February 23, 2024
Graphic showing the city along the Penobscot River with the phrase "Bangorian or Bangorean?"

Being from Michigan, we just called ourselves Michiganders. And if you were from Detroit, then you’d say you were a Detroiter. When creating a bio for this blog last year, I needed that word for Bangor. What is our demonym?

My first guess was Bangorite. My wife disagreed. “Bangorian,” she said. Emphasis on said. How do you spell that? She spelled it with the I, not the E. That looked good to me.

Does anyone else refer to us as Bangorians? To the Googles! The answer to that question: yes. Not regularly, but people have referred to us or themselves as Bangorians… but also Bangoreans. The spelling question re-emerged. Which is right? The folks behind the Macmillan Dictionary weighed in (not about Bangor specifically) on demonym suffixes, and noted in addition to -ian sometimes -ean is used. Still not definitive.

Then I asked the Bangor Public Library for their thoughts. I received an excellent response:

“Bangor residents and natives have been referred to as Bangoreans over the years, especially in the local press.  “The Bangorean” was a short lived weekly newspaper published between January and October of 1836.  We have just one issue, as far as I can tell. Dated 17 Mar 1836.  It was published by John S. Carter and edited by Charles Gilman.  In the book “The Press of Maine” (1872) it states “It was handsomely printed, and edited with ability.  It was not, however, a political paper, and there being no powerful company behind to sustain it, its fortunes were united with those of the Mechanic and Farmer in October, 1836″  The Mechanic and Farmer was published between Feb 1835 and Feb 1839.”

Bangor Public Library via email, June 13, 2022

That settled it for me. I am a Bangorean. Or was I Bangorean? I use the Michigander example. We say “I’m a Michigander” not “I’m Michigander”. Or others say “I’m a New Yorker” not “I’m New Yorker”. Therefore, I am a Bangorean.

But then today, while reading through the 1939 Bangor Annual Report, I came across this image and caption on page 38.

Bangorians spelled with an I instead of an E.

There it was. With an “I” again. In an official city publication, no less. And it looks good. But how can I argue with the information from the Bangor Public Library? We’re talking about a usage over 100 years before this report. That should take precedence, right? But then there’s the “Bangorian Controversy”, which refers to a religious controversy in the diocese of Bangor in Britain, stemming from a 1717 sermon which took more than 100 years before “The Bangorean” was published.

I’m sticking with Bangorean until convincingly proven otherwise. The Bangor Public Library provided the first American usage specifically for Bangor, Maine. The United Kingdom may use Bangorian for their Bangor, but they also use colour, humour, and theatre, while we use color, humor, and theater. So perhaps it could be a difference along those lines.

To my friends here in Bangor, Maine I say: no matter which way you spell it, I’m glad we’re neighbors.