There’s a favorable focus sharpening itself on our chunk of the southeast, friends. Food critics are talking with more frequency about North Carolina Barbecue. Musicologists have traced the “invention” of the Power Chord to a North Carolinian. The “local” movement, still steadily gaining steam, has naturally drawn attention to our lush farmland and favorable growing conditions, with charming little establishments (like this one, this one, and this one, among many) cropping up across the state with an aggressively local bent. NC musicians (playing more or less NC music, mind you) are getting more national attention – one struggles not to mention the Avett Brothers (Concord) with Bob Dylan on the Grammys or The Steep Canyon Rangers (Brevard) with Steve Martin, or whatever else. Hipsters in New York are flocking to libraries in search of Old Time Music, which happens to have a really old set of roots around here, in a dizzy hurry to “be influenced” by it. Whatever the cause, people are looking at us.
My bringing this up, dear Greensboro, is not because I think you look bad. I think you’re beautiful. I think we stand to ride this favorable wave, if we aren’t already riding it. But we lack something:
As in, what does one call someone from greensboro?
Should we have a stake in this eventual history, how might we express our civic pride in terms of identity? In the heyday of Motown, for instance, were people not proud to be Detroiters, if not Michiganders? Don’t New Yorkers, in addition to being “New Yorkers,” define themselves in certain measure by whether they’re “Manhattanites,” “Brooklynites,” etc.? In the event of any given sports victory, are people from, say, Indiana not thrilled to be “Hoosiers,” or from Connecticut to be “Nutmeggers,” or from Manchester to be “Mancucians”?
We, Greensboro, don’t have one. Not really, anyway. According to my initial few strokes at researching this, there was a tiny debate in the fifties as to whether we should be “Greensburgers.” Well, there are Greensburgs in Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Kansas, so I don’t think we have any claim to that one. I’ve seen “Greensboroan,” ”Greensboroite,” and “Greensborian” in use, but never without hesitation, and look at all those syllables! They’re all clunky and they respectively sound like “Greens-groan,” “Greensboro: white,” or “Greensboring.” Identifying as any of those is like having to wear (A) an embarrassing work uniform that (B) doesn’t fit because none were left in your size.
So, in the interest of literally giving us a good name, I’ve been trying to come up with a few, and bugging friends to do the same. We have these:
Greenes. I like this one. Succinct, minimalist, and familial. Derived from Nathaneal Greene*, the man for whom the town was named. The drawback, I guess, is that, these days, folks may have a harder time naming themselves after revolutionary war heroes than when the town was named.
Gatekeepers. An extreme one, to be sure – if this one ever gained hegemony, our town could boast having the one of the most “Metal” demonyms outside of Scandinavia. Nonetheless, it’s not irrelevant – Greensboro’s other name is “The Gate City,” which comes from our historically busy train station (60 trains running daily in the mid 1800′s!). I get a good reaction from folks when I mention it as a contender.
Greenbeaus/Greenbiddies: Credit goes to Holy Ghost Tent Revival’s Drummer Ross Montsinger for this bold, controversial offering – the first instance of a gendered Demonym I’ve ever seen. A step forward or a step back? You decide.
So, roll ‘em around in your mouth and your head, see if any strike your civic fancy, and, if you like, vote or write something in.
I can’t honestly say that I know what having a name will do for residents of Greensboro, or, if good comes of it, how I’d prove the name had anything to do with it. Whatever the reason is that we need one, though, is the same reason bands need names, which is the same reason sports teams, political parties, or states do. It’s a unifying thing, a something people can point to and say ‘I’m a ___!” It’s a significant symbol and I see no reason why we should go without it any longer.
*It’s news to me that his name was spelled “Nathaneal.” Does having “Neal” at the end of your name make it a valid nickname for you?