Monday, September 2, 2013

What should we call residents of that city?

Table Topics is the impromptu speaking section of a Toastmasters club meeting that involves answering a question by speaking for a minute or two. Good questions are neither too hard nor too easy.

During the first November I spent in Idaho, I was fascinated by hearing the election returns. Radio and TV reporters referred to residents of many cities in the state. Those names typically are formed by adding suffixes like:

-ans, -eans, -ens, ers, ians, -ites, -ns

as is shown above by three examples. Later I tried that question for Table Topics. It proved difficult for people to answer, even when I added that they also could describe why other possible names had to be rejected.

Pocatellers only should describe those who work as tellers in banks, and not all the people from Pocatello. People from Kuna could be Kunans, but Kunanites sounds like it  came from the Old or New Testament.

People from cities like American Falls, Idaho Falls, Post Falls, or Twin Falls all could be called either Fallens or Fallers. Fallers should refer only to skydivers though. Twin Fallers could refer very specifically to identical siblings that base jump together. Post Fallens sounds like a slur on senior citizens, as a revision of a Life Alert TV commercial to:

“Help, I’ve post fallen and I can’t get up.”  

I’m still not sure what to do about residents of Hagerman. Are they all Hagerpersons, and then either Hagermen or Hagerwomen? What about people from either Eagle or Star?

The term for a resident also can be troublesome. In a newspaper from Portland, I once saw a headline that referred to a man from Tacoma as a Tacoman. That term also can be read as Taco-man, an obvious ethnic slur to a Hispanic. 

No comments: