r) KEY NOUN:
- Used as a nickname for a native or resident of Indiana.
ETYMOLOGY: Origin unknownWORD HISTORY:
We know where Hoosiers come from: Indiana. But where does the name Hoosier
come from? That is less easy to answer. The origins of Hoosier
are rather obscure, but the most likely possibility is that the term is an alteration of hoozer,
an English dialect word recorded in Cumberland, a former county of northwest England, in the late 19th century and used to refer to anything unusually large. The transition between hoozer
is not clear. The first recorded instance of Hoosier
meaning "Indiana resident" is dated 1826; however, it seems possible that senses of the word recorded later in the Dictionary of Americanisms,
including "a big, burly, uncouth specimen or individual; a frontiersman, countryman, rustic," reflect the kind of use this word had before it settled down in Indiana. As a nickname, Hoosier
was but one of a variety of disparaging terms for the inhabitants of particular states arising in the early 19th century. Texans were called Beetheads,
for example; Alabamans were Lizards;
Nebraskans were Bug-eaters;
South Carolinians were Weasels,
and Pennsylvanians were Leatherheads.
People in Missouri might have had it worst of all
they were called Pukes.
Originally, these names were probably taken up by people living in neighboring states, but belittled residents adopted them in a spirit of defiant pride, much as American colonists turned the derisive term Yankee
into a moniker for their spirit of rebellion. Today, most of these frontier nicknames have disappeared from the landscape. A few like Okie
still exist with much of their original animus. Others survive as nicknames for the sports teams of state universities
the North Carolina Tarheels,
the Ohio Buckeyes,
and so on
fighting words only on the playing field or court.