Arkansan? Arkie? Or Arkansawyer?

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette is asking its readers to weigh in on which descriptor they use to describe themselves, as why.

I’ll be interested in the results. I referenced this conundrum in a post last week.

A former co-worker, here in Northwest Arkansas, was adamant on this: He calls himself an Arkansawyer, but he calls me an Arkansan. The difference? I didn’t grow up here. My family heritage does not involved Arkansas. He did and his does. He is proud to call himself an Arkansawyer.

Then again, members of Leadership Benton County, which I was part of in 2005-2006, were firm that terminology such as Arkansawyer only helped entrench the rest of the country’s low opinion of Arkansas, which is apparently not to different from the Arkansas depicted in Beverly Hillbillies.

Many of the residents of Northwest Arkansas (an average of 1,196 people move to Northwest Arkansas every month) are not originally from here, and they tend to fight the negative stereotypes.

Identifying the residents of other (mainly Midwestern) states where I’ve lived is not an issue; the populous agrees. Is this a situation unique to Arkansas, United States?

I call myself an Arkansan: This term follows the conventions used in many other states for one, which makes it the logical choice. I don’t really like the term Arkansawyer, or Arkie, particularly in formal contexts, because they seem so informal and uneducated.


9 responses to “Arkansan? Arkie? Or Arkansawyer?

  1. [lisp]I fer wun mysel’ try’n fight them thar negatory steerie-types to![/lisp]

  2. Pingback: Subdividing the South « Word Lily

  3. People who say Arkansan are the same people who pronounce the name of the state Ar-Kansas until corrected- and sometimes persist after the correction.

  4. When you consider that the French language was once considered the language of refinery and greater intelligence (and was almost voted to become the official lanugage of the United States of America, at one point), then it makes this “Arkansan sounds more intelligent” just sound uneducated. Anyone who has ever studied even a half a year of French would know that if French explorer La Harpe wrote (c. 1722) “Arkansas” that it would be pronounced “ar-kan-saw.” With that and the 1881 Arkansas General Assembly’s ruling about the pronunciation, it only makes intelligent sense to call people from Arkansas by their proper demonym, that is “Arkansawyer.” As far as trying to make our demonym fit the pattern of other states… should we make The Connecticut Connecticuters, the Indiana Hoosiers, the Maine Down Easters, the Maryland Marylanders, the Massachusetts Bay Staters, the Oklahoma Okies change, just to “sound right”?

  5. Gary N. Underwood

    The debate over whether people from Arkansas are “Arkansans” or “Arkansayers” has raged in the state for well over a hundred years. My friend, Vance Randolph, the distinguished Ozark folklorist, says that an Arkansan is a person who needs a dictionary to know what to call himself. Like Randolph, I prefer the name Arkansayer.

    (“How You Sound to an Arkansawyer” Gary N. Underwood. American Speech, Vol. 49, No. 3/4 (Autumn – Winter, 1974), pp. 208-215
    Published by: Duke University Press
    Stable URL:

  6. I realize this is an old blog post, but I just saw it.

    Another fact that bolsters the “Arkansawyer” name, as opposed to “Arkansan” is the fact that the territory was originally spelled Arkansaw in early records. And as someone else posted already, it is based on a French pronunciation. more info here:

  7. Pingback: Greetings! | Arkansas:Abroad

  8. A long-time fan of all things Southern, I finally managed to visit Arkansas in November-December, 2008. In a state-published book on Arkansas, I was amused to read “Arkansawyer”, for what I had always called “Arkansan”. Then in September, 2012, I was there again, & a local friend, who served a term in the Arkansas Legislature, used “Arkansawyer” about himself. I tend to feel that this is a more “authentic” demonym than “Arkansan”, which seems more imposed on them from the outside. Arkansawyers are the real Arkansawyers, the ones who are actually proud of being born & raised in this wonderful state. Long live Arkansas – & not least, the Arkansawyers!

  9. I think it is deplorable to call a person from Arkansas an Arkansan. There is no Kansas (Kan-suss) in Arkansas.
    If you are from Arkansas, you need to stand tall and proud. Kansan doesn’t make you smarter.
    I am an Arkie or Arkansawyer. I am saying it is grammatically incorrect and inspired by an imbecile.

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