Unique Expressions, Inventions, Place Names, and More

Book Notice

Utahisms: Unique Expressions, Inventions, Place Names, and More, by David Ellingson Eddington (Charleston, S.C.: The History Press, 2022).

This slim volume by Brigham Young University linguistics professor David Eddington should interest anyone who grew up in Utah, lived in Utah, or is curious about the linguistic, geographic, and historical curiosities of the Beehive State. The book offers numerous surprises and debunks several common misconceptions about the origins of Utah names, places, inventions, and novelties.

Chapter 1 tackles “Utah Critters,” from the minuscule (potato bugs and water skeeters) to the massive (Pando). Chapter 2 explores Utah vocabulary and expressions, from Latter-day Saint terms such as Mutual and Primary to funeral potatoes, flipper crotches (or crutches), and “for cute” (which comes from Norwegian). Chapter 3 examines Utah pronunciation, including fish in the crick, American Fark, and Utah’s moun’uns. Eddington shows that many of these supposedly unique Utah pronunciations are actually predictable vowel shifts that turn up in other parts of the United States. Chapter 4 delves into the origins and pronunciation of Utah place names, including Duchesne, Hooper, Hurricane, Levan, Mantua, Timpanogos, and Tooele. The fifth and final chapter corrals a variety of “Other Utah Stuff.” Did you know, for instance, that the Frisbee (originally the Pluto Platter) was invented by Walter Frederick Morrison of Roosevelt, Utah, or that the traffic light was invented by Salt Lake police detective Lester Wire, or that the machine that resurfaces ice rinks was invented in California by Eureka, Utah, native Frank Zamboni?

At a mere ninety-one pages, plus notes and bibliography, Utahisms is a quick and entertaining read about some of the unique aspects of the state settled by the Latter-day Saints. Not surprisingly, many of the expressions and pronunciations have a connection to pioneer immigrants who uprooted from Europe and the eastern U.S. and settled in Utah.


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