As well-read earthlings, you know that residents of London are called Londoners and that people who live in Los Angeles are Angelenos. You may even be familiar with Hoosiers (residents of Indiana), Liverpudlians (from Liverpool), and Arkansawyers (from Arkansas). But what you may not know is that a name commonly given to the residents of a place is a demonym (from Greek demos, the people, + -nym, name).
The term was coined by word-lover Paul Dickson, author of more than 55 works of nonfiction, including Labels for Locals: What to Call People From Abilene to Zimbabwe (Collins, 2006).
Let's find out if you can tell the difference between a Cestrian (a resident of Chester, England) and a Cytherean (a hypothetical inhabitant of the planet Venus). Test your familiarity with demonyms by taking this quiz: match the place names with the names and nicknames for the people who live there. You'll find the answers at the end of the quiz.
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Residents of . . .
(a) the state of Delaware; (b) the state of Connecticut; (c) the city of Wiltshire, England; (d) the planet Mercury; (e) the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; (f) the state of Kansas; (g) the state of Tennessee; (h) New York City; (i) the town of East Hampton, New York; (j) the city of Schenectady, New York; (k) the city of Cedar Rapids, Iowa; (l) the county of Shropshire, England; (m) the province of Nova Scotia, Canada
This demonym (derived from the name of the messenger of the gods in Greek mythology) was introduced by Arthur C. Clarke in his novel Rendezvous with Rama.
From an alternative name (and for a few years in the 1970s, the official name) for the region.
Originally a name for local fishermen, "Bonackers" comes from Accabonac Harbor (itself an Algonquian toponym).
Early in the 19th century, Washington Irving borrowed this term from the name of a village in Nottinghamshire, England. Though the original Gothamites were considered "wise fools," Irving's sense of the term was closer to "self-important city slickers."
Dickson describes this one as a "gag" name--a play on See Der Rabbits.
A term of uncertain origin.
- Nutmegs or Nutmeggers
According to William F. Buckley, Jr., in the 17th and 18th centuries locals traders made a good living selling nutmeg. "But when they ran out of the real stuff, they sold sawdust instead, and called it nutmeg; and everyone thought this absolutely hilarious, and [the state] celebrated its miscreants by nicknaming itself after the symbol of their misdeeds."
This demonym was derived from the Dutch word for "village."
Dickson attributes this nickname to the misadventures of some local lads who had rolled barrels of untaxed brandy into a pond to avoid detection by an excise man. When they were later caught retrieving the barrels, "the smugglers explained that they were dragging the pond for a large cheese they had spotted and pointed to the reflection of the full moon on the surface of the pond. The revenuer left convinced that these men--these moonrakers--were daft."
Named after a mythical bird, the jayhawkers were originally members of a militant abolitionist group.
This word, meaning "White Man's House," comes from the language of the Tupi people.
- Blue Hens
A Revolutionary War commander who liked to bet on cockfights is credited with this nickname. He favored the "blue hen's" chickens.
An affectionate nickname derived from the name of a famous sailing ship.
1. d, 2. l, 3. i; 4. h, 5. k, 6. g, 7. b, 8. j, 9. c, 10. f, 11. e, 12. a, 13. m
For more information about Labels for Locals, visit the Paul Dickson website.