hidden europe 20

Know your gentilics

by Nicky Gardner


Lesbians don't necessarily come from Lesbos, not everyone from Bohemia is bohemian, and Alsatians are generally dogs. A letter to the editors from a hidden europe reader prompts a few thoughts on the knotty issue of gentilics.

Ah yes, those demon demonyms! Did you know that the inhabitants of the Maltese island of Gozo are Gozitans and the good citizens of the French département of Seine-Saint-Denis (northeast of Paris) are called Séquano-dionysiens? We happen to have a friend who is un blogeur Séquano-dionysien.

Linguists have a name for these terms that describe the inhabitants or natives of a particular place or region: they are called gentilics, although latterly the alternative word demonyms seems to have achieved popularity. And, yes, gentilics are a minefield. People from Cyprus are Cypriots, while the inhabitants of Norway are Norwegians and their language is Norwegian - though mediaeval versions of the language and Norway's pre-Christian gods are Norse.

How can the first-time visitor to Liverpool divine that the inhabitants of the Merseyside city are called Liverpudlians?

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