To the Editor:
Emailing back and forth with a friend who lives in Menemsha, I was struggling to come up with a word that succinctly describes what I am: a proud denizen of Aquinnah, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, USA.
I went through several semantic summersaults — such as Aquinnian, Aquinnista, and Aquinnarian — before sticking the landing: Aquinnaut.
It was easier in days of yore, when I and my fellow up-Islanders were know as Gay Headers.
But Aquinnaut seems perfect for the current municipal nomenclature, connoting someone who explores far-out places, like an astronaut in Earth orbit or an aquanaut under the deep blue sea.
Aquinnah is not quite outer space, but it’s out there, beyond the pale, at least that’s what most down-Island tradesmen tell me.
We even have an Outermost Inn.
They tell me the power and the telephone lines didn’t make it up this way until the 1950s. Aquinnah was and remains the Island’s last frontier. At night at our cottage, even in the summer, the silence is deafening, broken only by the whirring of insects, the clinking of glasses, and the occasional manic call of a whip-poor-will.
But back to the wide world of semantic stereotyping. Then, of course, there were Jason and the Argonauts, who were hot on the trail of the Golden Fleece. We Aquinnauts went in search of a part of the Island where the summer traffic wasn’t bumper-to-bumper, and we found it. And once situated way up here, we prefer not to go down-Island to sit for hours, enlarging our carbon footprint, before getting fleeced.
The email trail with my friend naturally evolved into what the proper term is for someone who, for some unknown reason or other, settles for Menemsha.
Menemshans seemed too easy. Menemshiners wasn’t too awful, and also in keeping with a village (it’s not even a town) known for its fishing fleet. Then I had another fishy idea, something of an aromatic epiphany. Remembering the smell wafting from open barrels of chum along the waterfront, I proposed Menhadens.
It was met with a most execrable emoji, which cannot be described in a family newspaper. Then Laurel, my friend, termed me an Aquinnerd. People can be so catty, particularly out-of-towners.
After a cooling-off period, we agreed to table what to catcall ourselves, and move on to maligning people from other venues, like the Magic Chilmarkers, or the fancy folk who live in Edgartoni. We agreed that some of our best friends are West Tisberries.
It’s a great game to play at dinnertime, since Martha’s Vineyard is awash in place names, way above and beyond those of its six official burgs. Heck, Vineyard Haven ain’t even a town, or much of a haven at this time of year either.
Yes, this little Island is a mashup of Katamaniacs, easily discouraged Quitsonians, bucolic Tashmooers, Squibnockers, Wasqueakers, and Cape Poge-goers.
We’re all different. Maybe that’s what makes this such an interesting place to live and visit.