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The great debate: Turlocker or Turlockian?

POSTED November 4, 2011 8:40 p.m.

Newspapers, just like any other industry, has its own way of doing things. Many of the “rules” we at the Journal follow in our reporting and writing are the standards laid out by the Associated Press in its “Stylebook,” which is the yardstick that most newspapers follow in the industry — with a few notable exceptions, like the New York Times.

But, as the Associated Press “Stylebook” is a general guideline, there are always things that come up locally that newspapers must decide for themselves. Case in point: the correct nickname for residents of Turlock.

When I came to work at the Journal in 2005, I was told “Turlocker” was the correct way to refer to a resident of Turlock. I never questioned that directive, just followed it. In the ensuing six years, I have never been challenged on the use of the term — until now.

The following statement appeared in my last column, published in the Nov. 2 issue of the Turlock Journal: “With all the people in the world — and the growing number of Turlockers — it’s amazing to me that one night of the year can make all those numbers seem irrelevant.”

My use of the term “Turlocker” was called into question by a reader who sent me the following comment: “I would only suggest that you refer to us as Turlockians in the future, this is the unofficial Facebook consensus.”

I immediately checked out the Facebook claim and found that there is, indeed, a Facebook group named “Turlockians,” and it has 1,277 members. Under the description for the group was the following statement: “We hail from mighty mighty Turlock, home of Turkey Tech, Taco Trucks, and Turlockians!”

This started my search for the origins of the term “Turlocker” and the reasons behind the Journal’s policy on its usage.

I began my research with a call to former Journal editor, and the man who hired me, Brandon Bowers. He said the term “Turlocker” was the policy when he came to the Journal in 2001, and he suggested I call former editor Bob Crawford for clarification.

Crawford was a wealth of knowledge on the subject. He said that in 1984 — to the best of his memory —the editorial staff of the Journal decided to put together an official Turlock Journal style book to be used by all reporters and editors as the final say on all things local.

It was this project that once and for all codified the usage of the term “Turlocker” in the Turlock Journal.

“We knew we could not make everybody happy … just be consistent,” Crawford said of the great Turlocker decision of ’84.

But this begs the question, where did the term “Turlocker” originate? To get a better understanding of the history of the term, I called Diane Chittock. Chittock’s father, Lowell Jessen, bought the Turlock Journal in 1941, and was a part of the Journal — except for the 10 years when he went to Beverly Hills and Livermore, before returning to Turlock —until 1976. Chittock worked at the Journal while in high school, and then as a staff reporter from 1963 to 1978.

To her recollection, the term “Turlocker” was always used when referring to residents of Turlock.

Scott Atherton of the Turlock Historical Society also confirmed the accepted usage of the term “Turlocker” throughout the town’s historical records.

That settled it: “Turlocker” was the traditional term for residents of Turlock.

But, doing something that has always been done just for the sake of tradition may not be the best thing to do.

I decided to do some research on the current usage of the term. Mayor John Lazar said he always uses the term “Turlocker.” Sharon Silva, president and CEO of the Turlock Chamber of Commerce, however, said she has heard both “Turlocker” and “Turlockian” used when referring to residents of Turlock.

I informally asked random people I met throughout my travels around town and found that residents under the age of 40 tended to use the term “Turlockian,” while those in the 40 and above age range consistently — and vehemently — said “Turlocker” was the only correct term.

One person (who is also under 40) said a Turlockian was someone who was born and raised in Turlock, while a Turlocker is someone who moved here and really likes Turlock. She is also a self-described Turlocker.

This Turlocker/Turlockian debate could very well be an issue of generational slang. I noticed that the vast majority of members of the Facebook “Turlockian” group were of the younger generation. In fact the group’s creator, Michael Darmousseh, is a 2005 graduate of Turlock Christian High.

Darmousseh submitted his own opinion on the term “Turlockian:”

“It's likely the term ‘Turlocker’ is correct according to most rules of grammar, however, Turlock has a rich Norwegian heritage; even the name ‘Turlock’ comes from a Norwegian word meaning ‘dry lake.’ Therefore, I feel by using the form ‘Turlockian,’ we are acknowledging our town's unique cultural heritage. Cultural references aside, ‘Turlockian’ simply sounds more nonchalant and genial. So, while I might be a Turlocker according to the dictionary, I will always be a Turlockian at heart.”

What do you think? Please send your opinions on the usage of the term Turlocker or Turlockian to khacker@turlockjournal.com.

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