lifelong native

From Michael Quinion’s World Wide Words, issue 674 (January 23), in the “Sic!” section:

An article of 16 January in the Arizona Republic describes a New Orleans resident as a “lifelong native”. This differentiates him, Bob Kelly guesses, from late-arriving natives.

The comment assumes that the meaning — the one and only meaning — of native is

A person born in a specified place, region, or country, whether subsequently resident there or not … Usu. with of. (OED draft revision of December 2009)

This sense, attested since 1535, sticks close to the etymology, from a Latin ‘born’ stem. In this sense, lifelong would be redundant in “lifelong native”, since your place of birth doesn’t change over time.

But there’s another sense, attested since 1800:

A person resident in a particular place or locale; a citizen.

This is a semantic extension of the sense above, preserving the component of connection to a place, but allowing for a connection other than birth. (The resultant ambiguity is also seen in be from, as in the question “Where are you from?”, which can be asking about place of birth, or at least childhood residence, or about place of current residence.) In this sense, there’s nothing odd about “lifelong resident”, a point made clearly in the World Wide Words of January 30 (issue 675):

LIFELONG NATIVE  Several readers objected to the mild mockery of this expression in the Sic! column in the last issue. For them, it has a specific meaning – of a person who was born in a place and has always lived there, as opposed to one who was born in a place, but for a period has lived somewhere else. Sharla Hardy put it like this: “I was born in California and live there, but I spent seven years living in Ohio and a couple in Michigan. So I may be a native [of California], but I’m not a lifelong native.”

Note that Sharla Hardy is a native of California in both of the senses above.

3 Responses to “lifelong native”

  1. ShadowFox Says:

    I suspect there is an intermediate step missing. There is (IMO fairly common) use of “native” without “of”. This sense of “native” is roughly the same as the current use of “aboriginals” or “locals”. At one point, I am sure, it was quite literally the same as “aboriginals”–i.e., the local tribes of whatever “uncivilized” nation. Once upon a time, that would have signified both senses of “native” that you cite–being born there and living there, wherever “there” is. But the meaning gradually drifted toward the latter and got extended to any locals, not just the distant tribes. There may also be slight difference in use: the birth sense of native focuses on the target, while the local sense of native focuses on the speaker’s location at a particular time. In other words, when I go to mingle with the natives, I am not joining a party of people born in the same place, but people who live in a place where I happen to be.

  2. mollymooly Says:

    I say the mockery stands, unless you can be a lifelong resident *without* being a native (lifelong or otherwise).

  3. rhhardin Says:

    A man is native where he walks.

    That, characterized as local patriotism, from Wm. Empson’s mini-essay on Native in The Structure of Complex Words, p.49, on what happened when “the empire-builder’s dialect began to affect talkers at home.”

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