It’s Enough to Say Dakota

By Cyberquill 05/08/201536 Comments

Mount Rushmore

Why is South Dakota called South Dakota and not simply Dakota?

There already is a North Dakota. Where else should the only other Dakota—we’re talking states, not actresses or buildings—be located but to its south?

South Carolina, same story. Waste of a word. Not to mention South Korea. But let’s keep it stateside.

Ever heard of a commonwealth called East Virginia? Of course not. There’s a West Virginia, so it follows logically that its sole sibling lies east. No need to say it. If Virginia lay south of West Virginia, then West Virginia would be called North Virginia.

It’s really not that difficult to divine the location of the other state of a pair when one is clearly marked by its cardinal direction.

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  • Cheri

    Hi Peter,
    What made you write about this topic? I have never considered these thoughts…we in California would like to have Northern California and Southern California…those in the south are taking our water.

    • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

      Oh, cut the SoCalians some slack. Not their fault it never rains in Southern California.

      That aside, if you were to split California latitudinally into two states, it would suffice to call them either a) California and South California, or b) North California and California. (Pick your preference.)

      By denoting one of a pair of states by its geographical location relative to the other, the other’s location becomes clear without making it part of the name. Recall William Strunck’s injunction to “omit needless words” — so let’s save those mapmakers some ink!

      What made me write about this topic? I came across an article about South Dakota, and it brought to my mental fore a question that’s been puzzling me for years:

      How come — given that there’s South Dakota & North Dakota and South Carolina & North Carolina — Virginia is called Virginia and not East Virginia?

      This is precisely the type of inconsistency that bugs me the way other people are disturbed by a crooked picture on the wall. I mean, either you prepend cardinal points to both states of a pair or to only one state of a pair. Whichever option is chosen, it should be applied uniformly across the country.

      For reasons already stated, in accordance with Strunk’s law, I propose the latter.

  • Cheri

    Also, I am sorry but I am having problems signing in with Google. I hope signing in with Discus works.

    • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

      You’ll soon get in trouble with Disqus, too, if you keep spelling it as if you wanted to throw it.

  • Richard

    Suppose a yokel an ignorant native of south (lower case) London were transported in his sleep to South Dakota, and, in answer to his first question, on waking, as to his whereabouts, he was informed, “Dakota,” might he not assume there was no such place as North Dakota?

    The selfsame problem arose for me in Virginia when I was transported there under similar circumstances.

    Or maybe the naming of states is a democratic thing. We know this can cause trouble -- after all, Hans Schelling, the Austrian finance minister tells us:

    “I think politicians must decide and act and if politicians believe they have to ask the people, that indicates that they are not prepared to take the necessary consequences and decisions.”

    In view of the fact that a quarter of Britons believe the dodo still exists, could he be right?

    • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

      I still think of Hannes Androsch as the Austrian finance minister. Never heard of Mr Schelling. Sounds like somebody misspelled our former currency. He must be new. Either way, of course he’s right. The concept of the Athenian Assembly was replaced by what we now call representative democracy for a reason, namely precisely in order to devolve day-to-day decision-making from the people upon a small group of representatives elected by the people. As Andreas once discussed in one of his Economist pieces, modern California is what happens when the people — in this case through ballot initiatives and the like — figure out a way to bypass the government and pass their own laws directly. I believe he referred to this condition as “the inmates running the asylum,” i.e., the ultimate recipe for chaos.

      But back to the topic at hand:

      Suppose that selfsame ignorant yokel were transported in his sleep to New York or New Jersey. Might he not falsely assume that there was a place like Old York or Old Jersey respectively?

      Therefore, in the absence of a perfect solution that would prevent the yokel from making erroneous assumptions about sister locations no matter where he were to suddenly find himself, saving ink makes the most sense to me.

  • Richard

    In any case, everyone knows “Dakota” means “DC3”.

    • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

      Sounds like a type of airplane.

    • Richard

      I thought it was a London postcode.

      • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

        Postcode? You mean zip code? Speak English.

        • Richard

          So I was right after all!

          • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

            Perhaps. Still driving on the wrong side, though.

  • Richard

    How also would you refer to the “Black Hills of Dakota” without transferring part of Wyoming to South Dakota’s jurisdiction or moving them physically -- an enormously expensive exercise in times of austerity, money better transferred to Greek pensions.

    Which brings me immediately to the habit of referring to the United States of America (which name in itself is an affront to Canada and has probably led to Quebec’s urge to secede) as “America”, as if it were a whole continent.

    The USA has an area of only 9,857,306 square kilometres, whereas the combined area of the USA, Canada (9,984,670 km²), Mexico (1,972,550 km²) and Panama (75,517 km²) is 21,814,526 square kilometres.

    Furthermore, this leaves a whole continent of area 17,840,000 square kilometres to be assigned a mere appendage “South”, a humiliation from which, as has been shown by irrefutable research, all its troubles and divisions derive, from climate change to war with Great Britain.

    I advise you to leave well alone.

    • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

      Look who’s talking. A member of a people that habitually refers to continental Europe as “Europe” as if the British Isles were a continent unto themselves.

      • Richard

        Do you propose that I should henceforth refer to continental Europe as “Lesser Britain”?

        • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

          Fine with me, as long as you agree to henceforth refer to the United States as “Greater Britain.”

          • Richard

            How about “Greater Virginia” in view of its English origins?

            • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

              Awkward. Too ambiguous. If there were a Virginia, a West Virginia and a Greater Virginia, it wouldn’t be clear if Virginia stood for East Virginia or Great Virginia.

            • Richard

              No. I intend to leave Virginia as it is and reserve Greater West Virginia for Ohio or Kentucky.

            • Richard

              Or perhaps both. North Greater West Virginia and Greater West Virginia (to pacify certain shades of opinion amongst us).

            • Richard

              I nearly resolved a similar problem by the amalgamation of the North Riding of Yorkshire, the East Riding of Yorkshire and the West Riding of Yorkshire. This just left what to call it. Fortunately, someone had a stroke of genius -- was it you?

            • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

              Yorkshire? That’s a dog, right? You people are riding dogs now? What happened to all your horses?

            • Richard

              Dogs? That’s no way to refer to . That’s how another courteous war a rose.
              A Lancastrian.

            • Richard

              Note the subtle shift in nomenclature from noun to adjective. Always the prerogative of the victor -- viz: American War of Independence to American Revolutionary War. In either case, though, there is ultimate restoration of a former order. There are exceptions -- viz: “The French Revolution […ary War]”, “The Russian Revolution […ary War]”.

            • Richard

              [Muses] “…….. restoration …..Tsar (‘The Ras’) Putin…….surely not…..”

        • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

          Regarding “North Greater West Virginia” and “Greater West Virginia,” the problem is, U.S. states are traditionally introduced as “the great state of [Rhode Island].” Granted, since there are no non-great states, it is entirely superfluous to use that modifier in the first place. But that’s the tradition. Nothing anyone can do about it.

          That being so, prefixing a state’s name as “Great” would result in uncomely repetition (“the great state of Great Pennsylvania”).

          Worse, if a state’s name contained not merely “Great” but “Greater,” it would be rather confusing to introduce it as, for instance, “the great state of Greater West Virginia.” Because which is it? Great or Greater? Can’t be both. You’d have to say “the greater state of Greater West Virginia.” But then it would sound as if there were two states called Greater West Virgina, one being greater than the other.

          Soon all states would be introduced as “the greater state of [name of state].” Then one state (probably Texas) would begin referring to itself as “the greatest</em. state."

          And then we'd have another civil war on our hands, fought over the right to use the tagline "greatest state of." Then the U.S. would fracture even more — recall that the split of Virginia into Virgina and West Virginia was a consequence of the previous civil war — and there'd be a boatload of new states to name, compounding the difficulty of doing so.

          • Richard

            ? Ahem? Please retain some vestige of diplomatic civility in this important question. I see a courtesy war brewing

            • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

              That’s what I was getting to. I skipped a closing tag, and my last paragraph failed to show. Happens to the greatest among us.

  • Richard

    What a beautiful name “Wyoming” is, too. It has the plaintive call of the violin, the atmospheric ethereality of the harp, the melancholy of the blues and the nasal harmony of a gerund.

    Imagine if it were foreshortened to “Wyom”, a change you proposal would necessarily entail.

    • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

      My problem with Wyoming is that it sounds too much like a question, as if to ask, e.g., “Wyoming? Why not aming?”

      • Richard

        All the best assertions are framed as questions calling upon the Nous for justification and challenging human perception.

        • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

          That’s why nobody lives in Wyoming. Too challenging.

          • Richard

            ” … When things get tough, CQ, persist … ” [Anon.]

      • Richard

        That ultimate test of human perception, age-related macular degeneration, is challenged in that the question reported by you as posed by Wyoming was read by me as, “Why not arming,” -- always a profound question, especially in the negative.

        • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

          No problem. I’ll type more slowly from now on.

          • Richard

            Thank you.

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