Date: Fri, 17 Oct 1997 11:46:58 -0600 From: charles fritz juengling 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'? This is now my new 'favorite' etymology for hoosier. > >Why is folk etymology so much more rewarding than the truth? I don't think 'rewarding' is the right word. How about 'entertaining'? (I think we are understanding 'folk etymologies' as being incorrect--as least for this discussion.) When I suggested the 'Who's here' explanation, I didn't expect that anyone would believe it. Of course I don't believe it--any more than the 'whose ear' explanation. These explanantions are so ludicrous that they are funny- they are nothing more than jokes (Does anyone know the FE of 'Savannah' GA?). However, they do serve several important purposes besides fun. First, they give insight into how peple think and what they think about language. Second, they keep us on our toes. Otherwise, we might believe what we see in print without questioning it. Case in point--the Cumberland explanation as found in the DA. I don't find this etymology convincing either (yet). For Cumberland 'hoozer' to be the source of 'hoosier', several things must be shown. First, how do you get from [z] to [zh]? Of course, the phonetic distance from [z] to [zh] is almost nothing. But something should be said about that. There is no evidence in the EDD for [zh];The _SED: the Dictionary and Grammar_ also offers no help. So, it seems that the pronunciation with [zh] must have arisen in the US. But under what influence? When? Where? Second, how did an obscure Cumberland word become the name of people in a state in the US? Where there a lot of Cumberlanders in Indiana? If not, how did it get to Indiana? Third, how did a word for 'large' come to describe an Indianan? Are folks from Indiana exceptionally large? To summarize, with every etymology, one must explain both the phonetic and semantic changes. Also, when giving an etymology in a colonial dialect, one must also explain the word's course of travel. Fritz Juengling Dept of Foreign Languages St. Cloud State University St. Cloud, Minnesota >>>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 >>>England. >>> >>>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 >>Minnesota >> >>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 >preston[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] >Office: (517)353-0740 >Fax: (517)432-2736 Fritz Juengling Foreign Languages and Literature Department St. Cloud State University