Hey, Wait a Minute | Is Bloomington in southern Indiana?

Note: “Hey Wait a Minute” is an occasional B Square Beacon series that highlights meeting minutes and other documentation of local government group meetings in the Bloomington, Indiana area. Sometimes, arriving at the connection to meeting minutes takes a long walk around the block.

The online world is a mostly a peaceful place where people share facts and thank each other for the useful information. But yesterday someone was wrong on the internet. So a mild fracas broke out.

Here’s the kerfuffle-inducing question: Is Bloomington considered southern Indiana? (Yes.)

I saw the disagreement unfold yesterday in TweetDeck. That’s the application I use to read Twitter, the popular social media platform. After moving to Bloomington late last year, I set up a TweetDeck filter to display every Tweet mentioning Bloomington, Indiana—tweeted by anyone in the entire Twitterverse. The filter snags quite a pile of stuff.

From yesterday’s pile, here’s the Tweet that caught my eye:

I was well-prepared, in case I wanted to wade into the fray. Not long after I moved to Bloomington, I had already fielded this same question on Twitter from an acquaintance in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where I lived for a couple of decades:

Replying to @chronicallydave

I need clarification on another issie from a previous tweet— is Bloomington really considered southern Indiana? I’d have thought central… (my mom taught at Hanover—that’s south!)

I offered Nelson two Tweets worth of tutoring:

The takeaway here is that “southern Indiana” might be mentioned on the internet, by someone in Michigan who has a Hoosier-connected mother.

Where else might “southern Indiana” get name-checked? And by what kind of people? Answer: In a place called Philip, South Dakota, by high school football fans.

I know this, because South Dakota is the place I spent the last couple of years before moving to Bloomington. For a chunk of that time I lived in downtown Fort Pierre (pop. 2,148) across from the Silver Spur bar (94 steps from my door).

One night at the Spur I met a guy who grew up in Philip—about 90 miles southwest of Fort Pierre. Philip is named after James “Scotty” Philip, who is credited with saving  the buffalo from extinction. When I told my new drinking buddy where I grew up—southern Indiana—he rattled off his old high school’s football cheer:

A bottle of pop, a big banana,
we’re from southern Indiana,
That’s a lie, that’s a bluff,
We’re from Philip,
That’s hot stuff.

I wrote it down on a bar napkin so I wouldn’t forget. Rhyming “Indiana” with “banana” might amount to a gentle insult. But those two words call to mind a fruit that’s indigenous to the Hoosier state—the pawpaw, aka the “Indiana banana.”

No question, pawpaws are a big deal in Bloomington. How can you tell? They’re mentioned in the meeting minutes of a city council meeting held last fall (Sept. 5, 2018):

Councilmember Chris Sturbaum showed everyone a Papaw fruit and
explained that it was one of the two natural fruits in Indiana.
Granger congratulated Councilmember Allison Chopra for passing
the Indiana bar exam. …
Councilmember Dave Rollo congratulated Chopra for her
achievement and said he would get her a basket of Papaws.

I emailed Sturbaum, asking him for a clarification of the phrase “natural fruit,” which he confirmed meant indigenous in that context. He also said:

I am fascinated by the ancient Paw Paw tree. I imagine dinosaurs eating the fruit… I live in town but have a small patch of them in the back yard. They were pretty exciting to kids when there were so few alternatives, but they are still worth the trouble. They are very fragile and wouldn’t ship and they are ripe for only a few days and then are squirrel food. I like to say they taste like papayas with the very slightest hint of kerosene.  Pretty good though.

Sturbaum’s emailed reply means there are now at least three spelling variants—”pawpaw” (my preference), “Papaw” (from the meeting minutes), and “Paw Paw” (from Sturbaum’s email).

Fighting about the correct spelling of a fruit is not a great way to use the internet.  It’s way better to thank Sturbaum for the useful information. So thank you, Councilmember Sturbaum. (But seriously, it’s p-a-w-p-a-w, no caps, no spaces. And the meeting minutes really need to be corrected, right?!)