I am a great collector of something for which English, very oddly, does not seem to have a name: the Spanish word gentilicio is defined in my Oxford Spanish Dictionary as “name given to the people from a particular region or country,” and English has as wide a variety as any other language, distributed with an illogic and inconsistency that delight me. Thanks to Mark Liberman’s latest post at the Log, citing John Wells’s phonetic blog (which looks quite interesting), I’ve discovered one of the best ones ever: Kittitian, a person from St. Kitts. Wells asks himself why the name, and answers “I don’t know, and I suspect the OED doesn’t really know either, though it suggests that Kittitian is modelled on Haitian. (But Kitts : Kittitian is not really like Haiti : Haitian.)” The superb Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage adds a little more speculation: “Prob. < Kittsian (cp HAITIAN, VINCENTIAN) + insertion [-tɪš] by dissimilation or epenthesis.” It also provides this tidbit: “Curiously, up to early in the twentieth century they were referred to as ‘Kittifonians’.” Let a thousand gentilicisms bloom!


  1. I’ve heard “demonym.”

  2. It may be too obvious, but wouldn’t Kittitian be intended to match Nevisian, as Saint Kitts and Nevis are neighboring islands and now a two-island nation?

  3. Would nicknames like “Hoosier” fall into this category? Or is it restricted to words constructed from the place name, like “Indianian”? (Or is it “Indianan”?)

  4. I’ve always found it funny that people from Halifax are called Haligonians.

  5. By coincidence, the premier episode of Alton Brown’s Feasting on Waves last night was in St. Kitts. It seemed the native pronunciation of Kittitian was a little fuller in the last syllable; or possibly I’m misremembering. Maybe I’ll happen to catch that part of the rerun or someone else here noticed.

  6. Well, on the other hand, the speakers in YouTube videos for Kittitian Superstar auditions all seem to have /ʃn/.

  7. “Kittsian” or “Kittian” would sound like “kitchen”.

  8. You don’t read Wells?! Pity.
    I’ve been following him slavishly since the ‘cow dialects’ debacle.

  9. Wikipedia seems to have settled on the term “Demonym” in their country infoboxes.

  10. Sounds demonic!

  11. John Emerson says

    I like the Glaswegian / Norwegian pair.

  12. Liverpudlian.

  13. Mancunian – (Manchester, UK – Mancunium to the Romans, or was it Mamucium?). Although, by birth, according to my old school magazine, I’m a Coventrian.

  14. I’m from New England, where I am constantly running into Maniacs from Maine and Vermen from Vermont.

  15. And let’s not forget the Massholes (said the proud resident of Massachusetts).

  16. MMcM,
    here‘s a video of Brown saying the word twice. You’re right, the final syllable is definitely fuller. It sounds like [‘kidiʃān] to me, but the question is how accurately Brown’s pronunciation reflects that of the locals. I’ll investigate further.

  17. michael farris says

    ASL has a bunch of insulting/joking place/people names.
    Some I remember (the first three are from North Florida, the last is I think national):
    Georgia : Using the G and A hand shapes to sign STINK-STUPID
    Florida : Using the F L and A handshapes to sign SMOKEPOT-DRINK-SECRET
    Alabama : Use the A L A hand for STUPID-LAZY-STUPID
    New York : For the normal sign, the Y hand moves back and forth on the palm of the non-dominant hand (supposedly it comes from an old sign for the subway). Insulting signs replace the non-dominant palm with the armpit, bottom of the foot or the butt.

  18. This reminded me of an old episode of Taxi where Jim Ignatowski spends all day watching a televised debate about whether the inhabitants of Delaware should be called Delawarians, Delawarites or Delaweenians.

  19. Returning to matters Caribbean, Barbados yields the term Bajan.
    There does not seem to be a gentonym (if you like that, I’ll copyright it) for residents of the Virgin Islands, whether British or US. Therefore you can’t speak of Virgins, and the only Virginians come from a place between Tarheels and Terrapins.
    A term that Puerto Ricans are known by in Spanish may be seeping into general American usage–boricua or boriquen, which derives, IIRC, from an Arawak storm god.
    Of course, if you want to meet a surviving Arawak population, your best bet is in Dominica; but if you want a Spanish speaker, you should aim for the Dominican Republic. Odds of locating a member of the Order of Preachers of course are better in Santo Domingo.

  20. komfo,amonan says

    I believe Borinquen is used for the island itself, and boricua for the people. Similarly, Quisqueya/quisqueyano. FWIW Wikipedia says they are Taíno words.
    Mancunian: This has always struck me as odd, because I had always read that Mamucium was the name of the Roman garrison town. The intert00bz say that both Mamucium and Mancunium were used in the military itinerary of Antoninus Pius. I’m gonna WAG that the latter is a scribal error for the former. OED places the earliest usage of Mancunian in 1904, which makes me think it’s a learned coinage. It’s worth noting in this context that Manchester was abandoned by the Romans before 410 and did not regain urban momentum again until the 13th century. That lack of continuity in a town currently so large also struck me as odd.

  21. komfo,amonan says

    Oops. I meant Borinquén, and also that Quisqueya refers to the Dominican Republic.

  22. Crown, A.J.P. says

    There’s a criticism of JFK (made only by non-native speakers of German, apparently) that he ought to have said ich bin Berliner — one who is a native of the city — rather than ich bin ein Berliner, ein Berliner implying something more like ‘I am a jelly doughnut’. Berliners (the people) deny this, saying they themselves don’t use the word Berliner to mean doughnut (although people do here in Norway). Whatever the truth, it’s pretty clear he couldn’t have made such a speech in say, Hamburg or Vienna.

  23. I’m from a town called Arklow – I don’t know what the official term would be, but my friends and I have always referred to ourselves as Arklowdians. Or Arklowdianites, but that’s just silly (and a rip-off of The Simpsons to boot).

  24. John Emerson says

    Or Denmark. The natives of our European dependencies have the quaint custom of naming themselves after sandwiches, sausages, and pastries. Their self-deprecating humor charms us.

  25. Preachy Preach says

    In my last workplace, where I had to deal with our Luxembourg office a lot, whether I referred to Luxembourg, Luxembourgian or Luxembourgeois depended an awful lot on how much they’d pissed me off that day…

  26. Of course, the Danish for Danish is not Danish, any more than the British Queen sings “God Save Me”.
    The New Europe places are tricky; it seems to me the shorter names are for the ethnic group and the longer names for the the state of citizenship — though I’m not sure how many Serbian Croats, Croatian Serbs, or Slovakian Czechs there are left.

  27. In the Australianist literature it’s usually called denizen terminology (denizen suffixes in particular), e.g. Bardi Iwany-yoon ‘Sunday Islander’.

  28. Crown, A. J.P. says

    M. Mooly, the Danish for Danish is not Danish, any more than the British Queen sings “God Save Me”
    If there’s anyone in the world I would expect to notice that those two aren’t congruent, it’s Molly Mooly.
    Frankfurt is another example.

  29. The New Europe places
    New and Improved Europe©®™ is what we prefer to be called, thankyouverymuch.
    the shorter names are for the ethnic group and the longer names for the the state of citizenship
    Hm, that would make sense, but does it actually work like this?
    I can’t seem to find any relevant data on Serbs in Croatia and vice versa, but as for Czechs in Slovakia, at the time of the last regular census (2001), there were 44620 citizens of Slovakia who gave their ethnicity as “Czech”.

  30. John Emerson says

    What happened to the Herzogovinans / Herzogovines, by the way? Had they already been cleansed by the Bosnians before the most recent civil wars? There seems to be a conspiracy of silence about them.

  31. John Emerson says

    The name of Herzegovina was forced upon Bosnia by Otto Von Bismarck during the Congress of Berlin in 1878. This was a continuation of Hungarian hegemony upon Slavic tribes in the Austro-Hungarian empire.
    So that’s the justification for the suppression of the Herzogovines. But what actually happened to the quislings of the Hungarian oppressor?

  32. David Marjanović says

    Whatever the truth, it’s pretty clear he couldn’t have made such a speech in say, Hamburg or Vienna.

    And while we are at it, let me mention that the Austrian term for the pastry in question is Krapfen. Also, the article in ein Berliner is normal in Austria, and obligatory in the dialects.

  33. David Marjanović says

    Not to mention the diversity within Germany. Rather than Berliner, some say Pfannkuchen. Yes, “pancake”, I kid you not.

  34. John Emerson says

    “Pancake” is an American family name. I’ve met a member of the family.

  35. Crown, A.J.P. says

    They seem to come from a long line of pastries, but shouldn’t they really be calling themselves the Donuts? I suppose it makes you sound kind of fat.

  36. If there’s anyone in the world I would expect to notice that those two aren’t congruent, it’s Molly Mooly.
    Okay then: the Danish for Danish is not Danish, just as in the Emerald Isle Kelly from the Emerald Isle is not from the Emerald Isle.

  37. Crown, A.J.P. says

    That’s more like it, now I understand your point.

  38. Crown, A.J.P. says

    @ David Marjanović,
    If I were to say ich bin ein Wiener, Austrians would think I was claiming to be a hot-dog sausage, especially since my German accent is not specially Viennese. It’s not a very practical system.
    Another thing while we’re on food and names of the Holy Roman Empire: I know English has some funny names, we need look no further than the Hat family, but didn’t anyone think it was pretty damn strange to have a German chancellor named Cabbage?

  39. John Emerson says

    “Wiener” is one of the names that might or might not be Jewish, and I have a friend here in Minnesota, very conscious of his jewish heritage, who is continually having to explain that he cannot be related to some of the small-town Christian Wieners around here.
    I thought it was odd for France to have an Anglophobe culture minister named Jack Lang, and I say this as a near-Anglophobe named Emerson.
    I also reject the theory that Charles Krauthammer’s name really should have been “Krautheimer”, finding it more amusing to imagine his ancestors eking out a precarious living hammering some sort of kraut.

  40. David Marjanović says

    If I were to say ich bin ein Wiener, Austrians would think I was claiming to be a hot-dog sausage

    Most emphatically not!!! For that you’d have to say ich bin ein Frankfurter. =8-)
    And that still wouldn’t work, because those sausages simply don’t occur in the singular. You’re supposed to eat whole pairs.
    The legend has it that the sausages were invented in Vienna by someone called Frankfurter. Or something. The Germans*, you see, call them Wiener Würstchen.
    * I bet this is a mistaken generalization. That’s always a safe bet when talking about regional differences within German.

    but didn’t anyone think it was pretty damn strange to have a German chancellor named Cabbage?


    I thought it was odd for France to have an Anglophobe culture minister named Jack Lang

    That’s because it is odd! 🙂

    I also reject the theory that Charles Krauthammer’s name really should have been “Krautheimer”

    Makes limited sense, though. That’s a sound change (ignoring the lengths of /a/ and /m/) that has happened in the Bavarian-Austrian dialects like mine. But then, that requires there to be a village called Krautheim… “cabbage home”… yes, that is possible, but it’s still not terribly likely.

  41. an Anglophobe culture minister named Jack Lang
    Jack Lang’s first name was unusual for his generation but he could have been named after an older relative. There seems to have been an anglomania (or americanomania) for a few years after the end of the first world war, so that some French babies were given short, four-letter English given names such as Jack (spelled this way instead of Jacques), Jane (instead of Jeanne), and even Fred and Maud. This fashion appears to have been short-lived as such names seem to be typical of an era. It could not go very far since until a few years ago the naming of French newborns was officially regulated and local authorities could refuse to register a child with an unusual name.

  42. David Marjanović says

    This fashion appears to have been short-lived as such names seem to be typical of an era.

    Maud still exists, as far as I know, and Leslie (female only) and Audrey are popular.
    There was a similar fashion in German-speaking countries, but it extended only to nicknames: people named Karl or Josef or Friedrich or Alfred were called Charlie, Joe or Fred. This has died out — but that’s not the fashion’s fault: instead, nobody (and I mean nobody) has been baptized Karl or Josef or anything reducible to “Fred” for the last 35 or so years.

  43. John Emerson says

    Karl and Carl have survived around here, but there are no more Emils or Brunos or Aloises.

  44. It was the fashion in late imperial Russia, too: Nicholas II was “Nicky” to his wife.

  45. Maud still exists, as far as I know, and Leslie (female only) and Audrey are popular.
    Since the French law restricting naming has been abolished, English names (especially those of movie stars and other celebrities) have become very popular in France, and unlike the earlier fashion, they are not limited to short words. One of my nieces has two children, named Ethan and April (even though their parents’ knowledge of English is practically nil). Leslie would not be suitable as a male name as it ends in -ie like Marie and many other female names .
    There seems to be a class distinction there: giving children the names of American movie actors is popular among the less educated, while middle and upper class people are more likely to choose longer names popular in earlier centuries, such as Sébastien, Théophile or Grégoire (the latter perhaps influenced by English Gregory). This second trend seems to have started at the top.

  46. Nicholas II was “Nicky” to his wife
    Wasn’t his wife from the British royal family?

  47. Crown, A.J.P. says

    So I have to say ich bin zwei Wiener Würstchen?? Nobody’s going to take me very seriously if I say that, David, they’ll think I’m talking about Cartesian dualism, the separation of mind and sausage.
    I think it was Alexandra, the granddaughter of Queen Victoria and sister of Queen Maud of Norway.

  48. John Emerson says

    I called Avril Lavigne “April” when talking to a fan once. People care about those things.

  49. Wasn’t his wife from the British royal family?
    Yes and no. She was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, but that was true of half the royals in Europe. She was born in Darmstadt as Princess Alix Viktoria Helena Luise Beatrice of Hesse and by Rhine, so (like most of the wives of the Romanovs) she was a German princess. She spoke English, of course, and she and Nicky corresponded in that language.

  50. Just to confuse matters entirely Danishes are Wiennese in Danish. Wiennese bread (wienerbrød), actually.
    As the story goes there was big strike among the Danish bakers’ apprentices – or journeymen, more likely – and as a result a great number of Austrian journeymen were imported as scabs. Bringing with them a speciality from their homeland consisting of yeasted bread folded many times with butter.
    Presumable “Adolf”‘s fallen out of favour, too.

  51. Crown, A.J.P. says

    Calvin Trillin once wrote an article in the New Yorker where he said that it’s illegal in Germany to take a shower after ten at night in case you disturb your neighbors. I never took much notice of it while I lived in Hamburg, but I believe there may actually be some truth in it.

  52. John Emerson says

    Karl XII of Sweden was engaged to his cousin Sophia Hedvig of Denmark, but since the two nations were at more neither of them ever married. Karl’s sister Hedvig Sophia was engaged to a different cousin from Holstein-Gottorp, a Swedish ally. The two siblings’ mother was Danish, but their grandmother was from Holstein-Gottorp and more influential at court, at least during the war against Denmark.
    My point is that dynastic marriages are weird as hell.

  53. David Marjanović says

    a speciality from their homeland consisting of yeasted bread folded many times with butter.

    Really? I don’t recognize it, and according to my dictionary (which does come from Germany, though) there is no German word for it at all.

    Presumable “Adolf”‘s fallen out of favour, too.

    Oh yes. Completely disappeared in 1945. Along with the perfectly innocent Ignaz — guess what the nickname for that one was!

    I believe there may actually be some truth in it.

    Disturbing neighbors is generally considered a deadly sin.

  54. John Emerson says

    Someone told me that the name “Soren” is no longer used in Denmark because Kierkegaard was so depressing and annoying. (His surname sort of made that inevitable, though). Also, that idiomatically people say “Don’t be a Soren” to mean something like “Quit being annoying and making issues of everything”.
    A second person told me that there’s no truth in that at all. But guess which person is more fun to quote in casual conversation?

  55. Crown, A.J.P. says

    Disturbing neighbors is generally considered a deadly sin
    And quite right too, it’s just that the freedom to shower is written into the US Constitution (under the bit about the right to bare arms). It can get so hot in the summer.

  56. Crown, A.J.P. says

    In that case, she was a first cousin of Dronning Maud (who was a sister of George V), and a first cousin of Keiser Bill. It’s true they are as “related” as a silo of hillbillies. (Apparently inn sest is a “questionable” word, and cannot be submitted.)

  57. Going Dotty in Kansas says

    Anent a silo of hillbillies, out here some confusion still remains as to applicable epithets. You can hear “Lawrencian” and “Lawrentian” (sorry, i dont know ipa so i have to resort to strunk&white preferred orthography); much less frequently “Larryvillager” or “Larryvilleman”. Area hillbillies/sandrats refer to inhabitants of Lawrence as “goddamn freestaters and freethinkers”.

  58. arrrgh – hit F5 instead of F4. Bugger!
    Anyway – in telegram format then.
    – I used to know a good deal of Christian IX’s descendants by heart. More of a republican now. Only looking at our pols make me balk at even a ceremonial prez – no offence to Germany or Israël.
    – Isn’t “Berliner” actually short for “Berlinerpfannkuchen”?
    – Way to ruïn a good story, David. Can’t find “Wienerbrød in the three encyclopedia I checked (1820, 1920, 1950). ODS’s earliest citation is only 1920, but I don’t think it’s ever been as thorough as Oxford when it comes to antedating (still haven’t bought the paper copy …)

  59. Ah!
    “These Wiennese had trouble adjusting to the Danish measurements and recipes. Thus they produced their own cakes according to their own recipes.
    “These were a great success [one might even say they sold like hotcakes], first and foremost ‘Plundergebäcken‘ – a sweet piece of yeast-dough, wrapped in butter and rolled and folded many times.”

  60. :sighs:
    Am I the only one who miss the old-time spammers that offered us WoW-gold and whatnot?
    tsk tsk tsk What is the world coming to? Trolls these days! Nah – in my time …

  61. John Emerson says

    Sili, don’t go! What about Kierkegaard?

  62. John Emerson says


  63. I deliberate ignored you musings – I didn’t want to rob you of your illusions …
    My father’s name is Søren (well he’s hyphenated, but that’s a long story). And his grandfather was named Søren too, which I guess takes us back to around Kirkegaard’s time – though I doubt my family ever heard of him (I seem to recall some vague indication that Søren’s father might have been ‘born again’ for lack of a better translation).
    In short – I’ve never heard that existenstialism shoulda done anything to reduce the number of Sørens. Sorry.
    But of course – like my own, these ‘old’ names are getting less common. Everyöne wants their kid to be special. (There does seem to be a bit of a great-grandparent effect going on these days, though).
    Not sure if the link will work, but if not you can play around with the developments in Danish nomenclature since ’85 here:

  64. *deliberately, even

  65. Getting away from pastry and sausage, is the relevant word “ethnonym”?

  66. Siganus Sutor says

    There are many mysteries in this (demonic) world. One of them is why the inhabitants of Mars, written with an -s, have their name written “Martians”, with a -t. It’s not because they do not complain much that we shouldn’t have the decency to refer to them as Marsians.

  67. Siganus Sutor says

    BTW, do the ordinary “Burmese” complain, sometimes?

  68. Some time ago I was wondering why, while we have the distinction between Malay and Malaysian in English, we didn’t have the distinction between Thai and, say, Thailandese (cf. thaï vs thaïlandais in Francese). Any idea why?

  69. As the absentee King of Mars I can assure you that there is no one living there at the moment; there are no Martians except me, in an honorary capacity. Oddly enough, Marsvinn is the Norwegian word for guinea-pig.

  70. You must be an imposter as, unlike the people of Thailand, Marsians haven’t had a sovereign for the last 16 years.

  71. Even more fun, in Danish “marsvin” are both guineapigs and porpoise.
    Personally I blame Tyge Brahe. Not only did he make the most accurate observations of the sky until then and dappled in alchemy, but he was several centuries ahead of his time in the dark arts of genemanipulation and interbreeding.
    Does anyone know if mr Car (m/f) is trying to communicate with us? I’m reminded of that science fiction story mentioned on the Log a while back about a civilisation whose language morphed from day to day – I can’t seem to find it now.

  72. “Je crois que ce Martien veut communiquer.”
    (Stanley Ipkiss in The Mask.)

  73. ah – HOOOOOOOOOOOO – gah!!

  74. Even more fun, in Danish “marsvin” are both guineapigs and porpoise.
    Wow, er det sant?
    Do yo have the verb to hamster, in Danish? To hoard, på engelsk.

  75. Apparently porpoise is marsouin in French,. too. That must cause TERRIBLE confusion in Denmark, why the mix up? How do you know if your neighbour’s little girl has a guinea pig or a porpoise… or indeed, a pet Martian?

  76. Apparently porpoise is marsouin in French, too.
    Yes, since the word to name such a “sea pig” was borrowed from Scandinavia. Marsouin is also the name given to the French infanterie de marine (equivalent to the Royal Marines in Britain).

  77. But Danes should not try to use marsouin to mean ‘guinea pig’ in French. That animal is called cochon d’Inde, literally ‘India pig’ (dating from a time where ‘Inde(s)’ referred to both Asia and America).

  78. A hamster is a hamster, and you can hamstre like one, too.
    Marsvin 2

    from German “Meerschwein(chen); the name likely refers to the animal as being from overseas.

    According that they apparently have also been known as “pig-rabbits” – almost as good as a crockoduck.

  79. Ok so French, sensibly, bothers to have different words to distinguish a porpoise from a guinea-pig, but in Danish jeg har marsvin is pretty much like ich bin ein Berliner, it could mean anything: I’ve got a guinea-pig, a porpoise, a Martian, a French soldier…

  80. Marie-Lucie, talking about the cochon d’Inde someone said that “it is not a pig, nor is it from India. Only the d’ is authentic.” (There is also the name cobaye coming from Tupi-Guarani via Portuguese.)

  81. So … does that mean that the Guinea-pig was the national animal of the Holy Roman Empire?

  82. Names of the turkey.
    The turkey is always a foreign bird (except in South America, and sometimes even there), but is ascribed to many different places: India, Turkey, Calicut, Peru, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Holland, and “Rum” (from “Rome” but means Turkey).
    In some cases the turkey was confused with the guineafowl, which was African in origin.
    More at my URL.

  83. Krown, A.J.P. says

    It’s thanks to your book that I know the derivation of Norwegian . I’m hoping to utilise my new-found morsel to impress adjacent dinner guests this coming thanksgiving (if we get invited anywhere, that is).

  84. Crown, A.J.P. says

    Lost a word there: Norwegian kalkun.

  85. (There is also the name cobaye coming from Tupi-Guarani via Portuguese.)
    Yes, I know, but cobaye is used mostly for the animal subjected to medical experiments (and by extension, to other animals or humans enduring similar treatment), while cochon d’Inde for some reason sounds more cute for a children’s pet.

  86. No car.

  87. Honk?
    Honk hoooonk honkhonk?
    Båt? Dyt båt?

  88. cbjegvz hjtgie anivz vrci

  89. Does this mean we’re making progress?

  90. Zune?
    (Sorry, Hat, but for some reason this amuses me …)

  91. No problem; I stripped the URLs from one and left it to provide context for your japery. Maybe it will propitiate the Gods of Spam and they will spare my humble blog hereafter…

  92. Either that, or you’ll improve your Googleranking when people search for “ipod” …

  93. Quoth Wikipedia, the original lyric was “Kelly from the Isle of Man”.

  94. John Cowan says

    People from Schenectady, N.Y., were once called Dorpians < Dutch dorp ‘village’ (cf. English thorp, German Dorf), but I think that’s now lost.

    Some years back I posted elsewhere that it was Poughkeepsie. Sorry about that, Dr. Google.

  95. marie-lucie says

    Among French words for ‘inhabitants of’ a certain town, there is Les Sourdingues, naming the inhabitants of Villedieu-les-Poêles, a small town in Normandy, not far from Mont Saint-Michel.

    Villedieu was once very famous as a town specializing in the manufacture of copper cooking utensils, more specifically frying-pans (la poêle ‘frying-pan’). This meant that the sound of hammering on metal was constant, causing widespread deafness. The name is from sourd ‘deaf’ and the now derogatory suffix -ingue, probably from the old Germanic suffix represented by -ing in English (as in Fleming, for instance). My father used the name Sourdingues (also used slangily to mean just deaf), but Wikipedia gives Sourdins which sounds “better”. Wikipedia also cites historical events which show that the people of Villedieu might have been deaf, but they were also smart and cleverly saved the town from destruction on at least two occasions.

  96. The OED updated its entry for Kittitian last September but still says only “with insertion of -it-, probably after Haitian adj.” The first citation has -c-:

    1945 Daily Gleaner (Kingston, Jamaica) 9 Oct. 5/2 My qualifications as a Kittician after only two days residence were somewhat doubtful.

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