They were once known as the Hoosier men, and eventually, all the Indians were referred to as Hoosiers. According to Jorge Santander Serrano, a doctoral student at Indiana University, the term Hoosier may have originated from the French words for “redness”, rougeur, or “red face”, rougeaud. This hypothesis suggests that the early pejorative use of the word Hoosier may have been related to the color red (rouge in French), which is associated with indigenous peoples, pejoratively called red men or redskins, and also with poor whites, referred to as red collars. The humorous popular etymologies of the term Hoosier have a long history.
One story claims that it was derived from a traveler shouting from afar to make himself known in order to avoid being shot. The inhabitants of the cabin would then answer “Who is here?” which, in the Appalachian English language of the first settlers, became “Who's 'ere?” and eventually “Hoosier?” Another variant of this story has Indiana pioneers shouting “Who's here?” as a general greeting and warning when they heard someone in the bushes and tall grass, to avoid mistakenly shooting at a family member or friend. The poet James Whitcomb Riley jokingly suggested that the fierce fight that took place in Indiana involved so much biting that the expression “Whose ear is it?” became remarkable. This arose from or inspired the story of two 19th-century French immigrants fighting in a tavern in the foothills of Southern Indiana.
One was cut off and a third Frenchman came in to see an ear on the dirt floor of the tavern, which led him to insult “Who is the ear?” Two related stories trace the origin of the term to bands of Indiana workers under the direction of a Mr. Dunn. According to one story, a Louisville contractor named Samuel Hoosier preferred to hire workers from communities on the Indiana side of the Ohio River, such as New Albany, rather than residents of Kentucky. During the excavation of the first canal around the Ohio Falls between 1826 and 1833, its employees became known as the Hoosier men and then simply Hoosiers.
The use extended from these hardworking workers to all Indiana boatmen in the area and then extended north with the settlement of the state. The story was told to Dunn in 1901 by a man who had heard it from a relative of Hoosier's while traveling in southern Tennessee. A variant of this story had it that an Army Corps of Engineers was unable to find any records of a Hoosier or Hosier in the channel company's surviving records. A Hoosier piece of furniture, often abbreviated as a hoosier, is a type of freestanding kitchen furniture popular in the early decades of the 20th century.
Almost all of these cabinets were produced by companies located in Indiana and the name derives from the largest of them, Hoosier Manufacturing Co. Other Indiana companies include Hoosier Racing Tire and Hoosier Bat Company, a manufacturer of wooden baseball bats. The change came at the request of Senator Joe Donnelly and former Senator Dan Coats, who argued that Indiana residents have proudly been called Hoosiers for more than 180 years, although no one knows for sure where the term comes from. Only non-Hoosiers use the term “Indian”.
And the explanation given to first-year students who enter Indiana University, where students and athletes call themselves Hoosiers, is no longer revealing. It is clear that Hoosiers are proud to call themselves by this name and it has become an integral part of their identity.