Discussion in 'The Powder Keg' started by Kellen, Sep 17, 2020.

  1. Kellen

    Kellen G&G Evangelist

    I was just watching a BBC report on Hurricane Sally hitting, as they put it, “the continental United States.” I’ve heard that term before, usually in reference to the group of 48 states that existed up until Alaska was admitted as the 49th and Hawaii as the 50th states in 1959.

    The thing is, Alaska is part of the North American continent, so if the intent is to refer to the group of 48 states prior to 1959 then that just doesn’t work to say “the continental United States.”

    Then another common phrase I hear is “the lower 48 states.” From a geographical perspective there is no such thing as lower or upper since the planet is shaped more or less like a sphere. But I get what they mean. They’re thinking of a map where north is oriented “up” and south is “down,” so they are thinking the 48 states that are “lower” than Alaska.

    Well, the group of 48 states “lower” than Alaska excludes Washington since Hawaii is further south than Florida (yes, Washington is further north than Maine), so that really doesn’t work if the intent is to refer to the 48 states that existed prior to 1959.

    A couple other common words we hear are “coterminous” and “contiguous” in reference to the group of 48 states prior to 1959. Wrong uses again, even though USGS uses these terms because they are thinking of a perimeter line around the 48 states that existed prior to 1959. The problem is that coterminous means sharing a common boundary line (lines have termini, beginning and ending points, thus “-terminous”). So Oregon has a coterminous boundary with Idaho, but does not have a coterminous boundary with Nebraska. That is kind of the same idea behind “contiguous,” but contiguous means having a border in contact with another border. Oregon definitely does not contact Tennessee. However, the famous Four Corners where Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico meet is contiguous (sharing a common contact point) without being coterminous.

    Much more rarely used is the word “conterminous.” Note the extra “n” in that word compared to coterminous. Conterminous and coterminous have exactly the same meaning, though technically conterminous is the more proper usage (coterminous evolved in English simply because it rolls off the tongue a little easier than conterminous).

    Other terms that don’t work: coextensive, adjoining, adjacent. Adjacent comes close, but implies nearness, and Oregon, for example, is definitely not near Florida. Some have also used the term “Mainland United States,” but that is just the same as saying continental United States. The US Army Air Forces used the artful phrase, “zone of the interior,” but that could mean anything.

    It’s a bit wordy to say “the 48 states that existed prior to Alaskan and Hawaiian statehood in 1959.” So what might be appropriate? Hard to say. Maybe “the states outside Alaska and Hawaii”? That is also too wordy. What we need is a pithy one-word adjective that is specifically appropriate, but I don’t have one for you.

    The bottom line: does anyone really care? Probably not, unless you’re a stickler about using appropriate words. Be that as it may, thought I’d share the above just for fun.

    Next up: improper use of the word “decimate.”
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2020
    jwrauch, PAPA G, neophyte and 4 others like this.
  2. Huey Rider

    Huey Rider G&G Evangelist Forum Contributor

    THANX, needed some levity today.
    PAPA G and neophyte like this.

  3. BigEd63

    BigEd63 G&G Evangelist

    Decimate. I've never seen that term used properly at least not by the proper definition.
    Although I've seen it demonstrated properly in The Fall of The Roman Empire and maybe Gladiator, which is kind of a remake of the former.
    PAPA G and Jaison like this.
  4. grizcty

    grizcty God, Guns, Glory Forum Contributor

    As a Alaskan outcast.
    We deal with the words "Lower 48" and "contiguous United States", on a daily basis. It is part of our verbal/written dictionary when ordering or shipping anything.
    As everybody except the USPS, treats us like a ugly red headed step child.
    PAPA G and neophyte like this.
  5. Ten Man

    Ten Man G&G Evangelist

    Watch out. You will get a reputation of being an English Teacher. :p:D
  6. Ten Man

    Ten Man G&G Evangelist

    Seems appropriate! LOL!!!
    PAPA G and neophyte like this.
  7. runfiverun

    runfiverun G&G Evangelist

    yeah, I mean someone's gotta do/be it.
    PAPA G likes this.
  8. mitchr

    mitchr G&G Evangelist

    Seems I was wrong, but I always thought "contiguous" referred to states attainable by land, omitting only Hawaii. :oops:
    PAPA G likes this.