Nicknames of States and Provinces in the United States and Canada

We give nicknames to people and places which mean something to us — or about which we enjoy teasing, anyway — but a nickname needs to have a scintilla of truth in it in order for it to be generally accepted and everlasting, which is the main reason as to why the nicknames of states, provinces and territories often come from their inhabitants rather than from the chambers of commerce or tourist boards.

Nicknames of States and Provinces in the United States and Canada

Source: CashNetUSA.

These affectionate tags are the key to the history of the area which they represent. They tell us what their early inhabitants valued about the place they lived. They are immortalized on such items as license plates and signs at the borders which welcome people who enter their states.

A series of three maps which celebrates the best known or most popular nicknames of every state, province, and territory in Canada and the United States has been created; and this article — which was written by Barbara Davidson from CashNetUSA — gives a few more details about them.

I have been given express written permission to use the images and the verbatim text from the aforementioned article in this article. With articles such as this one, I sometimes add brief notes, which are included towards the end.

The Nicknames of States in the United States

“I don’t know what it is about Hoosiers,” Kurt Vonnegut wrote about the people of Indiana – ‘the Hoosier State.’ “But wherever you go there is always a Hoosier doing something very important there.”

The famous writer was a Hoosier himself, and he had fun mythologizing the nickname of Indiana and its residents. But strangely enough, nobody really knows the real source of the name. One explanation? As a state of pioneers, it is speculated that Indiana’s first residents would cautiously yell “who’s yere?” when somebody knocked on their cabin door.

And how did Utah – a city not particularly known for its beehives – come to be nicknamed ‘the Beehive State’? It’s a story that goes back to a misunderstanding of the Bible.

For its Mormon founders, Utah was ‘the land of milk and honey’ promised in the good book. Hence the honeybee. In fact, there were no honey bees in the Middle East of the Bible, so the honey would have come from date fruits. Still, the father of American literature, Mark Twain, came up with a failsafe alternative explanation:

“The Mormon crest was easy,” wrote Twain. “And it was simple, unostentatious and it fitted like a glove. It was a representation of a Golden Beehive, with all the bees at work.”

Source: CashNetUSA.

The Nicknames of Provinces and Territories in Canada

Manitoba used to be around 5% of the size it is today, and it is easy to imagine early colonists feeling hurt by its first nickname: ‘The Postage Stamp Province.’

However, over the years, Manitoban pride expanded with the territory. Today Manitoba is nicknamed ‘the Keystone State,’ either because of its shape or its position at the center of Canada – depending on who you ask.

The territory of Nunavut is known as “Our Land.” The nickname is superficially a simple translation of the Inuktitut word ‘Nunavut.’

It took more than twenty years of negotiation before the Inuit people were able to establish Nunavut Territory in 1999. Indigenous groups had lived on the land for 4,000 years before the Europeans turned up, which explains why, following the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement in the 1990s, the locals expressed their pride with a nickname that echoed the official name: Nunavut, Our Land.

Source: CashNetUSA.

The nickname of a state, province or territory gives more than the history of the place it represents or describes. It tells of the spirit and the feelings of those who call it home.

Summary

I realize that Utah is a state and not a city; and that the state of Maryland itself seems to be missing from the maps and turned into some sort of oddly-shaped bay — but I wanted to leave the original article intact and unedited.

The nicknames of many of the states, provinces and territories are self-explanatory. Without having read this article, you probably already knew what states are the Empire State, the Sunshine State, the Peach State, the Lone Star State, the Grand Canyon state and the Aloha State…

…but some states have multiple nicknames. For example, Delaware — which is represented as the Diamond State in this article — is also widely known as The First State because it became the first of the 13 original states to ratify the Constitution of the United States. However — according to this article posted at Delaware Business Blog — did you know that other nicknames for Delaware include the Blue Hen State and Small Wonder?

I personally think that the state nickname of Delaware should be “I’m Well Aware of Delaware”; and the state nickname of Missouri should be “Missouri Loves Company” — but what do I know?

Remember the Sunshine State nickname? You probably automatically thought of the state of Florida — and you would be correct…

…but did you know that is also one of the nicknames of South Dakota, as well as The Swinged Cat State, according to this article from Black Hills Pioneer?

Some state names seem to be more of a misnomer these days. Despite being called the Peach State, the state of Georgia is no longer the largest producer of peaches in the United States. The state of South Carolina produces more peaches — and its Peachoid water tower in Gaffney is one representation of that fact.

Anyway, I am thinking of delving deeper into the nicknames of states, provinces and territories of the United States and Canada and presenting that information in a future article. Would you be interested in such an article? Please let me know in the Comments section below.

Thank you.

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

2 thoughts on “Nicknames of States and Provinces in the United States and Canada”

  1. Tom says:

    Very interesting and fun! I quizzed some colleagues of mine on this. We had a lot of fun guessing them. Another article would be great if you had the time.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Excellent, Tom! I enjoyed reading that.

      I intend to do that next article. Thank you!

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