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In Name of Linguistics, It's La La Lander, Dana Pointer

November 02, 1989|LYNN SMITH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Let's get proper.

Most residents of Orange County are probably content to be dubbed "residents of Orange County." Yet, they are probably unaware there are rules to govern these matters. Put down 40 years ago by Berkeley linguistics professor Charles R. Stewart, they decree that a person who lives in a place that ends in a y , should change the y to i and add ian .

We would therefore be more properly called Orange Countians.

Or, similarly, according to Stewart's rules, Midway Citians. Or for those across the county line, City of Industrians.

For people who live in Laguna, Placentia, or any other place than ends in an a , the late professor recommended they add an n to the a or ia , making themselves Placentians or Lagunans. Should the hometown end in on , add an ian , he said. That would be for Stantonians and Fullertonians.

There is some confusion if the name ends in a silent e . In that case, he wrote, add ite , or er . Irvinite? Irviner? Orangers? Orangeites?

If it ends in an o , an is to be added. The swallows of San Juan Capistrano would be, therefore, San Juan Capistranoans.

Naturally, not everyone follows this etiquette.

"I've lived in San Juan for nine generations. People would say, you can't get much more San Juaninian than that," said Mary Ann Lanssens, secretary of the Chamber of Commerce.

Lucien Truhill, executive director of the Orange County Chamber of Commerce, said when he travels, he just tells people, "I'm from Orange County." He used to live in San Juan. "I said, 'I live in San Juan.' I might have added, the home of the mission, but I never called myself a missionary."

In Los Angeles, he observed, the trendy used to call themselves Angelenos, but now say they are from La La Land. (Properly: La La Landers.)

But according to name expert Leonard (who prefers to be called Tim) Ashley, a City University of New York professor who knew Stewart personally, nothing is set in stone.

"There are no fast rules about how to do it," he said. "You can't predict it. Baltimorans is what I call people from Baltimore. They wouldn't like that," he added.

Stewart, he explained, came from an era when people acknowledged rules and thought that they were judged by the way they spoke. Today, he noted, there are illiterates at the highest levels of government. Or more likely--as in the case of Ivy League-educated President Bush--their professional speech writers deliberately write errors into their speeches to make them sound less stuffy.

As a perfect local example of the state of current ignorance, Ashley points to Mission Viejo. The city name, Spanish for "old mission," should properly be spelled Mission Viej a , to make the adjective agree. Therefore the residents probably should be Mission Viejans, but might incorrectly call themselves Mission Viejoans.

Most of the time, though, they tend to call themselves, "residents of Mission Viejo," said Wendy Harle, director of public relations for the South Orange County Chamber of Commerce.

Many of the southern cities are so new that most people just say they're from the South County, she said. "I live in Rancho Santa Margarita. It's only 2 years old. I don't think anybody's called anybody anything yet."

People who live in towns that end in Beach and Park have particular problems. Vicki Cone, executive assistant of the Orange Chamber of Commerce, said she used to work for the Baldwin Park Chamber. "It was never resolved. Nothing worked. Nobody liked Baldwiner. We did call them Parkies, but it was probably not widely accepted."

In general, people call themselves whatever sounds right, Ashley said. In Anaheim and Garden Grove, it's "Anaheimers" and "Grovers," said Dave Roque, editor of the Independent News.

Ashley said insults can result when people make up a term that sounds wrong--calling a San Franciscan a San Franciscoite, for example.

In the new city of Dana Point, the townsfolk were hoping to upgrade an image created a few years ago by a bumper sticker that said, "It's Party Time in Dana Point."

Hoping to sound more sophisticated, Cecil Cowder, director of the city's chamber, said residents use the term "Dana Pointers." But humorists immediately seized on the canine implications and turned it into "Dana Setters," said chamber secretary Georgelean Olvera.

But there's no reason, they couldn't be "Dana Pointites" or "Dana Pointonians." Ashley said. Just as long as they avoid "residents of Dana Point." That he said, "is chickening out of the problem."

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