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You are where you live-and it's time to create a collective character for future recognition

"PAVAROTTI È GUASTO" shouted the headline. Millions mourn this famous tenor. He was a son of the Italian city of Modena, in turn famous for the Ferrari automobile, cappelletti pasta and balsamic vinegar. Modena is a name you recognize, whether you like opera, fine cars or good food.

The reports of Pavarotti's death stirred my imagination as I read of the great tenor being a Modenese, that is, a person from Modena.

Although this may be etymology instead of genealogy, it's a limited mechanic who knows wheels, but nothing about axles. It struck me that we have a word describing people from some places, but no term for natives and residents of others. Also, there are popular nicknames-given in affection, jest or derision-for those connected with certain areas, communities or countries.

As we've become sensitive to people's feelings, we have largely abandoned nicknames for nationalities. An Irishman may or may not care to be referred to as a Mick or a Paddy. Likewise an Englishman being dubbed a Limey.

Nova Scotians are Bluenosers, and New Brunswick residents may be termed Herring chokers. In Prince Edward Island you are inducted as a Spud Islander. Should you be in Newfoundland please refer to Newfoundlanders. You have to be a livyer to get away with calling someone a Newfie. (Otherwise you're a come-from-away, and it's showing.)

A demonym (the first part being pronounced "demo" as in demonstration cars, while "nyms" rhymes with hymns) is a word that describes where someone comes from. The going gets tricky when you seek demonyms for specific communities. Some places seem never to have inspired a descriptive word whilst others have more than one, and people bicker about which one is "right."

In England you can be an Oxonian, a Liverpudlian, a Kingstonian or a Mancunian, and people know you come from Oxford, Liverpool, Kingston or Manchester, respectively. Calling someone from Newcastle-upon-Tyne a Novocastrian or a Geordie will depend on who's talking.

Referring to a resident of Scotland's capital city as an Edinburgher is not considered polite. Edinbourgeois is more genteel, please. Scotland's Aberdeen and Glasgow are inhabited by Aberdonians and Glaswegians. I doubt many people living in Cape Breton's largest city would think of themselves as Sydneysiders, as they do in Australia's Sydney.

When a European place name was bestowed on an Atlantic Canadian place, its demonym may or may not have crossed the ocean with the name. Are our Atlantic namesakes the home of New Aberdonians and New Glaswegians?

Perhaps the namesake community in this region did not draw enough attention to merit a demonym… or a name simply failed to engage the popular imagination.

But isn't it rather remiss to live somewhere for generations and not have a local name by which to refer to your collective selves? And if your place name has a demonym you'd care not to be called, come up with something different, both fanciful and positive.

If you are from Plymouth or Bristol you have the English models you could use: Plymouthian and Bristolian. Consider following Lunenburg's example and append "er" to the name of your town-Lunenburger. If you live in Florence and don't mind being served with spinach, you could be a Florentine. Someone from Sambro can adopt a fanciful name such as Sambrosian.

There's a list online of potential suffixes to add to the name of your community at wikipedia.org/wiki/Demonym. If you don't fancy anything there, use your imagination. Have contests in school.

Let's hear what people suggest calling themselves if they live in Harbour Grace or Bathurst, Digby or Souris-and points between and beyond. Surely you wouldn't want someone calling you Harbour Gracians, Bathurstics, Digbites or Mice?

Tell the world who you are.

Dr. Terrence M. Punch is the resident genealogist on CBC Radio and editor of Genealogist's Handbook for Atlantic Canada Research.

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