Saturday, January 16, 2010
Things I lie awake at night thinking about
Or, for you grammar police out there, maybe that should be Things about which I lie awake at night thinking, or Things about which I lie awake thinking at night, or maybe Things about which, thinking, I lie awake at night, or...oh, forget it. Let’s just go with Headscratchers.
Ready? Here goes:
Why are the residents of some countries called xxxish (English, British, Scottish, Irish, Turkish, Finnish, Swedish, Polish, Danish, Spanish) and some are called xxxese (Portuguese, Lebanese, Chinese, Japanese, Maltese, Nepalese) and some are called xxxian (Albanian, Indonesian, Arabian, Australian -- okay, they just added an N -- but how did we get Brazilian, Canadian, Argentinian, Iranian, Norwegian?) and some are called xxxan (American, Mexican, Costa Rican, Nicaraguan, Cuban) and some are called xxxi (Kuwaiti, Iraqi, Pakistani, Israeli) and some are called xxxers (New Zealanders) and some are even called xxxic (Icelandic), but the people in Wales are called Welsh? Is it scrunched-up British pronunciation for “Walesish” in the same scrunched-up way they say “Lester-sher” for “Leicestershire” and “Gloster-sher” for “Gloucestershire” and “Wuster-sher” for “Worcestershire” and “Tems” for “Thames” and “Sinjinswood” for “St. Johns Wood” and...well, I could go on and on. I think that last sentence was supposed to end with a question mark, but I’m not sure.
Some countries add a consonant just to be different: Congolese, Peruvian, Panamanian. Why?
And the -ish, -ese, -ian, -an, -i, and -ic folks are all adjectives, but the -ers in New Zealand are nouns. Why is that? I’m beginning to sound like Andy Rooney.
People in the Philippines are called Filipino. Why not Filipini or Filippinian or Filippinish? Did the world really need yet another suffix? And is Filipino an adjective or a noun? Inquiring minds want to know. And what happened to the Ph, anyhow?
Why not Norwayers? Nicaraguish? Walesian?
Why are people in the Netherlands Dutch?
I mean, who decides these things?
And it’s not just countries, either. It’s also true of the states in the U.S. -- we also have xxxians (Pennsylvanians, Virginians, North and South Carolinians, Californians, which all make sense, but why Floridians and Oregonians and Kentuckians?) and xxxers (New Yorkers, Marylanders, Rhode Islanders) and a whole lot of xxxans (Texans, Oklahomans, New Mexicans, Kansans, Nebraskans, Iowans, Tennesseeans, Utahans, Ohioans, Idahoans, Louisianans, North and South Dakotans, Minnesotans, Alaskans, Hawaiians), but who thought up Illini, Michiganders, and State of Mainers? I would have preferred Illinoisies and Mainiacs.
Are people in Arkansas Arkansasans or Arkansawyers? Pat?
If Michigan has Michiganders, shouldn’t the female residents be Michigeese and each individual female a Michigoose?
What do you call somebody from Massachusetts?
The Old Testament is filled with xxxites: Israelites, Canaanites, Jebusites, Amorites, Amalekites, Hittites, Edomites, Moabites, Stalactites, Stalagmites...oops, I got carried away. Why are there no -ites today?
The same sort of differences exist in names of cities. Some end in -town and others end in -ton, and still others end in -burg or -polis. I could give you examples, but I’m tired.
On another note entirely, who did put the overalls in Mrs. Murphy’s chowder?