You may have wondered, especially if you didn’t grow up in this state, why some of us call ourselves Michiganians and some Michiganders. Yesterday I heard from one gentleman who has strong feelings on the topic. He hates the term Michigander.
He wrote to me, “Michigan Radio disserves the listeners every single time it utilizes the term Michigander. Regardless of the result of a recent popular opinion poll, the usage is just plain wrong.”
He added that “Michigander is a derogatory term imposed on us,” by a freshman congressman from Illinois way-back-when.
Well, it is always good to think about words and what they mean. But in this case, I have to profoundly disagree.
I am a Michigander, I have always been a Michigander, and intend to always be one. And that’s because this is a word that is not only unique, but which has a rich history.
Yes, it was indeed coined by a new congressman – but one named Abraham Lincoln. Nor was he disrespecting us as a state. He was poking gentle fun back in 1848 at a political opponent, Lewis Cass, who was pretty much the political godfather of Michigan.
Cass was the Democratic nominee for president that year; Lincoln was a Whig. They disagreed on the Mexican War; Cass supported it, Lincoln did not. Though we today think of Lincoln as a marble statue, in his own time, he was famous for a sharp and sometimes biting sense of humor, and in a debate over the war, Lincoln said of Cass, “and there he sits, the great Michigander.”