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Say goodbye to ‘Vaughan resident’

Today you are a Vaughanian.

Ever since John Graves Simcoe, Upper Canada’s first lieutenant-governor, gave Vaughan its name more than 200 years ago, its residents claimed no identity.

The Township of Vaughan was born in 1850, grew to be the Town of Vaughan in 1971 and matured into the City of Vaughan in 1991.

Through it all, a Vaughan resident was, well, a Vaughan resident.

“We do not have a derivative saying what you call people from Vaughan,” said Katherine Barber, editor-in-chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary.

“You don’t usually have names for residents of townships because they don’t identify that much with their township, really,” she added. “And since you’ve only been around as a city for 17 years, that might account for the fact that there isn’t an established name.”

Until now.

The editorial staff at Vaughan Today reached a tipping point in February. We’d had enough of using the prosaic Vaughan resident label. Besides, if someone from Toronto is a Torontonian and a Halifax resident is a Haligonian, surely there’s room for a more poetic handle for a dweller of Vaughan.

When a search of the city’s records by archivist Dan Zelenyj found nothing, we turned to you, our readers. The votes came in and Vaughanian and Vaughanite seemed the two most preferred monikers, though more whimsical entries, like Vaughanetian and Vaughannabe, were suggested.

“They’re all fine,” Barber said. “I mean there’s no reason why any one of them is better than any of the others.”

But some are worse. Take Vaughanite. Vaughanite is the name of a brittle metallic mineral found 35 kilometres east of Marathon, Ont. Because it contains thallium and mercury, mineral database and reference website warns, “Never lick or ingest” Vaughanite.

And besides, Councillor Alan Shefman said with a laugh, “it sounds like kryptonite”.

More seriously, he said the lack of a name for Vaughan’s residents is a symptom of enduring allegiances to the city’s historic villages: Thornhill, Concord, Maple, Woodbridge and Kleinburg.

“It’s an evolutionary issue, as well,” Shefman said. “As Vaughan moves and has moved from being a somewhat indistinguishable entity to its own, it should have the name for its people.

“It’s part of the evolution of a city, that you have a name for yourself.”

Vaughan isn’t alone in lacking a name for its residents, Barber said. While compiling the second edition of the Canadian Oxford, lexicographers asked local media in cities across the country how people identified themselves.

“And it just happens that some places don’t seem to have a word,” Barber said. “It’s not up to us dictionary editors to impose a word on you. These things have to happen organically.

“If a word catches on, we would certainly put it in the Canadian Oxford Dictionary because we have the entry for Vaughan and it’s just waiting for a derivative.”

The city is currently reviewing its brand identity, which includes its logo and City Above Toronto tagline. It’s in this context that Shefman said he may bring the Vaughanian label to council, to give it the city’s stamp of approval.

“I can hardly wait to be called a Vaughanian by the first person,” he said.

Councillor, you, along with every other resident of Vaughan, are a Vaughanian.

Vaughan Today
In print: September 5, 2008, page 4
Online: September 8, 2008 [link]