Things Hoosiers have to explain to out-of-towners

EDITOR’S NOTE: The rivalry totals between Purdue and IU were previously reported incorrectly, they have been updated to reflect the current score.

INDIANAPOLIS — Hoosiers have a pretty lengthy history of having to explain and clarify certain facts about the state, with one of the leading controversial topics being the name “Hoosier.”

If you’re speaking with a non-native Hoosier or out-of-town friend, family or colleague, they may try to suggest Indiana residents can be called Indianans and that’s far from the truth.

According to the Indiana Historical Bureau, residents of the state have been called Hoosiers. It’s also one of the oldest state nicknames with a wider acceptance than most.

The “Hoosier” name

It’s one of the biggest debates of the state as to where “Hoosier” actually originated from since its general usage became regular in the 1830s.

The IHB listed a few popular theories to outline how citizens adopted the nickname:

  • When a visitor hailed a pioneer cabin in Indiana or knocked upon its door, the settler would respond, “Who’s yere?” And from this frequent response Indiana became the “Who’s yere” or Hoosier state. No one ever explained why this was more typical of Indiana than of Illinois or Ohio.
  • That Indiana rivermen were so spectacularly successful in trouncing or “hushing” their adversaries in the brawling that was then common that they became known as “hushers,” and eventually Hoosiers.
  • 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 were called Hoosiers.
  • A theory attributed to Gov. Joseph Wright derived Hoosier from an Indian word for corn, “hoosa.” Indiana flatboat men taking corn or maize to New Orleans came to be known as “hoosa men” or Hoosiers. Unfortunately for this theory, a search of Indian vocabularies by a careful student of linguistics failed to reveal any such word for corn.
  • Quite as plausible as these was the facetious explanation offered by “The Hoosier Poet,” James Whitcomb Riley. He claimed that Hoosier 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 was so common an occurrence that a settler coming into a tavern the morning after a fight and seeing an ear on the floor would touch it with his toe and casually ask, “Whose ear?”

The point is, Hoosiers is the nickname for residents of Indiana.

Basketball matters

When it comes to basketball, any Hoosier will explain that you must pick a side. There are friend groups, families and even relationships that can be torn apart by the Indiana and Purdue rivalry.

Indiana forward Race Thompson (25) defends Purdue forward Caleb Furst (1) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in West Lafayette, Ind., Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Some people may even ask who you’re rooting for ahead of time to avoid any tension in the relationship.

Currently, Purdue is ahead by 2 games in their ongoing rivalry that’s been recorded since January 1999. The score is 23-21 with Purdue in the lead. Their last matchup was on Feb. 25, 2023.

This is also true for the movie “Hoosiers.” Many residents actually do love high school basketball just as much as college.

The Indiana Pacers NBA fans can sometimes be hit-and-miss depending on how the team is performing in the league but that doesn’t diminish their importance in the community.

State fair and food

The Indiana State Fair is a big and annual staple for Hoosiers. It’s a long tradition that many will attend each year. Some will even come from out of town to attend the event.

The 2023 Indiana State Fair opened on July 28, 2023

According to the IUPUI University library, the state fair was created in 1850 when the state’s general assembly passed “An act to encourage agriculture.”

The board then worked first to create the Indiana State Fair.

(Adobe Stock)

While agriculture remains a central and fundamental idea for the state fair, many Hoosiers attend the event for the “Fried Everything” concept. Food has become a staple for state fair-goers.

Food at the fair can include fried elephant ears, Twinkies, Snickers, Oreos, pork tenderloin sandwiches, Chicken, Fish, and more. Hoosiers enjoy the fried food and musical guests each year.

Hoosiers’ feelings for Ski

If you’ve ever talked to a Hoosier from the South, you’ve probably heard of Ski. A local Evansville newspaper called “Ski” the “unofficial soda of the city’s west side.”

Ski is owned by the Double Cola Company and is a lemon-and-orange drink that was released on Aug. 10, 1956, according to the Courier and Press.

The soda is often contrasted to Pepsi’s Mountain Dew for comparison’s sake but don’t say that to a Ski-loving Hoosier, they might not take too kindly to that remark.

Ski has made an impact on the Midwest and Southeast as a whole over the last several decades.

Indiana weather

Indiana weather is a touchy topic when you speak with fellow Hoosiers. For some they “love it” and some they “hate it.”

The winter weather season is the point of contention more times than not because of how notoriously fickle it can be. The Weather Authority outlook for the 2023-24 season showed this point.

A Hoosier may put on a heavy winter coat one day because it’s freezing sub-zero temperatures and snowing outside, then the next it’s a sunny and mild day above freezing.

FOX59 and CBS4 meteorologists said this year’s winter is set to bring altering patterns with some warmer weather due to El Nino.

The last El Nino winter in 2018-2019 brought a disappointing amount of snowfall for central Indiana Hoosiers and that might be a happy point for those who hate the winter cold.

Impact of racing a.k.a the 500

With tickets for the next year’s annual event going on sale just months after wrapping up the current year’s event, “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” is a big deal for Hoosiers.

Some may even call the city of Speedway the “Racing Capital of the World.” The event gathers thousands and thousands of race fans each May for a month of motor fun all culminating in the Indy 500 race.

Even though not everyone living in Indiana loves racing, many do.

Race fans watch as cars go through the first turn during the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Sunday, May 28, 2023, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

The evidence is in the pudding from the more than 230,000 tickets sold not including the Snake Pit or infield for the 2023 event.

Sporting News reported an estimated 325,000 total fans attended due to temporary seating and other accommodations. It was said to be one of the biggest races in history.

The Indy nickname

If you’re a true Hoosier, you will not use “Indy” as an abbreviation for the state of Indiana. That is reserved for the state’s capital city of Indianapolis.

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – FEBRUARY 27: A general view of Lucas Oil Stadium and downtown Indianapolis on February 27, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

If you’re from Indy, then you can use that as a nickname or the Circle City. If you’re describing the state as a whole or someone who lives outside of Indianapolis, then you’d just call them a Hoosier.

Unfortunately, this may have to be explained to someone who’s not from the Midwest or Indiana as a whole because they may try to abbreviate with a term that’s reserved.

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