A friend of Thomas' who knows I collect old books loaned me an old, old dictionary that had been in his family for many years. It is entitled NEW DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE 1926 EDITION, and has the indented alphabet tabs like they used to have. The title page says "Collier's New Dictionary of the English Language Based on the Principles of Lexicography Adopted by Noah Webster LL.D." It says that it was "Carefully Revised by John Vaughn PhD., LL.D", then it says "45th Edition Revised by Adam Ward." (That's a little confusing. Apparently it was carefully revised by one man, then simply revised by another.) At the bottom of the page it says "This book is NOT published by the original publishers of Webster's Dictionary, nor by their successors, but published by P.F. Collier & Son Company New York." Whew! Glad they kept that straight! Anyway.........
It is filled with all the interesting things that you can find in good dictionaries, like weight and measurement tables, origin of the English language and principles of English Grammar, etc. But in the back were also some sections that you don't always see, such as: Glossary of Radio Terms (remember this was in 1926); Foreign Words, Phrases and Proverbs; Commercial and Legal Terms; Aviation Terms (with a lot of words dealing with hot-air balloons!); Automobile Terms; Base Ball Terms (yes, it was two separate words, not baseball); Golf Terms; American Casualties in the World War (remember, there had only been one world war at that time); Types of Motor Car Bodies; Famous Characters in Poetry and Prose; The Names of the States and Their Meanings, and much, much more! But the section that I found very interesting was this one: The Nicknames of the States and the Reason.
Now, I am a Kentuckian by birth. I am still a Kentuckian at heart, but for the past 15 years we have lived in Southern Indiana, so I am a Hoosier by address. (Most people refer to this area as Kentuckiana.) I have always been interested in what the word "hoosier" means and where it comes from. If you do a web search you will find that the guesses, some scholarly, some just plain funny, are numerous -- one for every day of the year! And no two people seem to agree on the origin. But now this little dictionary, published in 1926 has given me a definition -- one that I've decided to adopt. Why? Because I like this dictionary. It's a nice, comfortable old tome, that went to a lot of trouble to give me all the information I would ever have needed to know about the world in 1926, and so I choose to honor it by accepting its definition of the word "hoosier". And furthermore it states that definition in a very-plain-no-room-for-doubt-will-brook-no-argument sentence, on page 1,074. It says, "Indiana -- 'The Hoosier State,' from the word 'hoosher,' a word applied by the merchants of New Orleans to Indiana boatmen because of their boisterous manners and perpetual bragging. [Creole-French.]
I hope no one out there can burst my bubble. But if I do happen to have any French Creole readers who could verify that, I'd appreciate it. Either way, that is what I'm going to say when asked what the word means.
I wonder what the Indiana boatmen were always bragging about, though? What did they have to brag about that the Ohio boatmen or any other boatmen didn't have to brag about? Or did they just brag about everything and nothing in particular? Ah! The mystery continues!