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A rose may be a rose by any other name but will a Carsonite ever really be a Carsonogen?

November 13, 1986|GERALD FARIS

In Lawndale, the natives are called Lawndalians. The community newsletter even says so.

Presumably, Hermosans live at the beach and Carsonians dwell in that industrial city near the San Diego Freeway. But what are you if you live in Lomita? A Lomitian?

Carsonian really is used by Carsonians, say some locals, but Hermosan is a concoction that never crosses the lips of Hermosa Beach residents, according to a city historian.

And so it goes with nicknames for South Bay residents that are extensions of their city names. Few appear to be widely used, others seem to have been imposed by outsiders--the press gets a lot of the blame--and many city names simply defy being turned into something else.

Lawndalian, for example, may well have been coined by the city functionary who started the newsletter 15 years ago, not by the people it describes.

Mayor Sarann Kruse likes to use it--"How else do you refer to your people?"--but Councilman Dan McKenzie, an old timer in town of 40 years standing, says he rarely hears it.

If you call someone from Hermosa Beach a Hermosan for short, you're definitely an outsider--maybe a newspaper headline writer--says historian and former Mayor Patricia Gazen. "I don't hear it used," she said.

The same goes for Manhattan Beach, says Mayor Jan Dennis, who is writing a history of her town. In that beach city, Manhattans are cocktails, but people aren't Manhattanites. "We don't have a nickname," she said.

But people in Lomita apparently have two to choose from: Lomitan makes the best word sense, but at a recent meeting about creating a city school district, a placard appeared reading "save Lomita for Lomitians."

"I'd go with Lomitans, " said Bob Zinsmeister, Chamber of Commerce manager. "The other sounds like Martians. "

Coining city nicknames can be inviting, at least as a word game, and the results can be fanciful, awkward, or downright insulting.

How about Torrancian? "Sounds like a spider," says Barbara Sanford of the Chamber of Commerce.

Even though Carson is an industrial swath with an assortment of odors that even boosters say are downright unpleasant, city officials don't react kindly to the suggestion that Carsonogens might be a fitting nickname.

"I would not like to hear that!" cried Councilwoman Kay Calas. "That is scary, if you're thinking what I'm thinking. I've lived here 40 years, located by heavy industry, and it hasn't bothered me. My sons grew up here, and we're all still here."

It definitely would not help Carson's image, says Chamber of Commerce manager Paul Schneider. He'll stick with Carsonite.

And think of poor El Segundo. "We're El Segundoans," says Eileen Hunter, an assistant to the city manager.

"I've never heard El Segundoan ," replied Councilman Bob Anderson. "We're El Segundans."

For the sake of brevity in their cheer, the kids of El Segundo High School have opted for Gundo, as in "we're from Gundo High, we like it, we like it."

Nicknames for cities are like nicknames for people: they're catchy, friendly and prideful.

"It's a person's desire for some grass roots," said Robert Kruse, who wrote Lawndale's official history but says it "beats hell out of me" why Lawndale was given that name by its first developers.

And a lot has to do with how long names are and how they are structured. You can do a lot with words that end in an "a" or an "o," such as Redondo. But you can't do a mellifluous turn with "x," as in Lennox.

Joseph Bloch, a professor of English at El Camino College, says it has to do with the "music" of words. "People won't say anything that's hard," he said. "That's why it's Lomitans, not Lomitaites or Lomitovians. " They also reject words that are ugly or embarrassing, which is why variations of Torrance are shunned: " Torrancians, which is an ugly word and one not immediately clear."

Long words don't make it either, Bloch said, including Wilmingtonian. People's proclivity is to shorten things.

Even the Porsche (POR-shah) automobile has become a "Porsh" over the years.

The educational level and linguistic sophistication of people also are factors. " Peninsulans would work with Palos Verdes people because they are upper crusty and generally verbal," Bloch said. "It has a sort of high-class sound, Peninsulans. The Hill is even better, in terms of sounding right. High ground is always a good place."

Indeed, says Janet Mucha, a past president of the Rancho de los Palos Verdes Historical Society, "people refer to themselves as people on The Hill." She said Peninsulans comes from a local newspaper. "It's not euphonious with anything and is a long and unwieldy word."

Nel Mirels, a councilwoman in Rolling Hills Estates, said, "We don't call ourselves anything because our name is too long."

And nicknames sometimes change.

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