Americans give nicknames not just to each other but also to places. New York City is "the Big Apple." Dallas, Texas, is "Big D." The low desert of California and Nevada is called "The Great Basin."
And the nation's 50 states have some of the most historically interesting nicknames.
Alabama is known as the "Heart of Dixie" because of its location in the very middle of a row of Deep South States. "Dixie" itself is a nickname for the American South. It got started when Louisiana printed notes with the French word for "ten" on them. "Dix" led to "Dixie," and Dixie to Dixieland music. But it's Alabama, not Louisiana, that's the "Heart of Dixie."
Alaska is called the "Last Frontier" for understandable reasons. Straddling the Arctic Circle, it was the final part of the nation to be explored and settled.
Arizona is "The Grand Canyon State" because of its awesome natural attraction, the winding canyon carved by the surging Colorado River.
The southern state of Arkansas is the "Land of Opportunity." This was strictly a promotional nickname, chosen by the legislature. One of America's poorest states, Arkansas is rich in natural resources and has become an affordable, and popular, retirement destination.
In a popular Spanish novel, a fictional island called "California" was filled with gold. Sure enough, plenty of it was discovered in the real California, in the western United States, in 1848. This triggered a gold rush unlike any other in American history.
You'd think Colorado would be known as the Rocky Mountain State, given its alpine location. But it's the "Centennial State" because it became a state in 1876, exactly 100 years after the nation declared its independence.
Connecticut is called "The Nutmeg State," but not necessarily because of the nutmeg spice, a precious cargo the state's sailors used to bring home from trade journeys to Asia. Connecticut Yankees, as people in this northeast state are called, have a reputation for being shrewd in business. So shrewd that it was said they could sell wooden — meaning phony — nutmegs to strangers.
Little Delaware is called "The First State" because it was the first state — the first to ratify the new United States Constitution.
Florida could be called "The Rain State" because of its tropical location. Naturally, it prefers to accentuate its sunny days and fine beaches. So Florida is, instead, "The Sunshine State."
Florida's neighbor to the north grows some of the sweetest and most succulent peaches in America. So naturally, Georgia is "The Peach State.
Distant Hawaii, far out in the Pacific Ocean, is the "Aloha" state, referring to the friendly greeting that means both "hello" and "goodbye" in the indigenous Hawaiian tongue.
Next time, we'll begin with Idaho, a western state you don't hear much about.