Liverpudlians are agog. Their city of half a million people is buzzing with plans to celebrate its status as the European Capital of Culture for 2008. Never heard of Liverpudlia? No wonder. Its real name is Liverpool. One of Britain's largest cities, it's celebrating its 800th anniversary this year . Its citizens are popularly called Liverpudlians as the result of an ancient joke... and the Beatles were the most famous of all Liverpudlians.
"Ordinarily, inhabitants of Liverpool (in northwest England) would be known as Liverpoolians or Liverpoolites or Liverpoolers on the same pattern that gives us New Yorkers, Brooklynites and Washingtonians," says Evan Morris, America's knowledgeable online Word Detective. "But some wag in the early 19th century decided to change the pool in Liverpoolian to puddle and shorten it to pud as a joke. The Liverpudlian label stuck, and more than 100 years later the ascent of the Beatles, probably Liverpool's most famous exports, transformed a minor British witticism into a household term around the world."
Word Detective also knows how "Scouse" came to be used to describe those Liverpudlians and their harsh dialect, often heard in British TV programs. "We can chalk it up to Liverpool's history as an important British seaport," he says. "Scouse is short for lobscouse, a kind of thick meat-and-vegetable stew often served to sailors in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.
"The precise origin of lobscouse is obscure, but a synonym for the same stew, loblolly, is probably a combination of lob (a dialectical English term meaning "to bubble while boiling") and lolly (a regional English term for soup). In any event, scouse has been shorthand for a Liverpudlian since at least the 1940s, and also refers to both the dialect and the distinctive accent of a Liverpool native."
Morris, who lives in Ohio, is the author of four books on words and grammar and one of humor. He is a former columnist at the New York Daily News. His Word Detective website has attracted millions of visitors since 1996, and is syndicated in newspapers in the US, Mexico, and Japan.
Back in England, writer and music critic Paul du Noyer is a proud Liverpudlian. "Scruffy, careless, brazen and kind, Liverpool is a city with soul," he wrote in Britain's New Statesman magazine a few weeks ago.
"I am loyal to my native city, but can see why people sneered when Liverpool was declared the European Capital of Culture for 2008. Of course it has some grand old buildings, world-class museums and a fine classical orchestra. But these are not what Liverpool stands for in the national imagination. In the eyes of the outside world it remains a city of slums and car thieves, overrated comedians and tiresome insularity. As the banner says at Anfield, home to one of our brave yet underachieving football teams, 'We're Not English, We Are Scouse'.
"The self-sufficiency of Liverpudlians, whose accent stops abruptly at the city boundaries and who dismiss the citizens of neighbouring counties as 'woollybacks', separates them even from the north of England. The average Scouser-in- the-street would not care if - to quote a locally popular stage play - they 'bricked up the Mersey Tunnel'".
Many towns in other countries are also named Liverpool: five in the US (in Illinois, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas) and one in each of Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica and Guyana.
Australia's Liverpool is one of Sydney's outer suburbs and one of the country's oldest urban settlements. Governor Lachlan Macquarie named it after the Earl of Liverpool, Secretary of State for the Colonies. Sydney itself was named after Lord Sydney (born Thomas Townshend) who was Britain's Home Secretary when Captain (later Governor) Arthur Phillip sailed his First Fleet into the Harbour in 1788.
We wondered whether our fellow Australians call themselves Liverpudlians. Apparently they do. "Drizzling rain and wintry weather couldn't dampen the enthusiasm and spirits of the hundreds of Liverpudlians who were at this year's Anzac Day Dawn Service.," Paul Haigh wrote in Sydney's City of Liverpool Champion.
How would the Spanish or Portuguese-speaking inhabitants of those South American Liverpools describe themselves. Liverpudlieros, perhaps?