Sunday, February 12, 2012

Knock, knock. Hoosier?

There are a few things about the States that just I can't keep straight or that I simply don't know:

1) Memorial Day and Labour Day. It's possible this one can be bumped off the list now because I just realized (yes, just now) that Memorial and May start with the same letter. Ta-da! But they're both holidays of... barbecuing? Maybe. I'm not really sure what either of them are for. Don't hate me. I'm just happy for a holiday even if I don't quite get it.

2) Pint. Mint, lint, splint, sprint, tint, hint... Pint doesn't rhyme with any of those words. Apparently.

Additionally, quarts. And gallons. And things like that. Andrew and I just had the revelation (yes, just this year) that a quart is probably a quarter of something. And it is—it's a quarter of a gallon! Who knew? A pint is an eighth of a gallon. Then there are cups and ounces and...come on, people! I do love the metric system. Why do we even talk about pints anymore?

3) The Midwest. We're looking at schools in "the midwest." Apparently. But I've lived so far west for a good chunk of my life that living in Utah still seems like it is midwest while the midwest seems pretty far east to me. Really far east, to be honest. I mean, if you were to draw a line down the middle of the United States I think most of the midwestern states would fall to the east of that line.

4) Yosemite. Not /Yohz-uh-might/. /Yo-sem-ih-tea/. You're welcome.

5) Hoosier. I hadn't really come across this term until I began researching Indiana University—Bloomington. Turns out, you don't pronounce it /hoo-si-er/ or people (like Andrew) will laugh at you. It's pronounced /ho-zure/ (kind of a last-syllable rhyme with seizure). I don't know why but that's okay because nobody else does, either. In fact, nobody even knows what a hoosier is, even though it's the mascot for IUB.

Also, people from Indiana don't call themselves Indiana-ans. They call themselves Hoosiers, which is probably a good thing to know if you're planning on moving to Indiana (which, if Andrew gets his way, we will be). Right now his top pick for a PhD is IUB. So I figured...if we were going to be Hoosiers...I should probably know what a Hoosier is.

I turned to the all-knowing Wikipedia to shed some light on the topic.

Turns out, Hoosier has been in use since the 1830s, though no one is quite sure where the term came from. In some places, like St. Louis, it's an insult that means "hick." The same meaning also was carried throughout much of the south, though it's possible (according to Jacob Piatt Dunn) that this came from an English word Hoozer, which meant "hill." So, basically, it's possible Hoosier means "hicks from the hills."

It's also possible that the word came from the name of Harry Hoosier, a black preacher who spoke out against slavery and "the corruption of man."

My absolute favourite story, though, is that of frontier banter, a story which affirms the hick meaning of the word. Back in the day people would let their presence at a homestead be known by calling out "Hello, the cabin!" so that they wouldn't be shot at as an unannounced guest. The gun-wielder at the cabin would then call out, "Who'sh 'ere?" (translation: who's there?) and would then either welcome their guest or shoot at the trespasser.

I burst out loud when I read this and though it's a folk etymology it's the one I'm going to repeat to my children forever after, especially if/when we move to Indiana and Rachel says, "What's a Hoosier, Mommy?" because she probably will ask that because she's curious like that.

Is it just me or can you also see the old, toothless guy in the long underwear and ratty brimmed hat, a bit of straw sticking out of the corner of his mouth, pointing his gun through a crack in the wall and whistling through the gap in his teeth, "Who'sh 'ere?"

Excuse me while I snicker to myself once again because I find that seriously funny.

Folk etymology aside, I have to wonder if Hoosier isn't related to the term "hoser."

Hoser is a Canadian term, though I can attest that it isn't used very widely in Canada (at least not as widely Bob and Doug McKenzie would have you believe). Sadly, Wikipedia doesn't have much to offer regarding this term—perhaps it was invented in the 1930s to describe destitute farmers who siphoned gasoline from cars using a hose. Or maybe it refers to the losing hockey team having to hose off the ice at the end of the game.

Either way it's a negative term meaning "loser."

In my mind it isn't hard to connect this to the definition of "hick," meaning "an unsophisticated provincial person"— a hillbilly, a backwoodsman, a country bumpkin. Or, if you happened to be from the county of Cumberland (that's in England), you might say a hick was someone who lived in the "hoozers."




Since no one seems to know for certain where hoosier or hoser came from I'm going to suggest that they are related terms. And if I was the one getting a PhD maybe I'd research it more. Maybe. It's just about that interesting to me. Not even kidding.

But I'm not the one getting a PhD. That would be Andrew.

And so far he hasn't been accepted to IUB.

But he has been accepted at Duke—with a lovely financial package to boot. Go Duke!

It feels good to know that we'll at least be heading somewhere. Being accepted is much easier to swallow than being rejected.


  1. Thanks for the lesson! And, congrats on being accepted. =)

  2. It does feel good having a good laugh from time to time...

    And it is great to learn new things... :)

  3. Well, if you're in a normal place, then school starts just after Labor Day (obviously Utah is not a normal place :) ). And where I grew up Memorial Day was a big holiday with all sorts of cool happenings. Unfortunately, I've yet to find a place with a Memorial Day like my hometown. As far as what they're actually about, Memorial Day has something to do with remembering veterans and casualties of all the wars. I really have no idea about Labor Day. Something about labor unions maybe?

    I had to laugh at your #3, because Ryan and I have discussed this at length. He's thoroughly perplexed by how the mid-western states are all fairly eastern.

    I hope you get accepted at IU - Indiana is a pretty awesome place. Though we didn't spend any time in Bloomington, I've heard great things about it. And, yeah, I really enjoyed being a Hoosier for a while. Congrats on being accepted at Duke!

  4. Go Duke! That's awesome! Thanks for the insight on those fun things. I enjoyed reading this post a lot!

  5. Both my kids are Hoosiers! :)

    That's awesome you got accepted to Duke!