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Opinion >  Column

Paul Turner: Spokanite, Spokanian, Spokanoid? Maybe it’s time we settle on a name

File - The US Pavilion in Spokane’s River Front Park. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
File - The US Pavilion in Spokane’s River Front Park. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

This city has more pressing concerns.

Still, there’s something I’d like to see us figure out in 2018.

What do you call a Spokane resident?

I know. I’ve been writing about this longer than some of my colleagues have been alive. And yet, the matter remains unresolved.

Let’s consider the contenders.

Back in 2004, I gave readers multiple choices and asked them to vote.

“Spokanians” got the most support. “Spokanites” came in second.

But that did not settle it. Far from it. Perhaps that’s because it could be argued many of us lack enthusiasm for either option.

“Spokanians” reminds me of a telling moment in the 1962 film version of “The Music Man.”

Mayor Shinn, played by the great Paul Ford, is addressing a group of citizens in his little Iowa town. All pumped up, he bellows, “My fellow River City…zians,” noticeably stumbling on that decidedly awkward construction.

And “Spokanite”? As has been noted before, that sounds like a Cold War Russian satellite or a radioactive mineral.

What about some of the other options? OK, let’s take them one at a time.

Spokaners: Lacks a certain lyrical lilt.

Spose: I know it’s intended to make you think of “I suppose,” but it sort of conjures images of women’s leggings.

Spokes: Too many bicycling-haters here for that to catch on.

S’kanners: Sounds too much like “scammers” or a city of cashiers (not that there is anything wrong with that).

Spokanoids: Makes you want to delicately apply a soothing medicinal ointment.

Spokadians: Would be a contender if anyone here had ever referred to this area as Spokadia.

Spokaneers: Sounds like a hiking club or scout troop. But I sort of like the similarity to “pioneers.”

Spotuckian: Nope.

Spokanthraxer: Uh, no.

Spopudlian: This isn’t Liverpool.

Lilacker: That middle syllable is a problem.

Canners (as in residents of The Can): If “Cannery Row” author John Steinbeck had lived here, it might be a prospect.

Spokanistaner: Doesn’t exactly slide right off the tongue, does it?

Various spin-offs of Spokaloo: No. Trust me. “Spokaloon” might be mildy amusing at first. But it would not wear well.

River Cityzians: Ask Mayor Shinn.

Perhaps there is an appealing choice out there just waiting to be proposed. But I have to wonder. Wouldn’t it have surfaced by now?

Instead, we keep trying to get our minds and mouths around Spokanite, Spokanian or whatever.

So, does this even matter?

It depends. How important is a name?

For the purposes of identity? For marketing value?

Of course, we’re used to mixed signals about our basic place names around here. Some of us say Inland Northwest, others say Inland Empire. Some say North Idaho, some say northern Idaho.

Perhaps we could lift something from one of Spokane’s recent civic slogans: “Near Nature, Near Perfect” or “Creative By Nature.”

Nature Boys? Nah. What about the other half of the population? Besides, it sounds like a city of nudists.

Creatives? Don’t think so. Sounds like a city just begging to get beat up on the playground by other cities.

What about borrowing a local college sports nickname?

Surely some here would not mind the idea of a Spokane resident being known as a “Zag.”

But others undoubtedly would prefer “Coug.”

And so on.

In any event, none of that would bring us any closer to a consensus.

But maybe agreement is overrated. Yes, it would be nice to all be on the same page, to all stay on message, as political advisers might say.

The thing is, people here don’t like to be told what to do. So the minute the word comes down from on high that everyone is now supposed to say “Spokanite” or “Spokanian,” well, a lot of your neighbors would start saying whatever they thought was the opposite.

Heck, I think I would, too.

So let’s just forget that I even brought this up.

Maybe if we maintain our focus on getting people to correctly pronounce the name of this city, that’s enough for now.

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