The Corner

What Do You Call Yourself?

I struck out with this one on the THE NEW CRITERION blog

so let’s try NRO

readers. The question is: What do you call the natives of the city or

state named XXX? XXX-ians? XXX-enes? XXX-onians? Or something truly

irregular and eccentric? Anyway, here’s the blog as first posted.

——————-

Here’s a thing. I was just browsing in William Ashbrook’s fine book

Donizetti and his Operas. On p.7 I read: “[Francesco] Salari (1751-1823),

a Bergamasc by birth, had studied at Naples with Piccinni…”

That word “Bergamasc” stopped my eye. It plainly means “a native of

Bergamo” (Donizetti’s own home town). How striking that the English

language should have an irregular formation like tha, to identify the

natives of an inconsequential Italian town!

There are a number of these irregulars in Britain: “Liverpudlian” for a

native of Liverpool, “Mancunian” for someone from nearby Manchester,

“Salopian” for the people of Shropshire, and so on. In the U.S.A., though,

the only one I know of is “Cantabrigian,” which I have heard used for a

native of Cambridge, Mass. — obviously borrowed from the corresponding

British usage. (In re which, let’s not forget “Oxonian”!)

Even setting aside these irregular forms, the business of making English

substantives and adjectives to identify people from this or that place is

very convoluted. Why is a native of Paris a Parisian, while a native of

Berlin is a Berliner? (As also, notoriously, is a sticky cream-filled bun.)

Why is a native of Beijing a Beijinger, while a native of Shanghai is a

Shanghainese? Because the first ends in a consonant but the second doesn’t?

Then why is a native of Canton a Cantonese, not a Cantoner? There are deep

mysteries to be plumbed here.

Is there any other language in the world as rich, varied, and mysterious as

English?

Most Popular

Immigration

What Now for Trump’s Border Wall?

The verdict on the U.S.–Mexico border wall President Trump promised to construct is decidedly mixed as the year comes to a close. The “big, beautiful wall,” as Trump referred to it, reached 400 miles in length by the end of October, when the Department of Homeland Security held a ceremony hailing the ... Read More
Immigration

What Now for Trump’s Border Wall?

The verdict on the U.S.–Mexico border wall President Trump promised to construct is decidedly mixed as the year comes to a close. The “big, beautiful wall,” as Trump referred to it, reached 400 miles in length by the end of October, when the Department of Homeland Security held a ceremony hailing the ... Read More
Books

Three Cheers for the Quiet Ones

People often dismiss shy, quiet characters in literature. Readers prefer to identify with Jo March, Elizabeth Bennett, or Anne Shirley -- those delightful, bold, and charming characters who made a deep impression on us when we first encountered them. While there’s nothing wrong with emulating or admiring these ... Read More
Books

Three Cheers for the Quiet Ones

People often dismiss shy, quiet characters in literature. Readers prefer to identify with Jo March, Elizabeth Bennett, or Anne Shirley -- those delightful, bold, and charming characters who made a deep impression on us when we first encountered them. While there’s nothing wrong with emulating or admiring these ... Read More
Culture

New England Journal of Medicine Pushes Reparations

Reparations would grant African Americans government benefits not paid to other Americans to rectify the awful sin of slavery and the "peculiar institution's" residual harm. It is a favored policy of hard progressives, so of course, the New England Journal of Medicine -- which regularly promotes left-wing causes ... Read More
Culture

New England Journal of Medicine Pushes Reparations

Reparations would grant African Americans government benefits not paid to other Americans to rectify the awful sin of slavery and the "peculiar institution's" residual harm. It is a favored policy of hard progressives, so of course, the New England Journal of Medicine -- which regularly promotes left-wing causes ... Read More