Where did ‘Hoosier’ come from?

Where did Hoosier come from?

Dylan Dunn, Staff Writer

We all know that we’re “Hoosiers,” but where did the name even come from? No one knows what a “Hoosier” is. According to Oxford Languages, the definition of it is quite literally “a native or inhabitant of Indiana.”

A theory claims that “Hoosier” originated because people in Indiana would yell “who’s here?” whenever someone knocked on their door. Another theory states that the rivermen were so successful in brawling that they earned the nickname “hushers” which sounded like the nickname we know because of the accent. The most believable theory, however, is that it started from a contractor named Hoosier. His men were called “Hoosier’s men” while they were working on the Louisville and Portland canals. A source given from an Indiana historical website says the name originated as a derogatory term for people uneducated and uncivilized.

The best theory of them all comes from James Whitcomb Riley, the “Hoosier Poet.” His theory starts from the idea of the “hushers.” He says that after those fights they got in, they would go to a tavern to talk and have a drink or two. Most of the time, however, those causal drinks would turn into an all-out brawl in the tavern, often leaving some people without pieces of their noses and ears. A barkeep would walk through the tavern and see an ear. He would look down and say “Who’s ear?” It was so common it was changed to “Whose year?” and finally morphed into “Hoosier.” 

No one knows where we got our name but it was around the late 1820’s. The earliest written documentation of the word “Hoosier” was found in a letter from G.L Murdock to General John Tipton in 1831, so that means that the word was used before then.

Just because we have early documentation of it, doesn’t mean we know where it came from. The best we have for right now is just speculation on the origin of “Hoosier.” No one knows where it came from, but we do know that we use the nickname with pride.