The Detroit Rule

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Today's SMBC:

For some relevant sociolinguistic speculation, see "Modification as social anxiety", 5/16/2004; but the influence of the locavores has added another interpretive layer.

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60 Comments »

  1. Joe Green said,

    October 25, 2012 @ 9:12 pm

    Anyone care to analyse the distinction between nominal and adjectival locational qualifiers? Vermont and Ottawa, but Chilean. Why not simply Chile? Or conversely, Ottowan?

    [(myl) See e.g. "More political morphology: Democrats, Great British, and Geese", 2/19/2007:

    When there’s a choice between an adjectival form of a place on the one hand, and the equivalent attributive noun on the other, the tendency seems to be that the adjective is chosen for nations, while the noun is used for smaller political divisions.

    ]

  2. Lazar said,

    October 25, 2012 @ 9:54 pm

    I've always wondered how certain states managed to attain the customary use of nation-like adjectives. There's adjectival "Hawaiian", "Alaskan" and "Texan" – all states with an unusual level of geographic or historic distinctiveness – and maybe "Californian", but we rarely see such things as adjectival "Oregonian", "South Dakotan", "North Carolinian", "Ohian" or "Oklahoman".

  3. Michael Watts said,

    October 25, 2012 @ 10:56 pm

    Adjectival "Texan" exists, but I'd be very surprised to see a dish called "Texan __" as opposed to "Texas __"

  4. George Amis said,

    October 25, 2012 @ 11:05 pm

    @Lazar
    I'm inclined to agree with Michael Watts. I'll grant you Hawaiian (Hawaiian food, Hawaiian cruise), but that seems to be an exception, perhaps produced by the concentration of vowel sounds at the end of Hawaii. But consider Alaska king crab, Texas chile, California Dreamin'. Perhaps you have some examples to illustrate your point.

  5. AB said,

    October 25, 2012 @ 11:10 pm

    I notice that e.g. the Economist will refer to Californian wine, while we Americans say California wine. A US/UK difference?

  6. Just another Peter said,

    October 25, 2012 @ 11:34 pm

    "Hawaiian" may also be influenced by it's being the only non-mainland state of the US leading to people thinking of it more like a country than a state.

  7. maidhc said,

    October 26, 2012 @ 12:04 am

    Hawaii used to be a country. Although the same is true for Texas and (briefly) California.

  8. V said,

    October 26, 2012 @ 3:10 am

    @maidhc According to Wikipedia: "Setting aside the Thirteen Colonies, Vermont is one of only four U.S. states (along with Texas, Hawaii, the briefly declared Republic of West Florida) to have been a sovereign state in its past."

    I don't know what definition they're using, though. I guess the difference might be California was conquered by the official US armed forces, officially. West Florida seems to have been de facto conquered by the official army, although not de jure.

  9. Chris Waters said,

    October 26, 2012 @ 3:20 am

    Hmm, Iowa Salmon, Minnesota Chili, Irish Curry, Chernobyl Goose…I'm not sure I buy this "Detroit Rule". :)

  10. Tom Saylor said,

    October 26, 2012 @ 3:33 am

    @ George Amis

    I'm not sure that California Dreamin' is semantically parallel. I take 'California' to be some kind of premodifying object of the gerund/participle, like 'trout' in 'trout fishing' or 'banjo' in 'banjo picking'.

  11. V said,

    October 26, 2012 @ 5:25 am

    An interesting one from the Independent today:

    "Mr Mockford had been married to his Belgium wife for 15 years and has three grown up children from a previous marriage living in Britain, the Telegraph reported."

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/was-british-oil-executive-victim-of-a-targeted-assassination-mystery-surrounds-death-of-briton-nicholas-mockford–gunned-down-in-front-of-his-wife-on-a-street-in-belgium-8227474.html

  12. Chris said,

    October 26, 2012 @ 5:57 am

    When there’s a choice between an adjectival form of a place on the one hand, and the equivalent attributive noun on the other, the tendency seems to be that the adjective is chosen for nations, while the noun is used for smaller political divisions.

    Definitely a US/UK difference. Consider Welsh, Scottish, Mancunian, Liverpudlian, and the list goes on…

  13. Zubon said,

    October 26, 2012 @ 7:04 am

    @ Chris Waters:
    You are missing out if you have never had Minnesota Chili or Irish Curry. An Irish pub franchise makes one of the best curries in town.

  14. Acilius said,

    October 26, 2012 @ 7:22 am

    "Hawaii used to be a country. Although the same is true for Texas and (briefly) California." FWIW, Vermont functioned as an independent republic from 1777 to 1791.

  15. Craig said,

    October 26, 2012 @ 7:48 am

    @Chris Waters

    As a Minnesotan, we make out chili just fine, thank you. You tend to care deeply about what warms your bones in these approaching wintry months. Now "Chris Waters" Chili sounds like it'd insult your good taste ;)

  16. Hamish said,

    October 26, 2012 @ 8:44 am

    @Craig

    That would be Chili Chris Waters, by standard convention (and pace Caesar Salad).

  17. Jon Weinberg said,

    October 26, 2012 @ 9:13 am

    We like our chili here in Detroit too (above all in the form of coney dogs, which are hot dogs with chili). There are establishments that purport to sell "Detroit Coneys" or "Motor City Coneys" in places like Texas and Nevada and California and Georgia and Kentucky, but I'm told it's not the same.

  18. Faldone said,

    October 26, 2012 @ 9:31 am

    Then there's New York Brand® Texas Toast, made in Columbus, Ohio.

  19. Brett said,

    October 26, 2012 @ 10:07 am

    @George Amis: "Alaska king crab" sounds wrong to me. I would have to say "Alaskan." That's certainly what the narration (although not necessarily the crab men) say on Deadliest Catch.

  20. George Amis said,

    October 26, 2012 @ 11:33 am

    @Tom Saylor @Brett

    OK, if not California Dreamin', then California Girls or California Cuisine, or California Wine in the USA.

    King crab is sold in our local supermarkets as Alaska (not Alaskan). Both seem acceptable. But one would go on an Alaska Cruise, but not an Alaskan. The one invariant use of Alaskan as an adjective seems to be Alaskan Malamute.

  21. Ellen K. said,

    October 26, 2012 @ 12:33 pm

    Actually, a Google search shows plenty of people write "Alaskan Cruises". There's even a website alaskancruises.com. That seems to be one that goes either way. Maybe Alaska is big enough, and/or far enough away from most of us, to get the country treatment, linguistically.

  22. Ellen K. said,

    October 26, 2012 @ 12:36 pm

    Definitely a US/UK difference. Consider Welsh, Scottish, Mancunian, Liverpudlian, and the list goes on…

    Don't the first two of those count as countries? (Within the context of the current discussion.)

  23. Andrew (not the same one) said,

    October 26, 2012 @ 1:23 pm

    Don't the first two of those count as countries? (Within the context of the current discussion.

    Yes. On the other hand there is Cornish (not commonly seen as a country, though there are Cornish nationalists) and Kentish (definitely not a country). Also Lancastrian. And Cumbrian. (Cumbria, though now a county, is historically not a county but a region – if you include regions there are a few others, like East Anglian.)

    On the third hand, not many British cities have adjectival forms, or at least not widely used ones. As well as those quoted above there is Glaswegian. Oxonian and Cantabridgian are rare, especially the latter, and relate to the universities rather than the cities in any case.

  24. markonsea said,

    October 26, 2012 @ 1:37 pm

    Hawaiian. Shoudn't it be "Hawaiiian"?

  25. GeorgeW said,

    October 26, 2012 @ 2:17 pm

    "When there’s a choice between an adjectival form of a place on the one hand, and the equivalent attributive noun on the other, the tendency seems to be that the adjective is chosen for nations, while the noun is used for smaller political divisions."

    Maybe this is because speakers are less familiar with the adjectival form of smaller places. As an example, although I am familiar with Detroit, I have no idea what the adjectival form is.

  26. Nathan said,

    October 26, 2012 @ 3:18 pm

    Maybe. But the pattern's not clear cut. I know off the top of my head that things from Moscow are Muscovite, but I would have to look up Wyoming or the United Arab Emirates.

  27. KCIvey said,

    October 26, 2012 @ 3:22 pm

    V, there's something weird going on with Belgium, possibly because "Belgian" sounds like "Belgium". Menus at breakfast places in the United States seem to have "Belgium waffle" far more often the "Belgian waffle", though I've never seen "France toast" or "England muffin".

  28. Mark F. said,

    October 26, 2012 @ 3:30 pm

    I suspect an adjectival form is something that develops over time. You could even make an argument that, because there is no regular adjectivalization of a place name, people default to attributive nouns, but they still have a preference for an adjective when one is available. The likelihood, over time, of a place being used descriptively/attributively will increase the likelihood of it getting an adjectival form. (Or getting one that is actually used.) People feel more strongly that being of a particular country says something about someone or something than they do about being from some state in the US. In the UK you have a deep history going back to a time when different regions were probably felt to have more fundamental differences than they do now, and also with more time for adjectival forms to get coined and become popular.

  29. David L said,

    October 26, 2012 @ 3:41 pm

    I notice no one has actually named a food item that becomes more enticing when the word "Detroit" is put in front of it.

  30. Tony said,

    October 26, 2012 @ 3:49 pm

    Ease of pronunciation seems to play a significant role. For example, in the west coast states, the adjectival forms are consistently used as demonyms, but only "Californian" is used as an adjective to modify food. Its always "Washington oysters," always "Oregon beer," and mostly "California" for oranges and omelets

  31. ALEX MCCRAE said,

    October 26, 2012 @ 3:51 pm

    As a kind of differentiator between similar dishes that claim their own distinctly unique flavor, savoriness, and ingredient combinations, but are essentially variations on the same culinary theme, we often see locavores w/ the addition of the word "style"; as in the arena of BBQ cooking, where we have the likes of Memphis- style, Tyler-Texas-style, Louisiana-style, and South Carolina-style; all claiming their version of BBQ is the best on the planet. (Same would hold for different chili recipes, I'd imagine. Each with their own city, or state locavore.)

    We have Maryland-style crab cakes, and Montreal-style smoked meats, with the venerable eatery Schwartz's Deli in Montreal being one of the most popular purveyors there of.

    Growing up in Toronto as a kid, with great fondness I recall Shopsy's Deli, which claimed to have the best corned beef in all of Canada. Whether the thinly-sliced, very lean, generously portioned corned beef in their sandwiches was considered 'Toronto-style' is a moot point.

    Hmm… that "Ottawa Beef" is a puzzler. Although there's no shortage of 'bull' roaming atop Parliament Hill these days.

  32. Jonathan Badger said,

    October 26, 2012 @ 4:07 pm

    @David L
    Well, there is Detroit-style pizza — square and with thick crust
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Detroit-style_pizza

  33. chris said,

    October 26, 2012 @ 4:15 pm

    And, of course, Kentucky Fried Chicken, which may owe their entire existence to this effect (although, IIRC, that is no longer their official name).

    Possible exception 1: when the combination of location and food product denote a *different* food product. Canadian bacon isn't necessarily better than bacon, it's just different. Similarly French toast, English muffins, etc. (Lima beans?)

    Possible exception 2: when the combination of location and food product is contradictory, either geographically (Tibetan shrimp, Swedish bananas) or culturally (Israeli pork ribs).

  34. Ellen K. said,

    October 26, 2012 @ 4:32 pm

    Regarding the lack of of "Detroit" examples, see the full comic (linked in the original post above the graphic), which addresses that.

  35. Jon Weinberg said,

    October 26, 2012 @ 8:45 pm

    @David L, if people in La Quinta, CA (and Lexington, KY) didn't think there was a food that became more enticing when "Detroit" was put in front of it, then I expect they wouldn't name their restaurants "Detroit Coney Island". (Didn't I refer to this earlier in the thread?)

  36. Sarah Glover said,

    October 27, 2012 @ 1:16 am

    V & KCIvey, I often hear Belgium instead of Belgian in the UK – my brother-in-law always says Belgium for the adjective. But then he says emzyne instead of enzyme – could his dyslexia be relevant to this?

  37. LDavidH said,

    October 27, 2012 @ 3:15 am

    FWIW, my wife (native UK) always calls anemones "anenemies", and I don'tthink she's dyslexic. Maybe something to do with n and m being "similar" – except they're not, phonetically speaking, are they?

  38. maidhc said,

    October 27, 2012 @ 3:45 am

    The California Republic, also called the Bear Flag Republic, is the name used for a period of revolt against Mexico initially proclaimed by a handful of American settlers in the Mexican territory of Alta California on June 14, 1846, in Sonoma. This was shortly before news of the Mexican–American War had reached the area. … The revolt lasted 26 days, at the end of which the U.S. Army arrived to occupy the area. Once the leaders of the revolt knew the United States was claiming the area, they disbanded their "republic" and supported the U.S. federal effort to annex Alta California.

  39. Robbie W said,

    October 27, 2012 @ 5:17 am

    Baked Alaskan, anyone?

  40. John said,

    October 27, 2012 @ 5:32 am

    I could imagine a Detroit Pizza sounding appetising. Although I could also imagine it being a euphemism for a disgusting sexual act.

    @V, judging by the context (seems to be a case of bigamy), I imagine the "Belgium wife" was his wife in Belgium (under Belgian law, living in Belgium). By contrast, a "Belgian wife" would be a woman of Belgian nationality he happened to be married to.

  41. fev said,

    October 27, 2012 @ 7:02 am

    None of the coney islands that come immediately to mind use "Detroit" to descibe the product; I think I've seen Sonic do it, but Sonic is hardly a coney island. Maybe that's just an out-of-town thing?

    Buddy's, on the other hand, does call its pizza "Detroit-style." I don't know if putting the pepperoni under the cheese is a citywide habit or not, but it's a pretty distinctive pizza either way. And quite good.

  42. Lazar said,

    October 27, 2012 @ 10:07 am

    @KCIvey: Speaking of funny mishearings, I once used the term "Slovene" in conversation, to which someone (who was not unfamiliar with the existence of Slovenia) responded, "There's no such thing as a Slovian!" Now I only use "Slovenian" with that person.

  43. Troy S. said,

    October 27, 2012 @ 12:29 pm

    Stand-up comedian Kevin Meaney used to ahve a bit about how ridiculous the idea of "imported New York cheesecake" is. Are people going down to the docks, singing, "Cheesecake boat's a-comin' gonna party tonight!" ?

  44. the other Mark P said,

    October 27, 2012 @ 6:00 pm

    but I would have to look up Wyoming

    Mid-western

    or the United Arab Emirates.

    Emirati

  45. the other Mark P said,

    October 27, 2012 @ 6:00 pm

    Forgot to say, that both are in common use.

  46. Graeme said,

    October 27, 2012 @ 6:25 pm

    Liverpool / Glasgow kiss… It makes intuitive sense that the larger or more prominent the jurisdiction the more likely we are – especially outsiders – to use the adjective, because we are primed to speak all the time, in human terms, of 'Americans', 'Canadians'…

    But maybe this will swing back as headline writers refer to 'France Police' not 'French Police' , to avoid roping emigre plods into the discussion.

  47. Stephen Nightingale said,

    October 27, 2012 @ 8:58 pm

    "On the third hand, not many British cities have adjectival forms, or at least not widely used ones. As well as those quoted above there is Glaswegian. Oxonian and Cantabridgian are rare, especially the latter, and relate to the universities rather than the cities in any case."

    There's Clitheronian. Though I have only ever heard it refer to the inmates. And the ancient school mag.

  48. Keith M Ellis said,

    October 27, 2012 @ 9:29 pm

    Yes, but how about…

    American Cheese?

  49. Lazar said,

    October 27, 2012 @ 11:08 pm

    @Troy S.: Chrysler has recently been marketing its cars as "imported from Detroit" – I'm not quite sure what they were going for with that one, as there seems to be a possible implication that Detroit is such a mess that it can't even be considered part of the United States anymore.

    @Graeme: I don't know if its the same in Britain, but here in the (northeastern?) US people make extensive use of nationality terms – chiefly "Italian" and "Irish" – to describe native-born Americans of a given ethnic descent, and I suspect that the practice may rub some Europeans the wrong way. It can make for some awkward exchanges – "He's Irish. No, I mean Irish Irish. Like, from Ireland."

  50. Keith M Ellis said,

    October 27, 2012 @ 11:55 pm

    …and I suspect that the practice may rub some Europeans the wrong way.

    I understand that the Irish sort of feel this way, sometimes, about some people visiting Ireland.

    Which, really, is both completely normal and not particular to Europeans; while at the same time it's also sort of weird.

    It's normal in that I think that every ethnic group that has a diaspora, or is otherwise somewhat geographically dispersed, will argue about who's truly in-group and who's not. Exhibit A: Judah and Israel.

    It's sort of weird for exactly the same reason: ethnic groups have had diasporas and have been separated or spread out since forever, while continuing to share a language, dialect, customs, and all those things that make up ethnicity. More to the point, the claims that someone is in-group or out-group vary over time and opportunistically. That suspicious group way over thataway who claims kinship yesterday becomes our beleaguered brothers we must support today … when it's convenient.

  51. Terry Collmann said,

    October 28, 2012 @ 5:07 am

    V: the line about the "Belgium wife" seems to have disappeared from that report in the Independent. It definitely says "Belgian police …".

    In the UK now it seems normal to speak of someone as, eg, "the Spain midfielder" rather than "the Spanish midfielder", to indicate that this is a midfielder who plays for Spain, rather than one who is merely Spanish.

  52. Andrew (not the same one) said,

    October 28, 2012 @ 12:56 pm

    There's Clitheronian. Though I have only ever heard it refer to the inmates. And the ancient school mag.

    Certainly schools produce such adjectives prolifically – Etonian, Harrovian and all the rest. But that's a rather different thing.

  53. Graham Breed said,

    October 29, 2012 @ 9:03 am

    Birmingham -> Brummie

    Bristol -> Bristolian

  54. Chandra said,

    October 29, 2012 @ 3:33 pm

    In the specific case of Chile it makes sense to use an adjectival qualifier with food, of course – to a listener it would be unclear whether "Chile salmon" referred to fish that is spicy, icy or Latin American.

  55. RobertL said,

    October 30, 2012 @ 12:29 am

    It's always the England cricket team, and always has been. Never the English team.

    (And a fight starts about the number of foreign-born players in the England team in 3, 2, 1…)

  56. Colin John said,

    October 30, 2012 @ 10:18 am

    Wolverhampton -> Wulfrunian

    (Wolverhampton was originally an OE word meaning 'The High Town of Wulfruna')

  57. richard howland-bolton said,

    October 31, 2012 @ 7:07 am

    I was born in Beccles (Suffolk, UK) and have often heard 'Becclesian' (emphasis on the second 'e' when spoken) and seen it in print.

  58. Joe said,

    October 31, 2012 @ 8:59 am

    re: Birmingham -> Brummie

    Or even (Bromwichham -> ) Brummagem -> Brummie

  59. Ken Banks said,

    November 5, 2012 @ 8:38 pm

    In Hawaii, "Hawaiian" is reserved for describing things relating to the original Polynesian inhabitants and their descendents and for things in the Islands that predate European discovery and occupation. We don't have Hawaiian freeways, and although I live in Hawaii, I am definitely not a Hawaiian.

  60. Brian T. said,

    November 6, 2012 @ 1:37 pm

    @Nathan:
    Wyomingite, apparently (according to Wikipedia) – although Wyoman also seems to work (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._state_residents_names)

    I think it's important to label where things seem like they ought to come from: I'd much rather have "Detroit cherries" than "New Mexico cherries", or "Detroit whitefish" than "New Jersey whitefish".

    (Note: AFAIK, none of these exist)

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