As a writer, I’m very into words. As a journalist, I’m very into finding the right words.
In our office, my co-workers and I often have debates about correct terminology, spelling and punctuation.
For example, trisomy 21 is called Down syndrome (not Down’s syndrome, oh, disgruntled reader) and yes, Santa is an elf (it says so in “ ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”) and his name is Kriss Kringle, not Kris, according to the handy dandy holiday guide from the Associated Press.
Our most recent struggle was about what we should call people from Clovis. Fresno has it easy — Fresnan just rolls off the tongue. But Clovis ... Clovisan?
That just sounds weird. But so does every other suffix.
A demonym is a word that identifies residents or natives of a particular place, which is derived from the name of that particular place.
I glanced at demonyms for hundreds of geographical entities and came up with this list:
Clovisite, Clovisan, Clovisean, Clovisese, Cloviser, Clovisic, Clovisish and Clovisi.
Then I looked only at places that end in the letter “s” and derived this list:
1. Clovin, using Honduras (Honduran) as an example. But it made me picture the people of Clovis trotting around with cloven hooves, and obviously you’re not sheep, so,
2. Cloviot, emulating Cyprus (Cypriot). I think this might be my favorite, even if it’s wrong. From now on, I’ll verbally refer to the people of Clovis as Cloviots, although I’ll have to use the correct term in print. Which brings me to
3. Clovisian. Paris is the closest geographical name I can find to Clovis because it ends in “-is,” so, just as people of Paris are called Parisians, people from Clovis should be call Clovisians. Pronounce it with that soft “j” sound.
I find it fitting because when I try to make Clovis sound fancy, I don’t pronounce the “s” at the end; just like the French pronounce Paris “Pair-ee,” Clovis becomes “Clov-ee.”
I know, it’s obnoxious, but it’s the same as pronouncing Target like Tar Jay (with the soft “j,” of course) to make the retailer sound more upscale. I can’t be the only one who does this.
Although our staff decided on Clovisian as the most logical demonym for people from Clovis, we realize that it might still be wrong. We want to let you in on the debate. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know your thoughts on the matter.
In the meantime, I’ll share with you the newsroom strategy: when in doubt, find another — still accurate — way to write it.
So, hello, Clovis residents! I hope you celebrate your winter holidays happily and I wish you a peaceful New Year.