Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Clear Night 55° Clear
News >  Nation/World

They’re ‘Hoosiers’: Government will dump ‘Indianan’ reference

Jan. 12, 2017 Updated Thu., Jan. 12, 2017 at 7:50 a.m.

By Alex Gangitano Tribune News Service

WASHINGTON – People from Indiana will soon be referred to as Hoosiers in government documents, in part thanks to the state’s new junior senator, Todd Young.

The Government Publishing Office is releasing information declaring the name change on Thursday, Young said.

“There were a few of us in the state that collectively decided this was an affront to Hoosier pride and we all teamed up and decided to set the Government Printing Office straight,” the Republican senator said, referring to the GPO by its former name.

“We put in motion an effort to ensure that the Government Printing Office, henceforward, will refer to people from Indiana officially and legally as Hoosiers, not Indianans. Setting the record straight, we hope, for time immemorial,” Young said.

The GPO, the federal government’s official printer, received a letter in April 2016 from Young’s predecessor, former Sen. Dan Coats, and his colleague, Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly, asking its style board to change the designation of people from Indiana.

“If you look in a dictionary, the word Indianan may appear,” Young said. “But, the first task, the litmus test as to whether or not someone really is from Indiana or has spent any kind of considerable time in Indiana is whether or not they use the word ‘Indianan’ because no one in Indiana ever uses that term. We refer to ourselves as Hoosiers.”

An Indiana University professor backed up Young’s assertion.

“I’ve never heard anyone from the state of Indiana refer to ‘Indianans.’ The term within the state is ‘Hoosiers,’” political science professor Marjorie Hershey said. “There’s no agreement on what ‘Hoosiers’ means, if it means anything at all. But at least residents of Indiana answer to it, which is not the case with ‘Indianans.’”

Young said that while the term Hoosiers’ origin is not clear, “there’s all sorts of stories surrounding that and many any of them are pretty funny.”

One theory: “There was a very charismatic African-American pastor in some of the histories I’ve read back when Indiana was a territory and his last name was Hoosier,” the senator said.

The other theory Young acknowledged was that “someone with the last name of Hoosier actually recruited individuals to participate in the Lewis and Clark expedition, which began in Clarksville, Indiana, right there on the Ohio River.”

But his favorite theory goes like this.

“We were rough frontiersmen back when Indiana was a territory, even before then,” Young said. “We were so rough that at the end of a long day of chopping wood and clearing the land, people would converge in taverns and often time they’d be fights. It was conventional to rip the ears off of someone who you just defeated in a brawl. When everyone woke up from their drunken stupor, they would pick an ear up off of the ground and say, ‘Whose ear?’”

He said the proponents of that theory think the term has been distorted into Hoosier over the years.

“I kind of like that one. Maybe it’s the Marine in me,” Young said.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox

Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.