April 2010 Archives

A Person from San Diego is a...?


While watching the news action comedy Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy set in San Diego, I noticed an interesting English grammar gap. At one point the news team needed to find the adjectival form to describe an inhabitant of San Diego, but which term to use?

One suggested "San Diegoan", another "San Diegan" among other variations, but ultimately they were unable to reach a consensus. The answer is probably "San Diegan" (the name of a local paper). On Google, there were about 74,600 hits for this term versus 999 for "San Diegoan." I also did a search for "San Diegite" and actually scored 355 hits including a writer on a message board who comments. I scored nothing for "San Dieger" or "San Diegoer"

"Hey, dude, I'm a Sand Diegan. San Diegonian. San Diegite. Person of San Diegoness. Love to see you when you're in town."

The lesson here is that there is a lot of confusion, even among the locals. In truth English has several of these adjectival endings including -((i)a)n (San Franciscan, Baltimorean, Australian), -ite (Denverite) and -er (New Yorker). We also have older -ese (Chinese, Viennese, Vietnamese) and the newer -i (Pakistani, Afghani) There are also the "irregular" forms such as Los Angelino (Los Angeles, from Spanish), American (for United States of America) and Monegasque (Monaco).

But...there are some names without any adjective at all, such as Massachusetts, Las Vegas, Westminster and others. I admit that there are probably metrical properties (syllable count, stress patterns) that interfere with placing an adjective, but it is interesting that the grammar can accommodate words without an adjectival forms. In English, an adjectival form is for a person from a specific location is "derivational morphology", nice to have, but not strictly required.