Daily Archives: 08/11/2005

King Of The Road

I couldn’t agree more: Bob Klitzkie is a dangerous driver. Auntie Charo complained about his bad driving back in June and since then, Senator Bob has personally cut me off twice; he cut me off on Camp Watkins one morning on my way into the office, and last week he cut right out in front of me as I was making a left turn off Marine (Corps) Drive to the Agaña post office. The guy was looking at me making my turn, and he just went ahead and cut me off anyway. The man’s dangerous behind a wheel.

The Word Hoosier

I think I might have mentioned this one before, but here’s a long page discussing the word hoosier:The Word Hoosier. It lays out dozens of possible origins for the word, but one in particular struck my eye.

The best evidence, however, suggests that “Hoosier” was a term of contempt and opprobrium common in the upland South and used to denote a rustic, a bumpkin, a countryman, a roughneck, a hick or an awkward, uncouth or unskilled fellow. Although the word’s derogatory meaning has faded, it can still be heard in its original sense, albeit less frequently than its cousins “Cracker” and “Redneck.”

That’s certainly the meaning of the term in St. Louis. I wonder why the page goes on to list so many other possible derivations of the word before getting to this gem:

While ‘hoosier’ may still be heard in areas of the south in its original, disparaging meaning of ‘uncouth rustic,’ the term seems to be slowly loosing currency. One important pocket of linguistic resistance, however, remains. Thomas E. Murray carefully analysed the use of ‘hoosier’ in St. Louis, where it is the favorite epithet of abuse. ‘When asked what a Hoosier is,’ Murray writes, ‘St. Louisans readily list a number of defining characteristics, among which are ‘lazy,’ ‘slow-moving,’ ‘derelict,’ and ‘irresponsible.” He continues, ‘Few epithets in St. Louis carry the pejorative connotations or the potential for eliciting negative responses that hoosier does.’ He conducted tests and interviews across lines of age and race and tabulated the results. He finds the term also often used with a modifier, as in ‘some damn Hoosier.’

In a separate section Murray speaks of the history of the word and cites Baker and Carmony (1975) and speculates on why Hoosier (in Indiana a ‘neutral or, more often, positive’ term) should remain ‘alive and well in St. Louis, occupying as it does the honored position of being the city’s number one term of derogation. A radio broadcast took up where Murray left off. During the program, Jeffrey Lunberg, a language commentator, answered questions about regional nicknames. He cited Elaine Viets, a Saint Louis Post-Dispatch columnist (also quoted by Paul Dickson), as saying that in Missouri a ‘Hoosier is a low-life redneck, somebody you can recognize because they have a car on concrete blocks in their front yard and are likely to have just shot their wife who may also be their sister.’ (‘Fresh Air’)