States sure are funny-looking. I like states with vestigal tails, like Iowa:
...although I've always hated the Missouri slogan of "The Show-Me State." What, does that make the rest of us gullible? Besides, Missourians, as far as I know, don't have a specific character. You know who does?
That's right, Nebraska. When I gave a talk at Hastings College, the entire auditorium knew the State Song ("Beautiful Nebraska"). Do any of the 19 million residents of New York State know the state song of New York?
I like it when states reach for something that they might not deserve. Take Alabama and Mississippi, for instance, both violently sticking out a body part to touch the Gulf of Mexico:
And what makes Oklahoma so desperate to touch New Mexico?
Idaho seems to have a thing for Canada:
And who wouldn't? Canada is full of great people. One of my favorite places on God's Green Earth is Prince Edward Island. I think they should have the slogan "Prince Edward Island: The Island That's Also a Smile."
Posted by irw at January 29, 2004 9:43 PM
One of the coolest, and most obscure, examples of this "reaching" phenomena comes from My Old Kentucky (Adopted) Home. Not many people know it, but if you look at a really good map of Kentucky you'll see on the far western tip a little dot, carved out by the winding Mississippi River, that is separated from the rest of the state and yet belongs to Kentucky. You cannot get there from Kentucky, only from Tennessee, or by crossing the Mississippi River from Missouri (Quick quiz: did you know Kentucky borders the Mississippi River and Missouri?!?)
Why on earth would someone have decided that this parcel should belong to a state that has no obvious geographical claim to it?
I wrote this myself, however, most people in Missouri use the phrase in athletic or drinking contests, or when they are trying to find their way home after a long night of either. Down with frothy elegance:
Why Is Missouri Called the "Show-Me" State?
There are a number of stories and legends behind Missouri's
sobriquet "Show-Me" state. The slogan is not official, but is
common throughout the state and is used on Missouri license plates.
The most widely known legend attributes the phrase to Missouri's
U.S. Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver, who served in the United
States House of Representatives from 1897 to 1903. While a member
of the U.S. House Committee on Naval Affairs, Vandiver attended an
1899 naval banquet in Philadelphia. In a speech there, he
declared, "I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and
cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces
nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me."
Regardless of whether Vandiver coined the phrase, it is certain
that his speech helped to popularize the saying.
Other versions of the "Show-Me" legend place the slogan's origin
in the mining town of Leadville, Colorado. There, the phrase was
first employed as a term of ridicule and reproach. A miner's
strike had been in progress for some time in the mid-1890s, and a
number of miners from the lead districts of southwest Missouri had
been imported to take the places of the strikers. The Joplin
miners were unfamiliar with Colorado mining methods and required
frequent instructions. Pit bosses began saying, "That man is from
Missouri. You'll have to show him."
However the slogan originated, it has since passed into a
different meaning entirely, and is now used to indicate the
stalwart, conservative, noncredulous character of Missourians.
Idaho was supposed to be bigger, but the surveyors made a mistake in locating the continental divide (hardly surprising, as it goes all over the place in that region.) It would have been a lot closer to square, and Montana would have been smaller. (You can locate the continental divide on a typical road atlas and see for yourself.)
As for the shapes of states west of the Mississippi, you can mostly blame Lewis & Clark. They were supposed to grid the states for eventual settlement, and as they kept going and realized just how big the Louisiana Purchase was, they started playing with the size... the further west you go, the bigger the "squares" get!
Oklahoma, the best state shape in the country, has its 'great erection out west,' because TEXAS wanted slaves. After the Missouri Compromise (1854 was it?), which allowed slavery only below the line that currently runs along the northern extreme of Texas' panhandle (with exception of Missouri). Texas said 'forget it' and the slice of land stayed unwanted, unclaimed for a while, before Oklahoma annexed it.
Oklahoma probably needs to stage some parades of THANKS to its panhandle.
By the way, you missed the MOST CRAFTY state: Maryland. Note how it sneaks past the Cumberland Gap -- in its west -- when it's clear that the end of Maryland is approaching. When Penn & Virg weren't looking it OPENED UP AND STOLE CHUNKS OF 'RIGHTFUL VIRGINIA'.
I propose making a new state of the area and call it 'Rightful Virginia.'
While you're at it, look at what CRAFTY MARYLAND does to Deleware. For NO REASON it sneaks past the Chesepeak and snares miles and miles of coveted marsh land from the Delawese.
Don't bring this up in Dover. You'll get a fist.
Okay, since we're getting serious about this:
1. Florida takes up WAY too much Gulf coastline. I consider it rude.
2. James K. Polk should have put his foot down re: Vancouver. There is no way that should be Canadian; Washington looks ready to eat it with butter sauce.
3. The way Arizona takes that deep angular dip into Mexico is really dirty pool. I know we were pissed off about the Alamo, but really, how much desert liebensraum do we need?
4. "Rightful Virginia" exacted its revenge on Maryland via the Eastern Shore. Let's just call it even.
south beach wa is really known as Point Roberts WA. mostly canadians live there, and the border guards are very lax. There is no regular way to get from continental US to Pt. Roberts except by going through Canada, though of course you could probably boat yourself.
The story behind it has to do with an old mismeasurement of the 49th parallel.
the middle and high school kids in p.r. have to be bussed through canada into blaine, wa.
fun fact: someone tried to get out of a drug case recently by claiming they were in a 300-foot-wide legal neutral zone between the surveyed northern border of washington and the actual location of the 49th parallel. one justice actually agreed with them.
re: Florida -- I know a native Floridian who refers to Florida as "America's penis."
re: States & Countries looking like people -- As I recall from my childhood, "Games" magazine, circa 1978, ran a contest where people more clever than me suggested geographical borders that resembled various people or objects. The only one I remember was that New Jersey looks like Queen Elizabeth in profile, wearing a pillbox hat. I still think of this every time I see Queen Elizabeth, or the outline of New Jersey.
re: West Virginia -- I think I read somewhere once, but am too lazy to look it up now, that since West Virginia was shaved off of Virginia by an act of Congress during the general uproar known as the Civil War era, that its existence was never ratified by the other states, and technically therefore, West Virginia does not exist. This might come as some relief for anyone who's ever been to Huntington.
Don't forget the 'notch' in Connecticut's northern border... I suspect someone was working from a jigsaw template.
The bit of Minnesota that's on the Canadian side is a reservation, which is probably why it's so isolated:
Of course, it has a casino.
As for South Beach, WA -- the ferry from Vancouver to Vancouver islands skirts into US waters several times a day, given that the Gulf Islands and the San Juans are geographical siblings. It's only a matter of time before Canada claims the San Juans as its own.
Anthropomorphic (body-part) maps were generated by configuring the virtual body of a god or goddess over the area to be mapped. Areas under each part of that body received the name of that part. These maps equate geography with anatomy to produce place names that indicate where they are located relative to other places on the same map.
Examples of these maps include "Old Man" Napi (creator of the Blackfoot indians) and his "Old Woman" wife in Alberta, Canada; Hermes centered at Mt. Hermon (now on the Israeli-Syrian cease-fire line); and Aphrodite in north Africa.
Join the BPMaps discussion group by pointing your browser to
or send a blank email to
This is a quiet group that currently has 94 members. First, view the databases and then browse the message archive at the BPMaps website. Help us find more maps of this type.
Israel "izzy" Cohen, BPMaps moderator