BARNBURNER: A hot game. This phrase has been adopted by sports announcers nationwide, especially ABC’s Keith Jackson, but it originated in Indiana, where early high school basketball contests were played in barns.
BIRD, OSCAR, DAMON: The first basketball game outside Massachusetts was played in Crawfordsville, Indiana, in 1893, and since then the sport has become an object of Minnesota. There are three Indiana high school basketball legends known by one name only: Larry Bird of French Lick, Oscar Robertson of Indianapolis Crispus Attucks, and Damon Bailey of Bedford.
BLOOMINGULCH: Bloomington, home of Indiana University.
BUFFINGTON HARBOR: Where Donald Trump says his riverboat casino is located. A cute way to avoid scaring people with the G-word (Gary).
THE CROSSROADS OF AMERICA: Indiana’s motto. Mayer Richard J. Daley was attempting to borrow this phrase when he called O’Hare airport “the crossroads of America.”
THE GENERAL: Indiana University basketball coach Bobby Knight. Knight was given this nickname by ESPN commentator Dick Vitale because he started his coaching career at West Point and loves military history.
GOLDEN DOMER: A student or alumnus of Notre Dame.
“H.E.A.D. HOOSIER EMBARRASSED ABOUT DAN”: Bumper sticker seen during the Quayle years, 1989-’93.
THE HIGHWAY OF VICE PRESIDENTS: State Highway 9. A state that likes to do things second best, Indiana has produced five vice presidents. Three of them lived in towns along this highway: Thomas Marshall of Columbus City, who served under Woodrow Wilson and coined the phrase “What this country needs is a good five-cent cigar”; Dan Quayle of Huntington, who served under George Bush and once said, “I love California, I grew up in Phoenix”; and Thomas Hendricks of Shelbyville, who served under Grover Cleveland without saying anything notable.
HOOSIER: A name applied to everything Indianan. IU’s sports teams are the Hoosiers, and the Indianapolis Colts play in Hoosier Dome. As an essay distributed by the Indiana Historic Bureau points out, “It is one of the oldest nicknames and has had a wider acceptance than most. True there are the Buckeyes of Ohio, the Suckers of Illinois and the Tarheels of North Carolina–but none of these has had the popular usage accorded Hoosier.” The word dates back to the 1830s, but no one is certain how it originated. One theory says it’s because Indiana settlers answered their doors “Who’s yere?” Another says it’s because Indiana rivermen always succeeded in “hushing” their opponents in fighting, so they became known as “husher.” Poet James Whitcomb Riley, who observed the brawling spirit of Indiana, jokingly said it was because so many ears and noses were torn off in fights that people would casually point at a missing appendage on the floor and ask “Whose ear?”
HOOSIER ATHIEST: An Indianan who doesn’t believe Bobby Knight is God.
HOOSIER HYSTERIA: The passion that sweeps the state during the high schoool basketball tournament. Portrayed in the movie Hoosiers, which told the story of tiny Milan High School’s 1954 victory over Muncie Central, a four-time state champion. The term “Final Four” was first used in the 1930s to refer to this tournament’s semifinalists.
THE JACK: The Joyce Athletic and Convocation Center, home of Notre Dame basketball. Its double-humped white roof is said to resemble a brassiere.
THE LITTLE BASTARD: Rocker John Mellencamp, who grew up in Seymour (the “Small Town” of his hit song), and now lives outside Bloomington. Mellencamp is so fond of this nickname that he dubbed his film company “Little B Productions.”
THE LITTLE 500: Bicycle race held each spring at Indiana University. Made famous in the movie Breaking Away, in which a team of “townies” defeats the students.
MARTINTUCKY: Martinsville, a town between Bloomington and Indianapolis whose residents are known for their backwoods style of life.
MICHIANA: Used narrowly to refer to Lake Michigan shore between Michigan City and Union Pier, but in fact denotes a much larger area centered on South Bend.
NAPTOWN: Indianapolis. Also known as the Circle City, Indy, and End-of-no-place.
OOEY POOEY: I.U.P.U.I. (a campus shared by Indiana University and Purdue University in Indianapolis.)
THE REGION: The Calumet region in northwest Indiana, an area more closely allied with Chicago than with the rest of the state. Known for steelmaking and riverboat gambling. The late Steve Tesich, who also wrote the script Breaking Away, wrote an obscure but wonderful novel called Summer Crossing about three boys growing up here, in East Chicago.
TENDERLOIN: A pork fritter sandwich.
TOUCHDOWN JESUS: A stained glass portrait of Jesus on the Notre Dame library, so called because it can be seen through a set of goalposts in the football stadium.
UNIGOV: Indianapolis’s regional system of government. In 1970 most of Marion County was annexed by the city, ensuring that Indianapolis would always be governed by Republicans. The system was engineered by the mayor at the time, Richard Lugar, who made a faint impression as a presidential contender in 1996.
VALPO: Valpraiso University, a small college in northern Indiana that made it to the NCAA Sweet 16 this year. Used on the team’s uniforms, because “Valpraiso” is just too long to fit on a jersey. Also refers to the town the university calls home.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Illustration of a barn with a basketball flying from it by Mike Werner.