In 1889 the Federal Government decided to throw open the Territory of Oklahoma for settlement, and those in charge took great pains to try to see that no potential settler received any unfair advantage over another with respect to the more choice land.
The borders were closed, and policed to keep them closed until the starting gun was fired, whereafter the race was on, and the swiftest to reach a chosen site was the winner.
But, despite all precautions, a few managed to cross the border sooner than the rest, and to nab some of the best spots.
In so doing, they unwittingly caused the coining of a new noun, for not only were these cheats named “sooners,” but the same appellation was applied to anyone thereafter who jumped a deadline.
And, too, Oklahoma itself is now nicknamed “the Sooner State.”