In Missouri it is a slang term that is used in a derogatory manner to refer to white folks, usually from the country. Very similar to hick or redneck. I don't know if this ties back to any history that Missourians have with Indiana. I tend to think of hick as someone from Tennessee and similar states, while rednecks are more south and south-central US, and hoosiers are the more northern version.

Why are people from Indiana called "Hoosiers"?

For over 160 years people from Indiana have been known as "Hoosiers." The curious thing is that no one seems to know exactly why. All that is known for sure is that the term came into general usage in the 1830's. Even the Indiana State Library doesn't know the origin of the word. However, the Indiana Historical Bureau offers the following popular theories:

  1. When a visitor hailed a pioneer cabin in Indiana or knocked upon its door, the settler would respond "Who's yere?" From this frequent response Indiana became known as the "Who's yere" or Hoosier state. (This explanation sounds kinda lame)
  2. Indiana river men were so spectacularly successful in trouncing or "hushing" their adversaries in the brawling that was then common, that they became known as the "hushers," eventually Hoosiers. (Lame, too)
  3. There was once a contractor named Hoosier employed on the Louisville and Portland Canal who preferred to hire laborers from Indiana. They were called "Hoosier's men" and eventually all Indianans (there's a weird word...) were called Hoosiers. Seeing that Hoosier was a real company, this is a possible explanation.
  4. A theory attributed to Governor Joseph Wright claimed that Hoosier derived from an Indian word for corn, hoosa. Indiana flatboatmen taking corn or maize to New Orleans became known as "Hoosa men" or Hoosiers. Unfortunately, a search of Indian vocabularies by a careful student of linguistics failed to reveal any such word for corn. So much for this explanation.
  5. And now the most ridiculous of them all:
    Another explanation was offered by author James Whitcomb Riley. He claimed that it originated in the pugnacious habits of our early settlers. They were enthusiastic and vicious fighters who gouged, scratched, and bit off noses and ears. This occurred so often that a settler who came into a tavern the morning after a fight and saw an ear on the floor would touch it with his toe and casually ask "Whose ear?," later “hoosier.”(I am laughing as I write this)

The lack of a reasonable origin or meaning for the name Hoosier has not stopped Indianans from proudly proclaiming that they are Hoosiers, even though they have no idea what a Hoosier is!

"Tires Designed For Champions"

Hoosier Tire began in 1957, during the early days of Midwestern racing. In those days, performance and safety were both compromised by the use of street tires for circle track racers. Bob and Joyce Newton, a successful amateur racing team, decided that they could fix the problem. From an abandoned barn in Indiana, they began a business re-treading street tires with softer, stickier rubber. The Hoosier name was chosen to reflect their Midwestern racing history.

From 1962 until 1978, Hoosier produced all their tires in conjunction with the Mohawk Rubber Company of Akron, Ohio. When the Akron plant closed, Bob and Joyce were faced with a decision that could make or break their company. With a mortgage on Hoosier Tire and their own home, they founded the R & J Manufacturing Corporation. The company performed so well that in 1985, they secured a $1 million loan to purchase equipment for mixing their own rubber compounds. Hoosier was the first company to produce racing tires from the ground up.

In 1988, the company's first year in the Winston Cup yielded 9 victories. The next season, Hoosier race tires won the Indianapolis 500. The company built a second plant in 1992, dedicated solely to producing "super speedway" tires designed for racing at over 200 mph. Unfortunately, they were forced to withdraw from NASCAR competition the following year. Under NASCAR rules, tire manufacturers must produce enough tires to supply every car in a race, regardless of how many of these cars are using such tires. For Hoosier, whose performance "rubber" compounds are so advanced that they have a limited shelf life, this rule was too expensive to continue.

Since 1998, the manufacturing side of Hoosier Tire has been named "Hoosier Tire & Rubber Corp". Hoosier is currently the largest racing tire manufacturer in the world, and takes pride in the fact that all of its tires are made in the USA. The company is still privately owned and operated by the Newton family, and is one of the largest employers in Plymouth, Indiana.

Hoo"sier (?), n.

A nickname given to an inhabitant of the State of Indiana.



© Webster 1913.

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