Hoosiers

The stereotype is all about cheap beer, fast cars and fat girls. But there's a little bit of hoosier in all of us.

 In the beginning was the word. And the word was Hoosier.
-- Howard Peckham, Indiana: A Bicentennial History

The fifteen-minute short film "Hoosiers Are From Mars" is devoid of opening credits. Instead, a pack of silhouettes -- one clearly boasting a mullet-coiffed noggin -- emerges in front of a tangerine sunset and an American (or is it Confederate?) flag. Cue celestial Star Wars background music and scroll, the text of which addresses a certain unique St. Louis phenomenon:

A long time ago, in an uncivilized town far, far away ...

Jennifer Silverberg
"Hoosier" actress Dianna Wilson
Jennifer Silverberg
"Hoosier" actress Dianna Wilson

According to Webster's Dictionary, Hoosier is a nickname for a native or resident of Indiana.

But Midwestern folklore tells of another use of the word "hoosier" hidden to everyone except residents of Saint Louis, Missouri (pronounced Missoura).

Saint Louisans agree that hoosier is a noun but use the term negatively to describe individuals a step above white trash.

After years of secrecy, a band of inbred Saint Louisans united to reveal the true meaning of the word to the rest of the world.

It is out of respect for the ancestors and the progeny of Saint Louis residents that the silence is now broken ...

Cut to a shot of the Gateway Arch as seen when one is heading east on Market Street downtown. A red Trans Am whizzes along with two hoosiers onboard, followed closely -- too closely -- by a lone man in a beat-up Dodge pickup, sporting a mullet. As the Dodge tailgates the Pontiac onto southbound I-55, the Sammy Hagar classic "I Can't Drive 55" blares at top volume.

Suddenly the hoosier driver flips off the pickup's pilot. "Hey, jackass! Hey, dickhead! Pull the car over, you fucking hoosier!" he yells, as Mullet maneuvers alongside him in the adjoining lane. "Your fucking mullet -- get a fuckin' haircut! You'll get your fuckin' ass kicked, you understand? You do not tailgate like that, you motherfucker!"

A dream sequence ensues in which Hoosier Driver vanquishes Mullet with a green light saber and some well-placed judo kicks while his sidekick, Hoosier Passenger, smashes the pickup's taillights.

The frame flips to the hoosier pair exiting a Washington Avenue meat market at closing time with two sleazy-looking divas in tow. Their first stop: White Castle. As the gents wolf down their burgers, one of the girls encourages them to share.

"Can I have a bite?" asks Hoosier Girl Number One, a tall, big-haired blonde clad in a flashy silver dress that resembles aluminum foil.

"I think she's talkin' to you," Hoosier Passenger says to his buddy.

"She's talkin' to you, you cheap hoosier," replies his cohort. The two men break into mocking laughter and refuse to share their grease, much to the dismay of their backseat belles.

Outside the gents' crash pad, the ladies are invited up for some Busch beer and a cuddle.

"Well, I do have to go to the bathroom," says Hoosier Girl Number Two, a short, busty bottle blonde.

A quickie game of Rock-Paper-Scissors ensues to determine which hoosier gets first pick of the pair. Hoosier Driver wins. As Hoosier Girl Number Two goes off to use the bathroom, he throws the mack down on the tall blonde in the kitchen.

"Shouldn't we go in there?" she says, pointing to the bedroom.

"I think we're fine right here," he says, peppering her with kisses.

"What about your roommate?" she inquires.

"Don't worry about him -- he's gay."

Just then her friend emerges from the can, and Hoosier Girl Number One excuses herself to use the facilities. With his pal passed out on the couch, Hoosier Driver wastes no time in moving right in on Hoosier Girl Number Two -- only to be abruptly cut off by the taller blonde, who has quickly wrapped up her bathroom break.

"Fucking hoosier!" cries Hoosier Girl Number One, slapping our hero's face.

"Hoosier? You're the hoosier!" he fires back.

"I can't be a hoosier!" she blurts, making a beeline for the door. "I'm from Granite City!"


"I don't know what it is about Hoosiers," said Hazel, "but they've sure got something. If somebody was to make a list, they'd be amazed."
-- Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle

The etymology and meaning of the term "hoosier" has been a matter of debate for centuries. And it seems the more the word is studied, the muddier its definition becomes. When Jeffrey Graf, a 29-year veteran of the reference department of the Indiana University at Bloomington library, set out on his own scholastic search for the origins and significance of "hoosier," he ended up with a 24-page essay that only served to stoke the confusion wrought by the mysterious little term.

"It's always been a matter of curiosity, I think because it's so unusual," reports Graf. "It's always mentioned in any sort of longish work about the state. And it's interesting, because they haven't quite solved the riddle of its derivation."

In his essay, which is accessible online at www.indiana.edu/~librcsd/internet/extra/hoosier.html, Graf cites nearly 50 possible origins for the term, most of which reflect simpleton tendencies at best and, at worst, downright human filth. The most outlandishly entertaining of the possible explanations comes from the poet James Whitcomb Riley, who was quoted by Jacob Piat Dunn in the latter's 1907 article "The Word Hoosier" as saying in conversation, "The real origin is found in the pugnacious habits of the early settlers. They were vicious fighters; and not only gouged and scratched, but frequently bit off noses and ears. This was so ordinary an affair that a settler coming into a bar room on a morning after a fight, and seeing an ear on the floor, would merely push it aside with his foot and carelessly ask, 'Who's [sic] ear?'"

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