Did you hear about what happened in Wonderopolis the other day? We were hosting a conference for a wide variety of animals from all 50 states. When it was time to register and pick up name tags, things got a little…well…let's just say it was a bit confusing.
We asked the animals to line up alphabetically by state. A condor from California got upset when a badger from Wisconsin tried to cut in line in front of her. The condor said he should be at the back of the line since Wisconsin started with "W." The badger told her he was from the "Badger State," so he should be before her since badger starts with a "B."
The confusion didn't end there. As the condor was arguing with the badger, a coyote tried to cut in line behind the condor and in front of a deer from Delaware. When the deer told the coyote to move back to the "S" section, since he was from South Dakota, the coyote promptly explained that he should be in the "C" section because he was from the "Coyote State."
All of this confusion could've been prevented if we had made it clear that the animals were to line up alphabetically by official state name. We should have expected many of the animals would show their state pride by using a state nickname.
Nicknames are common for people and sports teams, but why would states have nicknames? Just like people, sports teams, and anything else that has a nickname, states have special qualities that they may want to highlight or boast about, and many states have developed nicknames over the years based upon things that they identify with or that set them apart.
While some states may have only one primary nickname, such as Indiana (the "Hoosier State"), other states may have developed multiple nicknames over time. For example, Florida is known by a number of monikers, including the "Sunshine State," the "Peninsula State," the "Alligator State," the "Everglade State," the "Flower State," the "Gulf State," and the "Orange State."
States take their nicknames from various sources. For example, Michigan, Wisconsin, and South Dakota all take their nicknames from animals commonly found in the state (wolverine, badger, and coyote, respectively).
One state — Louisiana — takes its nickname from a bird: the pelican. Another state — Iowa — takes its nickname (the "Hawkeye State") from a person. The most popular source of nicknames happens to be flowers, trees, and other plants, with at least a dozen states using these natural sources of inspiration for their nicknames.
Other popular sources of nicknames include geographical features (Arizona is the "Grand Canyon State") and historical events (Delaware is the "First State"). The stories and reasons behind state nicknames are as varied as the states themselves are.
For example, Tennessee is known as the "Volunteer State." This unique nickname reflects Tennessee's pride in being the home of many brave volunteers who have served in many of the country's wars. The nickname gained wide popularity after the Mexican War from 1846-1848. When the Tennessee governor asked for 2,600 volunteers to fight in the war, over 30,000 volunteers responded to his request!
Does your state have a nickname? We bet it does! Maybe you're from the "Yellowhammer State," the "Land of the Midnight Sun," the "Centennial State," the "Peach State," the "Empire State," the "Equality State," the "Golden State," the "Land of Lincoln," the "Bluegrass State," the "Show-Me State," the "Land of Enchantment," or even the "Tar Heel State."