The Merriam- Webster dictionary says they are, defining “native” as “belonging to a particular place by birth.” I say they’re not. By that definition I’m a Pennsylvania native, but I’ve spent fewer than two weeks in that state (one of those in the Poconos a few years ago.)
Both R&B stars were born in Austin while their fathers were stationed here in the military — Cornell Haynes Sr. at Bergstrom Air Force Base and Ciara’s pops Carlton Harris at Camp Mabry. They lived here a year or two and then moved on.
Nelly moved to St. Louis at a young age and Ciara to Atlanta. That’s where they grew up, where their careers were born, the cities they are native to.
But what about the dictionary? Here’s the rule about “native.” You can be a native of only one place, so use the one that makes the most sense. If you were born in Austin and spent the next 30 years in St. Louis, you’re a St. Louis native. I was born in a military hospital in Valley Forge, but I grew up in Hawaii and consider myself a native of the Aloha State.
This issue, which was big at the Statesman a few years ago when a writer referred to Nelly as an Austin native and his editor pulled out Merriam-Webster, came up again when someone saw that fiddler/singer Ruby Jane was born in Dallas and wanted corrected all past references of her being a Mississippi native (she lived there the first 12 years of her life). Ask Ruby Jane where she’s from and she’ll say Mississippi, where she learned to talk, walk and play that damn fiddle.