What we are: South Bay demonyms

By Garrison Frost

A person from Paris is called a Parisian. A person from New York is called a New Yorker. These names are called demonyms, words that denote the inhabitants of a particular place. Thus, people from Mars are called Martians, people from Canada are called Canadians and people from Japan are called Japanese. Just about every country has an agreed upon demonym, as do most of the big cities. When you get to the smaller cities and areas, however, the demonyms are lesser known and sometimes nonexistent.

So what about the South Bay? What are our demonyms?

Given that we all associate ourselves with Los Angeles, even though only a fraction of us actually live in the city of Los Angeles (OK, county counts), it is easy to assume that we can all be considered Angelenos, which is the dominant demonym for people living associated with the megalopolis. To get things a little more particular, the term South Bayan is also fairly common.

People who live in San Pedro are certainly Angelenos because, San Pedro not being an independent city, they are technically Los Angeles residents. Nonetheless, they can also refer to themselves by the commonly used demonym, San Pedrans. One might think that Harbor City, another Los Angeles berg with its own name and identity, might also have its own demonym, but I haven't been able to find anything. What would it be? Harborians? Harbor Citians?

One part of the South Bay where the assigning of demonyms would seem to be particularly difficult would be in the Palos Verdes area, where residents can only know which of the tiny similar-sounding cities on the hill that they live in by checking their water bills occasionally. Moreover, these tiny cities don't have names that easily lend themselves to proper demonyns. What would one do with the name Rolling Hills Estates, for instance? Would you just drop the difficult word Estates and simply call someone from that city a Rolling Hillsian? But that would be confusing, as there is a completely separate city called Rolling Hills. So you would have to try and work with the word Estates, coming up with something like Rolling Hills Estater? Similar issues exist with the other PV cities Rolling Hills, Rancho Palos Verdes and Palos Verdes Estates. Thankfully, the residents of those communities have decided to lump themselves all together under the word Peninsulans. A tidy solution made easier by the fact that they all live on a peninsula. If those cities had been in the desert, on a plain or in a geographic depression, I suppose they would have found a different demonym.

The beach cities had a similar quandary when searching for a demonym, only their issue had to do with the word Beach. Rather than settle on the awkward Manhattan Beacher, Hermosa Beachite or Redondo Beachan, these cities opted to drop the difficult word altogether from their demonyms. For Manhattan Beach, this made the task particularly easy, as a demonym already existed for the East Coast version of Manhattan in Manhattanite. Hermosa and Redondo opted to go with the popular form of demonym that ends in an n: Hermosan and Redondoan.

El Segundo kept the article, but otherwise went the same way as Redondo when it chose El Segundoan. Carson went the way of Manhattan by going with the –ite, as in Carsonite. I happen to like this demonym form because it always reminds me of explosives, as if a resident of the city of Dynam would be called a Dynamite.

I haven't been able to find an agreed upon demonym for Lomita, but my hope is that it's Lomitian and not Lomitan or Lomiter. Lomitian just sounds cooler, like Venetian. It also sounds a little outer spacey, like Martian. On that note, Lawndale's demonym – quite possibly the best of the bunch – sounds to my ear quite sci-fi: Lawndalian. I'm not sure but I think there was an episode of Star Trek where Kirk visits the planet Lawndale and ultimately overthrows the fascist government there while bedding more than one beautiful Lawndalian hussy.

As for Torrance, by far the biggest city in the South Bay, I haven't been able to find anything other than Torrancian, which to my ear doesn't sound quite right. Until they find something better, I think that city is best going with "Torrance resident."

(Dec. 21, 2006)

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