SALT LAKE CITY — Utah voters may not agree on their choice for president, governor, or even city council, but a recent poll suggests they do agree Utahn is the proper nickname for a state resident, not Utahan.
What’s in a demonym?
A demonym, the official terminology, refers to the name or nickname given to residents of a specific area. Thus, residents of California become known as Californians, and residents of New York become New Yorkers, etc.
For most states, this seems to come from the ending of the spelling of the state. State names that end in a vowel sound tend to add “N” or “-ian” to the end. This is true of both Georgia (Georgians) and Kentucky (Kentuckians), though some exceptions arise. For example, Indiana residents prefer to be called “Hoosiers” rather than Indianans, according to two US senators who asked the federal government to update its guide on their name.
Call me a “Utahn,” not a “Utahan”
Y2Analytics surveyed Utah voters between June 24 and July 7, 2021, to ask them which spelling of Utahn was correct. They only offered two choices: Utahn and Utahan. Utahn won with an overwhelming 90% majority.
What is the proper term to describe someone who lives in Utah? Our survey results overwhelmingly show that it’s ‘Utahn’. We are calling on national news orgs and Utah institutions to update their style guides. @APStylebook@PaulaFroke
— Y2 Analytics (@y2analytics) July 22, 2021
Quin Monson, the author of the report and a partner at Y2Analytics, points out 90% agreement on pretty much anything is unheard of.
“Every large group has a few contrarians, so any public opinion item with 90% agreement is rare,” he wrote. “That’s probably higher than the proportion of Utahns that consider themselves fans of the Utah Jazz or that listen to the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.”
The same survey asked Utah voters whether they approve of July 24 as a state holiday. That item received slightly less support, at 84%.
Utahns did seem willing to accept “Utahan” as a spelling for their demonym, even though they think it’s wrong. 47% would not accept Utahan as a spelling alternative for Utahn, but 43% felt OK with the alternative.
Something we can all agree on
The preference of “Utahn” over “Utahan” came irrespective of politics, Monson wrote. Democrats and Republicans, people who voted for former President Donald Trump, people who voted for President Joe Biden, people who voted for Gov. Spencer Cox, and people who voted for his opponent, Chris Peterson, all consider “Utahn” the correct demonym.
“These are groups that normally see the world differently,” Monson stressed. “They not only cannot agree on who to vote for in an election, but many cannot even agree on who won the 2020 presidential election or if election fraud occurred during that election.”
Religion similarly did not play a role in people’s preferences, Monson said.
Y2Analytics surveyed 415 people to represent 1.5 million registered Utah voters, with a margin of error of 4.8 percentage points.
Visit their website to see a video of researchers asking people on the street the proper name for a Utah resident.
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