By Mark Peters
While the meanings of monikers such as Ethiopian, Hobokenite, and Earthling aren't hard to suss out, it's a little tougher to guess where to find a Moonraker or a Zonie. And why the heck are Oklahomans called "Sooners," anyway? Here are the stories behind the nicknames.
So, how'd the residents of Wiltshire, England, end up with this fancy nickname? Legend has it that around 1787, some brandy smugglers were on the run from the Five-0, so they dumped their booze in a pond. They narrowly escaped, but were later caught fishing for their brandy. When the cops asked them what they were doing, the creative bootleggers played dumb—pointing to the moon's reflection and claiming (in all seriousness) they were fishing for cheese. Apparently, the police bought it, and the name "Moonraker" stuck.
Zonie is a derogatory term for the crowds of Arizonans who descend upon San Diego each summer, presumably to escape the ungodly heat in their Zonie homeland. San Diego newspapers feature plenty of references to the "Zonie Factor," and many residents long for a "Zonie-free" environment. Regularly used in that area, it's a good term to know. Just don't get it confused with a Zonian, one who lives in the Panama Canal Zone, or a Bizonian—someone who lived in the post-WWII British/American zone in Germany.
You might think residents of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, are sometimes referred to as "Bunnies" because vast hordes of rabbits roam the town, or because carrots are the most popular vegetable, or because locals endlessly set new standards for breeding. Sadly, the jokey name is only a "See Der Rabbits" joke. True. Through 1932, four different minor league baseball franchises in Cedar Rapids used the name Rabbits or Bunnies, and—one would assume—that's how the joke multiplied.
Oddly enough, the New York Knickerbockers should really be the New York Irvings, because the word came from Washington Irving's pseudonym, Diedrich Knickerbocker. Though not nearly as common as Hoosier or Sooner, a "Knickerbocker" is someone who descended from early Dutch settlers—and therefore is from New York State. Irving used the pen name while writing the satiric A History of New York in 1809.
Logically speaking, someone from elsewhere could be from anywhere, but language isn't especially logical. The term "Elsewherian" is actually specific to California, where it was invented by former Governor Goodwin Knight to refer to anyone who hails from anywhere but the Golden State. The Golden State being, of course, where Californians, Californios (Spanish-speaking settlers in the state's youth), Gold Coasters, Gold Diggers, and Prune Pickers can be found.
"Appleknocker" was originally an insult for a hillbilly, hick, or rube. In 1937, the Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce in Washington tried to ban the term from the movies because it gave apple workers a bad name. However, as language changed, Appleknocker evolved into a more favorable, affectionate label for people from parts of New York or Washington State who are hip-deep in apple orchards.
[Author's Note] Special source credit to Paul Dickson for his book 'Labels for Locals: What to Call People from Abeline to Zimbabwe' (Collins, 2006).