Living in Arizona in the spring, we are flocked with what are colloquially know by Arizonans as “snowbirds”. These are tourists from areas who have terrible winters that bleed into spring, so they escape their snow for a few months (march to may) and live in Phoenix. I was in the car with a friend on a visit home, she was driving behind a car driving particularly slow and she turned to me and complained about “snowbirds”.
Me: “Explain what a snowbird is, and why they are called that?”
KC: “Snowbirds are tourists that come to Arizona in our spring, their winter and just live here, they are usually older couples. They are called snowbirds because they like, migrate here in the winter for the warmer weather.”
Me: “Why do you complain about them?”
KC: “Because they are so annoying haha. They are the single worst drivers ever, driving behind this one now is an example, Minnesota plates, they just crawl along because they usually don’t know where they are going or don’t know the speed limit. The sad thing is, is Arizona is so easy to drive in, I mean we are on a grid system, so east to navigate. Also they just cram up the streets, I mean usually Phoenix is so spread out that you don’t see to many cars, but come this time a year the traffic is awful because all you see are the Minnesota, Michigan, Kansas or like Illinois plates mixed in around with the Arizona ones. It’s really just driving that it’s annoying, I mean old town gets crowded, but it’s not bad, and they only go to the tourist place in the day, which are like far out of town anyway.”
Me: “Where did you learn this term from”
KC:”Hmm. I don’t know really, just heard it around growing up, probably my parents complaining about their driving too or something.”
This term is one local to the Arizona or perhaps even the southwest region of the United States, one used only by the locals to describe the tourists. This term is one where the locals perform their identity with one another by creating the “other” of the snowbirds. It brings the people together under a common annoyance of these tourists and those who know and understand the term in this context would be deemed as part of the group. It is creating the locals as a group, as ones who know how to drive properly in their home and instantly can recognize when someone is not simply because of their driving.