Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What is a Hoosier?

What is a" Hoosier"?

Credit: Indiana Historical Association

I know that is what you call someone from Indiana. However, what was a "Hoosier" before Indiana became the Hoosier state?

I live 30 minutes from the Indiana state line. I once lived in Indiana. I drove across a good part of Indiana yesterday driving back from Chicago. However, I never knew what a "Hoosier" really was.

It seems that there is no definitive answer to what is a "Hoosier". There is a lot of speculation of where the term came from. Jeffrey Graf of the Reference Desk of the Indiana University Library provided the best summary I could find of the possible theories. These include:

  •  "Who's here?" as a question to unknown visitors or to the inhabitants of a country cabin;
  •  Hussar, from the fiery European mounted troops; "Huzzah!" proclaimed after victory in a fight; 
  • Husher, a brawny man, capable of stilling opponents;
  • Hoosa, an Indian word for corn;
  •  Hoose, an English term for a disease of cattle which gives the animals a wild sort of look; and the evergreen
  •  "Who's ear?" asked while toeing a torn-off ear lying on the bar room floor the morning after a brawl. 

However, Graf believes that a "Hoosier" was most likely used to describe a hick or a hillbilly.
The best evidence, however, suggests that "Hoosier" was a term of contempt and opprobrium common in the upland South and used to denote a rustic, a bumpkin, a countryman, a roughneck, a hick or an awkward, uncouth or unskilled fellow. Although the word's derogatory meaning has faded, it can still be heard in its original sense, albeit less frequently than its cousins "Cracker" and "Redneck."
From the South "Hoosier" moved north and westward with the people into the Ohio Valley, where it was applied at first to the presumably unsophisticated inhabitants of Southern Indiana. Later it expanded to include all residents of the state and gradually lost its original, potent connotation of coarseness in manners, appearance and intellect.
I am not sure any of these is correct based on a recent article I saw in Claims magazine (July, 2014) on the "10 Best and Worst States for Teen Drivers".

After reading that article, I would conclude that "Hoosier" meant bad teenage driver.

Consider these troubling facts if you travel the roads of Indiana:

  • Indiana has the most teen driver fatalities per licensed teen drivers in the U.S.

  • Indiana has the the second highest number (behind New Mexico) of teen "Under the Influence" traffic violations per licensed teen drivers.

On the hand, Indiana has fewer teens with driver's licenses than in any other state and they have some of the most restrictive laws in place for their teen drivers.

  • Indiana has the lowest percent of the teen population with driver's licenses.

  • Indiana is one of only 11 states that has at least five of seven optimal "Graduated Driver License Program Laws (GDL) which are designed to make teenagers better drivers. These include a minimum age of 16 for a learner's permit, 6-month holding period, 30 to 50 hours of supervised driving, nighttime driving restrictions, passenger restrictions, cell phone restrictions, and age 18 for an unrestricted license.

Go figure that one out.

What is a "Hoosier"?

I remain confused.

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