Before moving to Lenoir, N.C., I lived almost 12 years in Richmond, Va. Richmond is a beautiful city, a mix of Old South and mid-Atlantic, accents from hither and yon, a wonderful array of exceptionally good but reasonably priced restaurants, tons of historic sites, a city that can feel big, mid-sized or small depending on exactly where you are and who you’re with. In every positive way, it’s not Charlotte. It has a sense of place and history. And yet parts of it also are like so much of Charlotte — all sprawl and no sense of place.
Living there was a great experience.
But one thing I definitely will not miss from Richmond is the result of what I can only assume is the thrill that newspaper writers there get from referring to the region’s residents — everyone in the entire nearly-1-million-person region, not just in the fewer-than-200,000-person city — as Richmonders. Richmonders Richmonders Richmonders. You would think they earned money from every appearance of the word in an article.
Unlike “New Yorkers,” it does not roll off the tongue. I never once in 12 years there, as best I can recall, heard a single person in conversation use the term “Richmonder.”
I was reminded of this one day recently while reading a story a friend had forwarded to me from Richmond’s main alternative weekly newspaper, Style, about Virginia’s attorney general. Because I have been in Lenoir almost the entire time since Jan. 20 and don’t seek out news from Virginia, it was the first time I had seen the word “Richmonder” in nearly three months, and it struck me: In many other towns, including most of the ones where I have lived, no one even has a word for local residents. State residents, sure — North Carolinians, Virginians, Floridians, Oklahomans. But not so much the residents of most cities and towns.
What in the world would Lenoir residents be? I wondered.
Lenoirites? Lenoirians? Probably not Lenoirons, except to people from somewhere else trying to make fun of them. Lenoirlings? Nah.
If I were Hudson’s mayor, I might try to get people to adopt “Hudsonians.” It sounds like “Smithsonian.”
Sawmills would pose a particular challenge because of the s on the name. Sawmillsers? Sawmillsions? Sawmillsites? I’m not sure any of the usual endings for such things were intended for denoting residents of a place with a name that itself is a plural.
Similarly, what do you do with Granite Falls residents? Granite Fallsers?
Maybe Cajah’s Mountain residents are Cajah’s Mountaineers, although that sounds like a sports team.
The issue abounds in the larger region.
There are so many place names that don’t lend themselves to labels for who lives there.
Here’s this editor’s riddle and answer:
Question: What do you call residents of (fill in the blank)?
That much has generally proven to be true everywhere.