What’s in a demonym?
According to the dictionary, a demonym is ‘a noun used to denote the natives or inhabitants of a particular country, state, city, etc’.
The great majority of demonyms are straightforward. If you’re from Victoria, you’re a Victorian. If you’re from London, you’re a Londoner.
But it does become whacky at times. For instance, if you’re from Manchester, you’re a Mancunian; from Oxford an Oxonian and from Birmingham a Brummie.
People from Mexico City are “Chilangos”*, which makes more sense than any alternatives I can imagine, such as ‘Mexico Citians’.
Brunswick, my hometown, is part of Melbourne, and we all know that Melbourne people are Melburnians. It would be strange to suggest they are Melburnites, though residents of Mackay, in north Queensland are Mackayites.
Brisbane people are known as Brisbanian or Briswegian.
I don’t understand the etymology of any of this, when it comes to the stranger demonyms. I suspect that it has a lot to do with how the locals started referring to themselves a long time ago.
I grew up in Brunswick for 30 years from the mid-1950s. On the rare occasions when I heard other locals refer to their suburb’s demonym, it was always consistently ‘Brunswegian’. It is only in very recent times that I have heard the term Brunswickian used. To me, Brunswickian is not the right word but that’s partly due to sentimental reasoning and partly because it just doesn’t flow nicely, to my ear. I like the soft ‘g’ in Brunswegian.
No doubt there are academics out there who can explain much of this.
In the meantime, with Moreland no longer Moreland but Merri-bek, I wonder whether the locals have become Merri-bekians.
*Pronounced Chee-Lang- Goes
This article was published on the stolen lands of the Wurundjeri-woi wurrung People, whose sovereignty was never ceded.