I was reading the blurb on the book I’ve just started reading, Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut, when I got a little surprise.

I read Kurt Vonnegut was born in India… and I thought, Hang on a second: he was born in India? I didn’t know that. I suppose it’s possible, even though there surely weren’t many Americans living in India in the early 20th century. Then I decided to actually read the rest of the sentence, and it all made sense. He was born, of course, in Indiana. But that got me thinking: Where does that name come from?

The obvious answer was that it was somehow related to Native Americans, or Indians. And that’s the case. The name simply means Indian Land, or Land of the Indians. In 1800, the US Congress divided the Northwest Territory into two, with the western area called Indiana, simply because it was still largely inhabited by Native Americans at the time.

The official name for an inhabitant of Indiana is, unsually, a hoosier. There’s some debate as to where this term comes from, but many experts suggest it comes from a term from the Upland South region of the United States for a backwoodsman, like yokel. Though I imagine that most hoosiers don’t mind.

8 thoughts on “Indiana

  1. In Saint Louis (Missouri, where I live) the term “hoosier” has become a derogatory term (and has nothing to do, strictly speaking, with Indiana). One story I have heard for why this may be is that at some point in the early twentieth century, many folks had moved to StL from Indiana and some of these folks were not averse to crossing picket lines and working, which made them rather unpopular locally. The term still carries its pejorative tone, but only, apparently, in Saint Louis.

    On another note, I used to live on a street here by the name of “Juniata”. Not sure of the origins of the name, but many, many people pronounce it “Juanita” (and WP just tried to auto-correct it to that too!). I even got in an argument with someone from a utility company about it one time. They simply had never heard of Juniata. And apparently had never read it either.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Juniata is apparently the name of a river in Pennsylvania as well as a number of townships, one county, a rail line, etc, in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Nebraska. Originally the English language name of a Native tribe from Pennsylvania. No telling who brought it to StL.


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