After requests by senators on both sides of the aisle to discontinue a name no one used, the federal government has decided to refer to citizens of Indiana by what they’ve been calling themselves for decades: Hoosiers.
U.S. Senators Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, and Todd Young, R-Indiana, announced Jan. 12 the Government Publishing Office had granted a request made last year by Donnelly and former senator Dan Coats, R-Indiana, to change the designation in government publications from “Indianan” to “Hoosier.”
“We aren’t achieving world peace here, but it’s nice to be recognized by the federal government as Hoosiers,” Young said in a press release. “It’s not just a classic movie. It’s not just the nickname for IU athletics. It’s who we are.”
As implied by Young in the announcement, the name “Hoosier,” though its origins are hazy, has become deeply tied to Indiana identity.
According to research by Jeffrey Graf, who works in reference services for IU Libraries, the name “Hoosier” was originally an insult that meant something along the lines of “redneck” or “hick.”
However, by the 1830s it had come into popular usage, and politicians, both from Indiana and across the country, were referring to the “Hoosier state of Indiana.”
It has been used by journalist H.L. Mencken and poet Walt Whitman and entered into the Oxford English Dictionary. As is more commonly known the name was adopted by IU and its athletic teams, athletes across the state and citizens from Indiana as a whole.
Now the name “Hoosier,” for many people in the state, can mean community, family, home and pride.
“When I think of the term ‘Hoosier,’ I think of everyone I’ve met since I moved here,” IU freshman Tina Rosario said. “No matter what race, ethnicity, religion, or beliefs we have, we’re all united under that term that inspires us to act as a community.”
Of course, some around the nation have found the name a source of mockery. National columnists Dave Barry, who currently writes for the Miami Herald, and Mike Royko, who writes for three Chicago area newspapers, have both ridiculed the name “Hoosier” in their columns, though Barry also apologized after getting letters from Hoosiers proud of their state.
“I think that is something to be proud of,” IU freshman Laura Buckles said. “Indiana is my home, and I’ve always considered myself a Hoosier.”
For IU sophomore Emma Robinette, the term reminds her of her childhood growing up in Indiana. There is a hotdog place in her hometown that calls ketchup Hoosier sauce. Robinette said if she asked for ketchup the restaurant gave her nothing — she had to ask for Hoosier sauce.
The name change is fun and differentiates Indiana from other states like Midwest states like Michigan, the residents of which are called Michiganders, Robinette said.
“I think that sounds ridiculous,” Robinette said about the term Michiganders. “We have a less weird sounding name — not to shade Michigan.”
Donnelly said though the name change may seem small, ”Hoosier” will now appear on all publications out of the Government Publishing Office.
“I’m glad that the federal government has agreed to our change and will now call us what we call ourselves: Hoosiers,” he said.
The Government Publishing Office publishes, produces and distributes information for all three branches of government. This includes all official publications out of Congress, the White House and other federal agencies.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Donnelly said.