Wednesday, January 27, 2016

What's In Your State?

All states, even small ones like NH have regions that inhabitants use to subdivide the place.  A few are familiar names to outsiders – Cape Cod, Black Hills, Long Island, Outer Banks;  many more are immediately understandable once one has heard it.  If you hear that a state has a mountain region or mountain district as a distinct idea known to natives, it’s fairly simple to pick up a map and figure out where that is.  The names vary slightly and are not quite predictable, but neither are they surprising.  It’s Connecticut Coast, not Seacoast.  Some say Maine Coast, others say Coastal Maine, but no one says Maine Shore.  New Hampshire’s region next to the Atlantic is The Seacoast.  Massachusetts breaks that up into distinct bits.

Instate, an important area might own the geographic feature:  The Lake*, The Beach, The Island, The River. Outsiders get annoyed at the provincialism of this, but language is about communication.  Others are obvious enough to be predictable even if previously unknown.  I’ll bet they call that The Panhandle in Oklahoma. (They do.)

Others are less obvious, and those are more fun.  Anyone could figure out what the Lakes Region or White Mountains refer to, but you have to pause a bit for others.  We used to have the Golden Triangle in NH, but I haven’t heard the phrase in years.  Above The Notch is a real thing here. Some are not fully distinct even to natives.  Upper Valley refers to the area around Hanover and Lebanon, sometimes including parts of Vermont, sometimes not.  But Upper Connecticut Valley might mean that area, or the one farther up near Colebrook.  The Merrimack Valley in some contexts means everything from Nashua to Franklin, but since the high school of that name went in it more likely refers to the upper half of it.

I know Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, and a few Massachusetts regions, but I’m interested in the regions of your states that tend to be known internally, but don’t occur to outsiders.

*There are nuances here.  The speaker’s family may own property on another lake, or those in the conversation may know that some other lake is meant. Yet if they move to a different conversation at the same function they might revert to The Lake meaning Lake Michigan, and none other.


james said...

Everybody knows the UP.
Around here we have the Isthmus, which wouldn't be quite so well known if not for the seat of the state government and the flagship university.

Anonymous said...

I've lived in Northwest New Jersey for 20 years - Warren and Sussex counties. Looks like you are in the Poconos and the people all wish they were part of PA or New Hampshire. Medium and small towns, farms, outer suburbs and forests. Hunters and target shooters are common. Few Democrats even bother putting their names on the ballot for local elections. Our Congressional Rep is Scott Garrett - a Libertarian leaning Republican.

I would love it if it wasn't part of NJ.

Charles Harrell said...

Most Texans know 'the Valley', the Panhandle', 'the Hill Country', 'Bay Area'.'the Plains'.

Charles Harrell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RichardJohnson said...

The City: among others, San Francisco and Oklahoma City.
Gu'f Coast: TX
Panhandle: also western Florida.
Permian Basin, a.k.a. WesTexas, a.k.a. "Don't say anything about the wind"- which has been put to economic advantage in recent years. Usage of Permian Basin probably more common with those who have connections with the ol'feel [oil field].

Golden Triangle: SE corner of TX- Beaumont, Orange, Port Arthur [hometown of Janis Joplin]. Also Pittsburgh and Thailand.

Hi-Line: nothern Montana, but also northern parts of US next to Canada from Minnesota to Washington, associated with US Route 2 and BNSF Railway.

Sam L. said...

The Boot Heel of Missouri. The Ozarks. KC (no Sunshine Band). The Big Muddy.

Grim said...

Both Georgia and Tennessee broadly divide in threes from severe geographic features. North Georgia is mountainous, as is East Tennessee (moreso). The Piedmont to the south of North Georgia is matched by Central Tennessee's hill and river country. In the southeast of Georgia is the Coastal Plain, which slopes to the ocean and once was covered by it; in West Tennessee, the Mississippi River and its tributaries have done the leveling.

Interestingly, the three regions are culturally quite different. East Tennessee and North Georgia are pretty similar, but Central Tennessee isn't like the Piedmont, and the two flat regions are not culturally alike at all.

North Carolina similarly has a West that is much like East Tennessee and North Georgia.

South Carolina is a very weird place with an industrial corridor, mustard-flavored barbecue, and Charleston. Charleston is nice.

Texan99 said...

Charles Harrell, you aren't my old partner from Weil by any chance?

Before I moved to my current home, I'd never heard of the "Coastal Bend," but that's what locals call it: the area where the Gulf Coast of Texas makes a distinct turn toward the south on the way to Brownsville.

RonF said...


"The Loop" - technically the area bounded by a loop of overhead rapid transit tracks in the middle of downtown Chicago. More broadly, downtown Chicago. Chicago has a bunch of neighborhoods, but most of them are known only to Chicagoans. Everyone in the State knows what "The Loop" is.
"Collar Counties" - the 6 or 7 (I forget) counties that are contiguous to Cook County (Cook County contains Chicago).
"Downstate" - that portion of the State that is neither Cook County nor one of the collar counties. This generally consists of farmland, especially if you are more than 10 miles from one of the collar counties. Most of it is south of Chicago, but there's some that is west and north as well. Nothing is east of Chicago except Lake Michigan.

Note that these are all pretty much political designations, not geographic ones. Illinois does not have a lot of distinctive geographic features, especially once you get a few miles from Lake Michigan.