Monday, September 05, 2011

Michiganian or Michigander?

Wilma McQueen wrote, “My question is about the use of Michiganders for Michiganians. When I was in the eighth grade we were taught we are Michiganians, not ganders. It stuck with me, and I do hear some use the term Michiganians to rhyme with Canadians, but, alas, I also hear too many who call us Michiganders, even radio personalities.”

Sounds like a gentle swipe at me or my co-host, Ron Jolly. But that’s O.K. The reality is that there is no official, sanctioned name. Like you, Wilma, the Michigan Historical Center tends to favor Michiganians, and it has appeared in their publications since the 1870s.

Resch Strategies, a Lansing-based public relations and communications consulting firm, conducted a poll on this very question. Michigan voters favored Michigander by a margin of 58% to 12%. Of the remaining 20% of responders, 7% said they use both, 11% said neither (Michiganite), and an apathetic 12% said they didn’t know and didn’t care. In addition, the poll revealed a geographical component: in all areas of the state, Michigander is the preferred term.

Michigander had an interesting origin. In 1848, Congressman Abraham Lincoln used the word in a speech lambasting Lewis Cass, former governor of Michigan, who was running as a Democratic presidential candidate. The word was a blend of Michigan and gander, implying that Cass was as silly as a goose.

So a word that started as a political insult is now the favored word to describe where we live.

Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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