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
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.
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?"
Dept of Foreign Languages
St Cloud State University
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
preston[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]pilot.msu.edu