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Sure, you may be an American and Oregonian, but what beyond that? Tigarditonian? ... Tualatino? ... Durhamite? ... Sherwoodie?

OK, time for a pop quiz. - People who live in America are called Americans, right? And people who live in Oregon are Oregonians? Portlanders live in Portland and you may not know this but Greshamites are people who live in Gresham. And when you think about it, all of that makes perfect sense.


But what do you call a person who lives in Tigard? Or Tualatin? Or Sherwood?

It's a question often considered by residents - and reporters - as we try to describe who we are as a community.

'During the (library levy campaign) this year, when I was talking to folks I always said 'people who live in Tualatin in Clackamas County, but I thought that's just way too long,' said Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden. 'So I shortened it and started calling them 'Clackatins.''

Many of the so-called Clackatins took offense to the name, Ogden said, and soon they were back to being called 'people who live in Tualatin in Clackamas County.'

But it begs the question: Who are we? Are we Tualatots or Sherwoodites? Tigardi or something that nobody's thought before?

The Times wanted to put an end to the question, so we asked the best and brightest - I'm talking political figures, interested citizens, local historians, professors of linguistics and a man who wrote a book all about naming things - to find the answer.

And the answer is: It's anybody's guess.

Just don't call us Portlanders

The technical term for this sort of thing is a demonym - the name given to people who live in a particular place. And it turns out that there's no formula or pattern to coming up with these sorts of names. Experts say they're supposed to just spring up naturally over time.

'Somebody at some point just makes a decision, and then it kind of spreads from there,' said Thomas Dieterich, professor of linguistics - that's the study of language - at Portland State University. '(The name is) just convention. It gets chosen in an individual case. I don't think there's a rule for these things.'

For many places it's simple. Portlanders never gave two thoughts to what to call themselves, because it was such a simple decision, but for longer names, like Tualatin, or cities named after individual people, like Tigard, it gets complicated, and in the end people just come up with their own ideas.

Even city officials have a hard time deciding on a name.

Liz Newton has worked for the city of Tigard for almost 30 years, she serves as the assistant city manager.

'I've heard them called Tigardians,' she said. 'People have said Tigardites, but that's not right. I've always heard Tigardians.'

Tigard Mayor Craig Dirksen has live in Tigard since 1977.

'When pressed, I guess Tigardite comes up,' he said, chuckling.

City Manager Craig Prosser threw his hat in the ring endorsing the word 'Tigrish' - think Irish or English.

The Tigard and Tualatin historical societies aren't much help either. Neither organization has ever used a word to describe a person from the cities, they said.

'We'll probably just use whatever you come up with in the article,' said Mary Feller, president of the Tigard Historical Association.

Back in Tualatin, Ogden had a few ideas of his own.

'People who live in Tualatin call themselves 'Very lucky to live here,'' he said matter-of-factly. 'Though I suppose grammatically it would be Tualatinian, not Tualatonian, or I guess Tualatinite if you want the Old Testament version.'

The name game

Why are names like this so important?

'It's a natural social phenomenon to have a sense of place, it's part of who we are,' said Frank Nuessel, professor of modern languages at the University of Louisville, in Kentucky and a member of the American Name Society. 'The whole notion of sense of place is important to your personality. Where we come from is part of our personal identity.'

Nuessel edits the scientific journal 'Names: a Journal of Onomastics' which covers the study of naming things. Although he grew up in Chicago, he has lived near Louisville, Ky., for more than 20 years.

'I still think of myself as a Chicagoan,' he said. 'I'll never call myself a Louisvillian, it's not part of my personal identity.'

Without that attachment to a place, Nuessel said, it can be traumatic to a person's psyche.

'It's extremely important to human beings,' he said.

Time to consult an atlas

But sometimes, Nuessel said, just throwing a suffix on the end of your city or town doesn't cut it, and you've got to go for something original.

People from Indiana, Nuessel said, are called Hoosiers, and rather than burden themselves with the name North Carolinians, many have taken to calling themselves Tar Heels after the University of North Carolina mascot.

It's that kind of thinking that works for Sherwood Mayor Keith Mays.

'Since our high school mascot is the Bowmen, we just use that sometimes,' said Mays. 'But there are some folks that refer to themselves as Sherwoodians, or Sherwidians, or they just say they live back in The Wood.'

After thinking about it, Nuessel was unable to come up with a satisfactory demonym for either Tigard, Tualatin or Sherwood.

Neither was Dietrich at the Portland State.

'Maybe it's time to consult an atlas,' Dietrich said after thinking for several minutes. 'I'd see if there's any countries out there that sound like Tigard (or Tualatin or Sherwood) and use what they use.'

There aren't any.

If you have an idea, let us know by commenting below.

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