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:
- 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)
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!