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?


  1. This is also high on my list of questions. I've just posted three of the other questions that keep me awake during the day, isn't thát a weird coïncidence?).

    I do know we Dutch are called that because it is derived from Duits, which is German to you. We call Germany Duitsland. And Germans are Duitsers to us. And they speak Duits.
    And in our national anthem we sing that we are proud to be Duits. Which we are NOT! So I never sing that line. It has to do with our Royals and their family history.

    But I agree with you. It doesn't make sense at all and it has always puzzled me. Perhaps one of your distiguished readers will shed some light on this issue.
    Perhaps you can shed light on my post?

  2. I think it is Saint John's Wood, but 'Sinjun' (St John) when it's a christian name. I'm glad such thoughts brighten your sleepless, waking hours.

  3. How about 'Thoughts which keep me awake at night' as a title? It just came to me as a possible concise version of your grammatical conundrum.

  4. The Germans call themselves Deutschers. And they live in Deutschland. Where they speak Deutsch.

    Thanks for confusing me even more ;-)

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  7. Yes. There are many of us females who hail from Michigan who call ourselves Michigeese. I was one of the early ones on the 'net, but now there are lots of us appearing who have obviously thought the same thing. :)

  8. These are the thoughts worth thinking. Words play with our minds, and that is what makes them interesting.

  9. about perfection according to sis i am not

  10. An interesting post but you seem to be driving yourself towards boiling point with these gnawing questions about language. Just in case the need arises, Cherokee County Mental Health Services may be contacted by phone on 1-800-715-4225. Eleanor may also need this number - should you completely flip!

  11. People from Illinois are Illinoisans. (But do not ever pronounce the "s") Illini is the name of the college team and the Native American tribe.

  12. Thanks for all the comments, folks!

    Carolina in Nederland, I thought Germans were Deutsch and called their country Deutschland...and what about "Sprechen zie Deutsch?"??? It's the Duits stuff that confuses me.

    jinksy (Penny), Sinjin or Saint John, what you do with Magdelene shouldn't happen to a dog. But thanks for the alternate title. I like it.

    Sis (Carolyn), never heard of "Warster" ears have always heard "Wuster" with the U pronounced like the OO in look.

    Michigoose, welcome to the comments section of my blog! I don't think I have seen you here before.

    Phoenix-Karenee, may our words always be interesting and our thoughts worth thinking!

    Putz, like Yoda you talk. Understanding the reference to Sis I am not.

    YP, I wouldn't dial that number if you paid me. For all I know, it might be a porn line.

    Ruth, thanks for the info about all things Illinoi(s)an!

  13. P.S. to Putz, back to Sis's comment I went and what a dull world it would be if we were all perfection personified I read, so no longer not understanding I am. On the contrary, with her I am agreeing, and also with you.

  14. Now this is the kind of deep thinking I have come to expect from you.

  15. Love Yorkshire Pudding's comment...and, as for me, in good ol' Alabama with a banjo on my knee, we Southerners call someone from Mass. a D*** YANKEE!! =o)

  16. Yes, like that last fellow is metaphorically saying, it's all very bizarre.

  17. Ar-KAN-sans, Bob.

    The reason I haven't been around is that I'm having computer problems. Serious enough that this puppy probably has to make a visit to the doctor. I see $$$ flying out the window.

    Be back when I can.