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What's in our name
by Andrew Kiraly | posted August 12, 2014
This April 2013 New Yorker piece by John McPhee, “Draft No. 4,” purports to be about how to get over writer’s block. It has some good advice. For instance, personalizing your audience can quell writing anxiety and reignite your enthusiasm for your subject:
The piece is also about the creative promise of digression. In fact, the entire article is one long tap dance of detours and deflections, as McPhee moves from the subject of writer’s block to his habit of consulting the dictionary for inspiration to flashbacks about his tete-a-tetes with the holy officiants of that fabled institution of the New Yorker’s copy editing department. One of McPhee’s digressions is into the subject of demonyms — that is, the name of the residents of a given city or country — which comes up when a New Yorker copy editor questions McPhee’s use of Manchesterians to name the residents of Manchester, New Hampshire.
Say them to yourself. Wulfrunian sounds earthy but dignified with a touch of pomp — I sense coarse beards on ruffled collars. Minneapolitan seems to have about it a cheerful Saran Wrap of self-aware pretense — a striver who’ll still have a beer with you. Tridentine? Trent is nowhere near the ocean, but I’m quite readily seeing noble Poseidon-worshippers with wavy blue hair strolling through the dingy brick streets.
It sent me on a digression, too, thinking about our own, comparatively impoverished demonym: Las Vegan. I don’t know what I get when I swish that around in my mind. It feels matter of fact, with a touch of desert dust and a hint, but only a hint, of Western swagger. But there’s no neon in it, no color, no bedraggled allure or even schmaltz. The same goes for Nevadan. It evokes a noncommittal rusticity, sketches the vague outlines of a some kinda-sorta Western figure who may or may not be a cowboy.
It makes you wonder whether we could do better, and whether doing better might result in some invisible uptick in our collective spirit or self-concept or something.
Radiants A bit cornily self-affirming, but, hey, it does capture some things about Vegas. The -iants suffix mimics the adjectival convention of a demonym.
Sinizens Citizens of Sin City? Maybe? Maybe in the year 2045 ... in a Michael Bay movie.
Neonians From neon, but pronounced nee-OH-neans. I admit, I kinda like this.
Lavengian, Lavesian Here, I’m trying to conflate Las and Vegas in a loose, Wulfrunian kinda way, and then give it some demonymic backspin. Has a bit of lift and dignity to it, wouldn’t you say?
Vargovian Inspired by “Varsovian,” yes, it wanders a bit too far from its Vegas roots, but, wow, doesn’t it make us seem like a bunch of highborn baccarat sharps who’ve inherited a fallen world. Yes!
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Also available at Clark County and Henderson libraries.