).
- If the name ends in -y, change the -y to an -i and add -an (Albany --> Albanian).
- If the name ends in -o, add -an (Chicagoan).
- If the name ends in a consonant or a silent -e, add either -ite or -er, depending on euphony (agreeableness of sound) (Mainer, New Hampshireite).
- If the name ends in -polis, change that to -politan (Minneapolitan).
Naturally, there are exceptions: Utah, for example, ends in a consonant, but state residents are called Utahns.
And then it gets really interesting.
- A resident of Las Cruces, New Mexico, is a Crucen.
- A resident of Phoenix, Arizona, is a Phoenician.
- A resident of Independence, Missouri, is an Independent.
- A resident of Cambridge, Massachusetts, is a Cantabridgian, just like his or her counterpart in England.
- Residents of Los Angeles and Taos (New Mexico) are, respectively, Angelenos and Taosenos, following the Spanish formation rule. (Do not use a tilde over the -n, and do not say "Los Angelean"!)
United Kingdom demonyms often follow a distinct set of rules, sometimes based on Latin origins, sometimes not:
- A resident of Norfolk is a North Anglian.
- A resident of Manchester is a Mancunian.
- A resident of Newcastle, England, is a Geordie². But a resident of Newscastle, Australia, is a Novocastrian.
- A resident of Hampshire is a Hantsian.
- A resident of Shropshire is a Salopian.
- A resident of Dundee, Scotland, is a Dundonian.
Oh, and the preferred spelling for a Seattle resident is "Seattlite," not "Seattleite." Oops: my mistake. I misread the entry in Garner. "Seattleite" is preferred.
For more information about double forms (Greek or Grecian? Norse or Norwegian?) see the StateMaster Encyclopedia of Demonyms.
¹ This is the same George R. Stewart who wrote the justly famous account of the Donner Party, Ordeal by Hunger. I had nightmares for months after I read that book.² Read about the derivation of "Geordie" here.