Date: Thu, 16 Oct 1997 06:55:26 -0400

From: "Dennis R. Preston" preston[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]PILOT.MSU.EDU

Subject: Re: Etymology of _Hoosier_

Well, while we're on favorites for folk etymologies of 'Hoosier,' how about

this one?

The hard-drinkin', quick-to-fight, rough-and-ready backwoodsmen of early

Indiana apparently had a thing or to to teach Mike Tyson since biting off

body parts was such a common accompaniment to fisticuffs that after a fight

one might look around on the floor and say 'Whose ear'?

Why is folk etymology so much more rewarding than the truth?


Mitford Mathews cracked this etymological nut on page 830 of his

_Dictionary of Americanisms_, wherein he indicates its most probable

source as _hoozer, "very large" in the dialect of Cumberland, northern


DARE attests the term quite widely and early outside Indiana. Indeed,

until the mid-20th century, mountaineers in Tennessee and North Carolina

were called _hoosiers_. How the term has come to be associated with

Indianans is a more recent but intriguing story.

Michael Montgomery

Dept of English

Univ of South Carolina

Columbia SC 29208

My favorite explanation appeares in Schele de Vere's _Americanisms_. He

reports that "Hoosier" came about because of the way people there

(Indiana) said "Who's here?"

Fritz Juengling

Dept of Foreign Languages

St Cloud State University


Fritz Juengling

Foreign Languages and Literature Department

St. Cloud State University

Dennis R. Preston

Department of Linguistics and Languages

Michigan State University

East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA


Office: (517)353-0740

Fax: (517)432-2736