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What's a Hoosier?

The mere fact that anyone asks that question shows a level of jealousy.

There is of course the various historical explanations (none proven) and these often include bastardizations of the words or terms like "Whose there", "Hussar", and even "Whose Ear" (I think that was James Whitcomb Riley's explanation from all the bar brawls in the early Indiana river taverns). From a historical point of view, Indiana was settled by a large contingent of people from Georgia (certainly a true Hoosier accent has a much more Southern inflection than any other Midwestern accent). Apparently, "hoosier" in the Georgia slang meant a ignorant hill person (here in the DC area we use the term "West Virginian" in the same derogatory way) and of course those losers in Missouri still use the term Hoosier to mean a hick, country bumpkin, grit etc. with no connection to Indiana implied. Obviously the meaning of the word has greatly changed.

I believe a Hoosier is anyone who has adopted or inherited Indiana as a state of mind - and knowingly or unknowingly accepts this as a solid basis for life in general. As a born Hoosier (and the mere fact of Indiana birth does not alone qualify one as a Hoosier) who has wandered more than seventy nations and now lives in Washington, DC (too damn far away from Indiana), I've come to appreciate Hoosiers far more than when I actually lived in God's Country - when I took it all for granted.

Sure, Indiana means sports: Basketball (with a capital "B") it may not have been invented there, but it certainly was perfected; auto racing, etc. But for me there's a lot more to it.

My understanding of Hoosiers comes from the smaller towns of Indiana. While Indiana has a very conservative reputation,  I believe that this is misleading and implies closed minds and paranoid outlooks, which is the opposite of what I've experienced in the Hoosier State. I believe the conservative reputation comes from a no-nonsense basis in reality and sanity, and I actually find an amazing openness and interest among Hoosiers. When Hoosiers ask how you're doing they genuinely care. Naiveté is not a bad word in Indiana - we call it being honest and friendly. Here on the East Coast I feel I always have to be on my guard, and if someone seems particularly friendly, I have come to automatically assume they want something from me. Out here, ignoring strangers is often considered more polite than greeting them. As for the West Coast, well my mother and brother live out there now. I love to visit, but I call the trip from California to Indiana "returning to reality". Indiana may not be a trendy kind of place like California, but a lot of the flakier trends are just plain stupid, and fortunately they get weeded out by a much more stable Hoosier population. 

At the same time, there is a true sense of camaraderie among Hoosiers, something Kurt Vonnegut mentions several times in his books. It’s an understanding that we come from a special place and share these enlightened values. When I encounter Hoosiers anywhere in the world (and I've run into Hoosiers while traveling in Ireland, South Africa, Pakistan and many other places - we do seem to get around) its like a reunion (first question: Which town? Second question:  Which High School?). And I don't know about other Hoosiers, but while I love to travel, I have to "touch base" in Indiana now and again or I go nuts. I can only get over it by spending a little time in the Hoosier State where I can let down my guard and relax. Here in DC people who don't know Indiana are amazed I spend so much of my vacation time there. And they think WE'RE ignorant . . .

Well, I guess that's my explanation of what a Hoosier is.  Sorry for the long essay, but it is a subject near and dear to my heart. 
 


 
 
 
 


If you have comments, suggestions, death threats or job offers, email me at
Hoosier84@Hoosier84.com


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