Stuff We Like #87 - Demonyms
Scott returns to talk about a new word he just discovered...
Okay, so I was happily working through a response from one of my beta folks on The Great North, my latest novella, when I ran across a puzzling note.
It seems that I'd sown a little confusion with my choice of town name - Manicoan. It was a bastardization of the name of a reservoir in Quebec - Manicougan, but the problem lay in the fact that it was also the name I was using for the people of the village, and this was causing some issues in the story.
So I went looking for how the names of inhabitants of cities, states and countries are formed, and came across a word I had never seen before:
There may be a reason I don't know this word (aside from my general ignorance). According to an article at Dictionary.com:
"The word “demonym” was coined by Paul Dickson, an editor at Merriam-Webster, in his 1997 book Labels for Locals."
Demo means municipality in greek, and as for that "nym":
"The suffix -onym, in English and other languages, means "word, name", and words ending in -onym refer to a specified kind of name or word, most of which are classical compounds."
Going back to Dictionary.com:
"In English we denote place of origin by suffixes. The most common suffixes that denote place are: -(a)n (Chicagoan), -er (New Yorker), -ese (Chinese), -ian (Norwegian), and -ish (English). Where did these suffixes come form? Latin, of course. -ish actually comes from Old English, which is why citizens of the British Isles have -ish demonyms: Scottish, Welsh, English, etc. The other suffixes came from Latin, though they each convey slightly different senses. -ese most directly meant “belonging to or originating in a place.” -(a)n and -ian are variations on the same suffix meaning “belonging to.” -er was used principally in the sense of “one having to do with a thing,” as in lawyer or villager. As with most vocabulary in English, they all now coexist and serve the same purpose."
So back to my problem. Here's lake manicougan - a reservoir in the remains of an ancient meteor crater. Pretty, isn't it?
My town name is Manicoan. So using some of the standard endings, my people could be:
They're all so fricking long, and I wasn't happy with any of them.
Then my beta reader suggested changing the town name.
And so my problem was resolved. The new name? Manicouga - closer to the original name. And the inhabitants? The Manicougans. :)
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