Every few months, and certainly at the beginning of the election cycle, it seems the term “Coloradoan” starts popping up. It often shows up in press releases that have oftentimes been prepared from inside the Beltway. And when it happens, it’s a dead giveaway: You’re not from around here.
But that’s OK. Us oldtimers are patient, and as newcomers continue to pour into the Centennial State – the third-fastest growing in the country, population-wise – it’s the question that must continually be answered.
We’re Coloradans, not Coloradoans.
Keep reading.The only truly acceptable use of the word “Coloradoan” is when it’s applied to the daily newspaper to the north. (Or, as Colorado historian Tom Noel fondly refers to them, the “misguided folks in Fort Collins.)
Earlier this year, the venerable Ed Quillen offered up one of the best explanations for the correct spelling, in a column that appeared in the Denver Post. Here’s the pertinent portion:
One frequent question is what to call a resident: Are you a “Coloradoan” or a “Coloradan?”
The informal rule is explained in the 1945 book “Names on the Land” by George R. Stewart, which I do not have, so I cite it secondhand from “The American Language” by H.L. Mencken, updated in 1982 by Raven I. McDavid Jr., and David W. Maurer.
By and large, when a place name ends in “o,” you add “an.” The exception is if the place name is of Spanish origin; then you drop the “o” before adding “an.”
This observed rule appears to work in practice. Idaho and Chicago derive from Native American languages, not Spanish, and their residents are Idahoans and Chicagoans.
San Francisco comes from Spanish, and thus San Franciscans reside there. Residents of other realms with Spanish names are Mexicans and Puerto Ricans. Since Colorado is a Spanish word for the color red, we are properly Coloradans, not Coloradoans.
As many more people become Coloradans in the years to come (projections show 4.8 million will live here by 2010, and nearly 5.8 million by 2030) it’s a good bet that the need to answer this question isn’t going away.
Cara DeGette is a senior fellow at Colorado Confidential, a columnist and contributing editor at the Colorado Springs Independent, and a fourth generation Coloradan. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org