Nutmegger or Connectican?


By Elizabeth J. Normen

(c) Connecticut Explored Inc. Spring 2012

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The spring issue’s publisher’s letter is creating some buzz. Here’s what people are talking about:

We’re calling ourselves Connecticans, not Nutmeggers.

It seems appropriate that in an issue about documenting and defining our state’s boundaries that I go on record about an issue that pops up with surprising frequency. Under this magazine’s editorial policy, when we refer to a person from Connecticut, we use “Connectican,” not “Nutmegger.

After state historian Walt Woodward’s column “Nutmeg Adds Spice, But is it Nice?” (Winter 2007/2008), in which he wrote about the origin of the nickname “The Nutmeg State,” it didn’t feel right to perpetuate the negative stereotype from which that moniker derives. He notes that Connecticut’s peddlers became notorious for passing off wooden nutmegs for the real thing, duping customers along the way.

But what are the alternatives? These suggestions are usually offered: Connecticuters, Connecticutians, even Connecticutanians. The Connecticut State Library cites on its Web site that a 1993 edition of Webster’s New International Dictionary defines a person from Connecticut as a Connecticuter (though a quick check with Chris Dobbs at the Noah Webster House does not attribute this to Webster himself) and lists two terms that appeared in print as early as the 18th century: Connecticotian, used by Cotton Mather in 1702, and Connecticutensian, used by Samuel Peters in 1781. Yikes.

The state library notes that the state has never officially adopted a name for its residents. Clearly, none of these terms has caught on, likely because each is more of a tongue twister than the last. So we’re left to our own devices. For me, Connecticuters is, well, too cute, (at least without an extra “t” to suggest “cutter” instead of “cuter”). Connecticutian and Connecticotian make me think of Martian. As an unrepentant booster of our state, I like the affirmative ending—and the relative brevity—of Connectican.

In this issue we explore the state’s boundaries, which are hardly less contested than our state nickname. The issue looks at maps (including one of our state from 1784 that recently sold at auction for more than $2 million), Native American land use, and other aspects of geography and navigation. It’s an issue about,—at least cartographically—what (and who) put Connecticut on the map.

So…What do you think? Are you a Nutmegger or a Connecticuter or a Connectican?


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