Two unrelated questions

First, to my American audience: Is upstate New York part of the mid-west? Specifically, are Rochester and Buffalo midwestern towns? I ask because Rocastrians I have talked to say ‘yes, we’re on the border but Buffalo is echt Midwest’, but the Buffalonians I talked to today denied this hotly.

Secondly, to my Australianist audience: tell me about your sun and moon stories. Specifically, are the sun and moon married to each other? If not, who are they married to? Do they have kids?

[These questions are only related by the fact that they were both in my brain together, but special bonus points for anyone who can relate them more amusingly.]


13 responses to “Two unrelated questions

  1. It’s very unscientific of course — but a while ago I asked for votes on a handful of states. (click on my name for the post discussing the results of the poll). Pennsylvania got only 2 out of 90 votes but I got some comments splitting the state in two. I’m surprised to hear that a similar split seems to exist in New York.

    Of course I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s one of those questions that can’t be answered definitively. It depends so much on who you ask. And does any group have a better claim to the right answer? We’re very accepting here in the Midwest. Anyone that wants to call themself one of the family is welcome.

  2. I thought “Midwest” started in (going westward from) Ohio and encompassed the Central time zone. Boh.

    Hehe. “Rocastrians, Buffalonians”.

  3. As a native Michigander, I hear virtually no difference in dialect between folks from Buffalo and Rochester, Bay City and native Ann Arbor (Ann Arborians, Ann Arboriginals?). Defining Western New York as the Midwest recalls a time when Ohio was “the West”, and is entirely correct linguistically as far as I’m concerned.

  4. Any particular Australians? Born and bred in Perth, apart from an elementary-school-age stint in NE USA. The sun and moon aren’t married to anyone and don’t have babies. We don’t particularly anthropomorphise them at all, apart from children’s drawings sometimes having a smiley-face in the sun. And we like to point at the bunny when it’s full-moon.

    We talk much more about how cool it would be to travel to the moon and the other planets than we talk about them having god-like personalities.

  5. Q1: Thanks all! Rochester and Buffalo are clearly part of the Northern Cities shift linguistically, which Detroit/Ann Arbor etc also participates in. I was thinking culturally rather than linguistically. As in, could someone from Rochester claim that they came from the midwest? My sample in Rochester (n=5) says yes, but my sample (n=1, by the way) from Buffalo says that no one from Buffalo would say they were midwestern.

    Q2: Lauredhel, that’s why I said Australianist, not Australian. My question was prompted by a Dreamtime story in the texts I’m working on that I thought Bardi people probably wouldn’t want me putting online. I am interested in other such stories and what roles the participants have.

  6. Sorry! It was the opposition to “American” in the original framing that threw me.

  7. David Marjanović



    Echt [ɛçt]?


    Specifically, are the sun and moon married to each other?

    And which one is male and which female? Not that I knew anything, but I’d be very surprised if that were constant throughout the continent. BTW, the sun is neuter in the Slavic languages.

  8. As a West Coast Americaner, I would have a hard time accepting that anyone from New York state could be considered a “midwesterner” in any sense. To me even Ohio seems to be Northeastern, and the Midwest only starts with Michigan and Indiana. This is entirely separate from the linguistic areas, because I know people from both upstate New York and Wisconsin participating in the Northern Cities shift. Only the Wisconsiner could be considered culturally a midwesterner in my ethnography. The New Yorker appreciates exotic ethnic food, seafood, and various other Eastern Seaboard traits. The Wisconsiner is clearly a pure meat-and-potatos person, for whom exotic means moldy cheese or Scandinavian food.

  9. David, re echt: I guess I hang around Yiddish speakers too much.

    Re the genders of sun and moon, I couldn’t work it out from the text. Bardi doesn’t mark gender in pronouns, and the speaker used the word injidar ‘spouse’ the first time, then it’s “jin malarr” and “jin aamba” (his/her wife, his/her husband) from then on. I’d also be surprised if they were constant throughout the continent.

  10. I have a vague feeling that in most European languages that mark gender, ‘sun’ is almost always male and ‘moon’ is almost always female. Likewise ‘day’ is usually masculine and ‘night’ is usually feminine. As far as I know, this is the case in Italian, Spanish and French. Exceptions?

  11. David Marjanović


    German: die Sonne, der Mond. This must be the original Germanic attribution.

    Slavic languages: sun neuter, moon masculine (except that in Russian this has shifted to “month”, and the normal word for “moon” has, surprisingly, been borrowed from Latin: luna, stress on the last syllable though — of course feminine because it ends in -a).

    I wonder if the “normal” pattern is actually limited to Romance and Greek… :o)

    Japanese doesn’t mark gender, but I’m told it uses the German pattern. In any case Amaterasu is the sun goddess.

    You’re right about “day” and “night”, but that’s simply inheritance from Proto-Indo-European (in the narrow sense); I expect a few Romance exceptions because dies was a masculine exception in an otherwise feminine declension class and started to become feminine when used in the abstract. Hence Church Latin: Dies irae, dies illa

  12. In Icelandic the moon is neuter and sun is feminine. I’m 97% sure I’m right on that.

  13. As a Californian who lived for a few years in central New York (which one must refer to as “upstate NY” to Californians because unless you’ve lived there, NY is divided into ‘NYC’ and ‘upstate’), I think Rochester and Buffalo would both fall into the category of ‘back East’ which sometimes actually includes the whole midwest (as in, “He’s from somewhere back East” or “I haven’t seen her, she moved somewhere back East”). I think from the west coast, any rural area east of the Rockies is at least somewhat ‘midwestern’ including rural Pennsylvania and rural New York and including rural Michigan and maybe as far south as Virginia (though that’s probably the South), as far as cultural stereotypes go. I think many West Coasters don’t even realize there are cities in the midwest.

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