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What is a Hoosier?

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A Hoosier is a term used for residents of Indiana. Theories of its origin include an interpretation of the American Indian word "hoosa" for corn and a variation of "hoose." That word describes a cattle disease that makes the animals look "wild-eyed" and a bit crazy. Another theory is that the term originated in the South and is similar in meaning to "redneck." Today, the widely accepted spelling is "hoosier" but "hoosher" sometimes crops up.

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Earliest recorded usage of the word dates back to the early 1800s. Examples include a business proposal in 1831 addressed to General John Tipton and a personal letter from 1835 that called Indiana's early settlers "hooshers" and their homes "hoosher nests."

John Finlay wrote a poem called "The Hoosier's Nest," and it was one of the earliest incidences where the word was not derogatory. Instead, it was meant to show they were self-reliant and bravely faced the challenges of their new land.

Though "hoosier" may have once been a derogatory term, today it is used with pride, both in governmental and civilian settings. Greencastle, Indiana even named its newspaper, "The Hoosier." A long time writer from that paper, Meredith Nicholson, was one of many people searching for the word's origin. So was Jacob Platt Dunn, Jr. from the Indiana Historical Society. Neither was able to narrow down the theory list.

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