Saturday, December 8, 2012

Who's a Hoosier?

Last week, in honor of the Tony Award-winning production of Anything Goes currently playing at the Ahmanson (which we're seeing tomorrow), the L.A. Times ran a quiz about Cole Porter. I like to flatter myself that I know something about the man. After all, we both came from Indiana.

It turns out the only thing I knew about Cole Porter was that he came from Indiana.

If there's one thing we Hoosiers know, it's who else is a Hoosier. (If there's one thing we don't know, it's where the word "Hoosier" comes from. There are many and widely-divergent theories, including: a corruption of the word "hussar," a corruption of the French word for "bailiff," and—strangest of all considering there are few hills in Indiana—a corruption of an Anglo-Saxon word meaning "hill people." The only thing everyone can agree on is that it's a corruption of something.)

Besides songwriter Cole Porter, there have been many other talented Hoosiers, including fellow songwriters Hoagy Carmichael and John Mellencamp, writers Rex Stout and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., and actors James Dean and Carole Lombard.

Comedian Red Skelton was a Hoosier, as was David Letterman, who was born in Indianapolis and went to college in Muncie, at Ball State. (Go ahead and laugh.)

Michael Jackson's entire family were Hoosiers, but Wilbur was the only Hoosier Wright Brother. (Orville was born in Ohio.) Abraham Lincoln grew up in Indiana, but he doesn't qualify; he was born in Kentucky.

Clothing designer Bill Blass was from Fort Wayne. He went to the same high school as my parents, uncles, and aunts.

Basketball star Larry Bird was from French Lick. (Go ahead and laugh.)

James Whitcomb Riley, from Greenfield, Indiana, was known as "The Hoosier Poet." He wrote:
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin’ turkey-cock,
And the clackin’ of the guineys, and the cluckin’ of the hens,
And the rooster’s hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence...
I have no idea what a "kyouck" or "hallylooyer" is, but this, supposedly, is the way Hoosiers used to talk.

Which could explain the word "Hoosier."

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