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Is it Utahn or Utahan?

Is it Utahn or Utahan?

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SALT LAKE CITY — Is it Utahn or Utahan?

What about Utaan? Utahnian? Utonian? There seem to be myriad demonyms for those who call the Beehive State home, but can there be more than one right answer?

Can one be both a Utahn and a Utahan?

The answer seems to be steadily creeping toward "no," although some disagree over which is the correct term. And it seems that what started off right is now wrong, at least according to the U.S. government — but Utahns have long had the right answer.

A Dec. 31, 1980, Associated Press article published in the Beaver County Times highlighted the discrepancy between local and national terminology:


"The U.S. Government and Printing Office is trying to give state residents a lesson on how to spell Utahan, but Utahns just won't listen," it said. "According to the printing office, residents of the Beehive State are Utahans, not Utahns. That's also the opinion of Webster's New World Dictionary, which doesn't even list Utahn as an alternative form."

Webster's now lists Utahan as the primary form, with Utahn noted as "local usage."

The U.S. Government Printing office has changed its tone since the 1980 article, though: it now lists "Utahn" as the official form of the word.

What about Utahns themselves? Although the question tends to spark passionate responses from Utahns regardless of their opinion, official media and state style — including that of — converges around Utahn. News director Graydon Johns said Utahn "is simply more conversational and more widely used and recognized by the masses."

(Utahn) is simply more conversational and more widely used and recognized by the masses.

–Graydon Johns, news director

"Utahan, while obviously grammatically correct, doesn't look or feel right," he said. "Just read through our comment boards."

Robert Trishman, copy editor for the Deseret News, agreed.

"For me, I try to pronounce it. ‘Utahn' would be pronounced similar to a surname like ‘Kahn,' while ‘Utahan' would sound more like ‘Monahan,' " he said.

Trishman pointed to a 1993 article in the Deseret News that addressed the Utahn vs. Utahan debate, paraphrasing Robin Riggs, legal counsel for the governor. Riggs said there is no law defining what a person from Utah is called, but that "Utahn" is a matter of tradition.

Despite that tradition, national media outlets tend to stubbornly stick to "Utahan." A Jan. 23 CNN article about the Sundance Film Festival said Robert Redford reminded "Utahans" of the $80 million the festival attracts each year to the local economy. And a Feb. 23 New York Times article ironically refers to "Utahans" in a sentence about Utahns' vernacular.

It begs the question: If a man says he's a Utahn, but nobody listens, was he ever anything but a Utahan?

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Stephanie Grimes


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