THOUGHTS ON `UTAHN' AND A PYTHON

Published: Monday, Aug. 16 1993 12:00 a.m. MDT

A Utahn, Utaan, Utahan: Do you call a person from the United States of America a "Usanian?" "United Stateser?" "Usanian?" "Usatian?" NO. You call 'em Americans. And someone from Utah is a Utahn, not a Utahan.

A customer support representative from WordPerfect called us to comment on last week's write-up on an Esquire article. The magazine called residents of the state "Utahans." We said Esquire had it wrong.Even WordPerfect's spell checker lists it as "Utahans," the caller said.

We decided to join the latest Utahn vs. Utahan battle by taking the matter straight to the top. We called the governor's office.

According to legal counsel Robin Riggs, there is no law defining what a person from Utah is called; it's just a matter of tradition. And, the tradition is Utahn, Riggs said.

We went to another expert - Susan Hermance, assistant copy chief at the Deseret News. It's Utahns, she said. Why? "That's just the way we've always done it. It's easier to pronounce. Utahans is a mouthful.

"I've never seen it the other way except in obscure things that don't come out of Utah," Hermance said.

Yeah, like Esquire.

Still not satisfied, we called an editor at the American Heritage Dictionary, which calls residents Utahans.

"It probably came from our citation file," said Paul Evenson, who wrote a lot of the geographic entries. "We get citations from all kinds of cited material. Whatever we end up finding more of we end up putting in."

He pulled out "What do you call a person from. . . ?," a dictionary of resident names published by Facts on File. Lo and behold, it says it's Utahns.

"Utahn, not Utaan or Utahan," the dictionary says. "This is one of those terms which is guarded with some fervor by residents of the state. When the GPO (Government Printing Office) Style Board ruled in favor of Utahan, it was forced to reverse itself in favor of Utahn after getting angry letters from Sen. Jake Garn (R-Utah) and dozens of other Utahns."

Evenson said he'd recommend the American Heritage Dictionary change to Utahn.

"With any word that describes a group of people, we're inclined to use the word they wish to be called," he said.

Now, to that customer support person who called us: See what you can do to get WordPerfect to follow suit.

Sneaky snake: When the Herman Dutoit family arrived in Orem from South Africa six weeks ago, they thought they were moving into an unoccupied duplex. Boy, were they wrong.

Dutoit's son Stephen, 8, and daughter, Louise, 10, chased a mouse into the basement furnace room last Thursday night. Now, a lot of houses have mice. But the youngsters weren't prepared for what their flashlight beams found coiled up next to the furnace: a snake. A ball python to be exact.

The two kids ran upstairs to tell their father.

Dutoit called Orem police, who tried unsuccessfully to remove the reptile. Animal control officers arrived and, after an hour of work, pried the 41/2-foot python loose "much to the delight of all the onlookers," Dutoit said. A crowd of neighbors gathered to watch the spectacle.

Police said the home's previous occupants owned the snake. They reported it missing in May.

"Loose Change" appears in the Deseret News on Mondays. Got an idea for the column? Call Dennis or Brooke at 374-1162 or fax us at 377-5701.

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