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All of this is Nebraska.
November 14, 2013 1:35 PM   Subscribe

Here’s What Happens When You Ask People To Draw A Map Of The USA From Memory (single Buzzfeed link)
posted by roomthreeseventeen (131 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Al Franken Exception
posted by odinsdream at 1:41 PM on November 14, 2013 [28 favorites]


Surprisingly charming.
posted by Curious Artificer at 1:42 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I love how the "Thankfully, Not All Of Us Are Dummies" example still can't get Idaho, Wyoming, and Colorado straight.
posted by scody at 1:43 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I particularly like the PhD's rendering of Alabama next to Vermont. Good times.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:45 PM on November 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


Good news/bad news: I feel smart. Because I know what Texas is shaped like.
posted by box at 1:45 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Before I click the link I'm going to try this. I will be back soon with my embarrassing results.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:46 PM on November 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


I love how the "Thankfully, Not All Of Us Are Dummies" example still can't get Idaho, Wyoming, and Colorado straight.

Are you surprised, though? Are you really?


P.S. psssst, hey mods could we have the img tag so we can post our own in this thread? We'd get to put buzzfeed to shame! It's win-win!
posted by Diablevert at 1:47 PM on November 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


This should be a required event at every political debate.

Not necessarily used as a criteria for determining who to vote for so much as just amusement for me.
posted by phunniemee at 1:48 PM on November 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


This should be a required event at every political debate.

Ditto drawing a rough location of the other country you're talking about when debating foreign policies.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:49 PM on November 14, 2013 [16 favorites]


The one map the 4 year old drew looks like the NYC Subway map to me...

...I'm not from NYC
posted by littlesq at 1:49 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have a really hard time with maps and spacial orientation, so save for distinctive-looking states, I have no idea where any of the states are.

I Am An American Citizen.
posted by griphus at 1:49 PM on November 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I can draw a US map from memory. But I'm a pretty visually-oriented person. And I won the geography bee in fifth grade. So I may be an outlier.

(But I still enjoy pointing to random large features on the map and calling them "Mexico." Greenland? Mexico. Japan? Mexico. Antarctica? Mexico. Mexico? Pretty sure that's France.)
posted by chasing at 1:50 PM on November 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


Ditto drawing a rough location of the other country you're talking about when debating foreign policies.

I'd settle for a map with borders but no names being provided to both the candidates and if they reference a state or country, they need to put a sticker with that country's name on it on the correct spot on the map.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:50 PM on November 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


The one map the 4 year old drew looks like the NYC Subway map to me...

Holy shit it kinda does. The kid even got the G train in there.
posted by griphus at 1:50 PM on November 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


I have a really hard time with maps and spacial orientation, so save for distinctive-looking states, I have no idea where any of the states are. I have no idea where any of the states are.

Yes, but I bet you can do better than "Bath Salts" and a heart for NYC.

This country, I'm telling ya...
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:50 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Diablevert: P.S. psssst, hey mods could we have the img tag so we can post our own in this thread? We'd get to put buzzfeed to shame! It's win-win!

Flagged as Fantastic, because I never use that flag, and it would be fun to get images back in a thread.

Until we get pictures of genitalia.

(Oh wait, that's just Florida.)
posted by filthy light thief at 1:50 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I love how the "Thankfully, Not All Of Us Are Dummies" example still can't get Idaho, Wyoming, and Colorado straight.

Also: two Michigans, north and south. And Alabama's gonna be pissed to see they now border Texas instead of Georgia.
posted by OHSnap at 1:52 PM on November 14, 2013


.. and OMG Miami Beach is not an island off the Florida coast.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:52 PM on November 14, 2013


griphus: I have a really hard time with maps and spacial orientation, so save for distinctive-looking states, I have no idea where any of the states are.

I know the MIMAL Man, and I remember that he's frying Kentucky on Tennessee, but I forget where he lives.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:52 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


I particularly like the PhD's rendering of Alabama next to Vermont.

Also there's the one that locates New England as a rectangular region making up the entire East Coast south from New York to Florida, with some Gulf Coast beaches.

Ditto drawing a rough location of the other country you're talking about when debating foreign policies.

Like Ubekibekibekistan?
posted by XMLicious at 1:52 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


...stan.
posted by gauche at 1:54 PM on November 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


this buzzfeed article, besides being AWESOME is written by adam ellis who is also known for tiny hats on cats and books of adam. he's an absolute internet treasure.
posted by nadawi at 1:55 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]



.. and OMG Miami Beach is not an island off the Florida coast.

Give it a few years.
posted by The Whelk at 1:55 PM on November 14, 2013 [9 favorites]


As a Midwesterner, I was all ready to be all pissed about the predictable knowledge of the Northeast with no knowledge of the rest of the country (freakin' NY-ers). Then I decided to do it myself and realized I'd forgotten the following states as I went through the state song: Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, West Virginia.

I also sort of enjoy how many people think the Great Lakes look like a bunch of dangly witch fingers.
posted by aintthattheway at 1:56 PM on November 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Y'all have way too many states, it's silly.
posted by turbid dahlia at 1:57 PM on November 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


ALL OF THIS IS NEBRASKA

ATTEMPT NO LANDING HERE
posted by griphus at 1:57 PM on November 14, 2013 [26 favorites]


Well that one lake does look like a road-killed wolf.
posted by jamaro at 1:57 PM on November 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


Y'all have way too many states, it's silly.

Thats because more then half our country isn't an alien death desert remote as the moon.
posted by The Whelk at 1:58 PM on November 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


Like Ubekibekibekistan?

...stan.


. . . In the place where you live,

Stan Duh.
 
posted by Herodios at 1:59 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh wait, the wolf is part of Michigan! I fail.
posted by jamaro at 1:59 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


This should be a required event at every political debate.

Ditto drawing a rough location of the other country you're talking about when debating foreign policies.


Heck, I'd give them a labelled globe and I bet most would still probably be entertaining/make me cry, depending on my mood.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:59 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I actually turn out to be fairly good at this, from trying just now, probably due to spending too much time on Sporcle at various points while bored. It gets a bit weird at the end because of imperfect proportions and a slight fuzziness as to exactly where Delaware fits in. And I had a fair bit of trouble figuring out how Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee all fit together, although I think part of that is because I made Indiana too big...

Actually, if that's as well as I can manage given how much time I've spent on Sporcle, this may be harder than it sounds. (I used to be able to do the full-world country map on Sporcle in well short of the time allotted, too. I can't anymore.)
posted by Sequence at 2:00 PM on November 14, 2013


Here is a timed map if you want to try and fill it in yourself.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:01 PM on November 14, 2013 [11 favorites]


Mr. Cutchins would not let us pass 11th grade US History until we could correctly label all 50 US states on a map. I passed on my first attempt and promptly moved on with my life.

I had to burn my attempt to make absolutely sure that he would not see my shame.

(I think I can still get at least 45 or so on a map. But freehand? Uh....)
posted by Jeanne at 2:01 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


This should be a required event at every political debate

Why? It's illustrative of nothing that's actually important to governing the country. This entire page is just for mocking people who can't do something, never mind their other capabilities.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:01 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also: two Michigans, north and south.

You know there are two Michigans, right?
posted by echo target at 2:02 PM on November 14, 2013 [8 favorites]


The Upper Peninsula is a deer jumping over the mitten. Lake Superior is a wolf's face. Lake Huron is a traveler with a backpack on. Lake Erie is a lump of coal. Lake Ontario is a carrot. Lake Michigan is an eggplant.

SHAPES, GUYS. WE GOT 'EM.
posted by aintthattheway at 2:02 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Okay, I'm back. I give myself a C-. At least I think I remembered them all, except for Nebraska which is in the title of this FPP. What the hell, me?
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:04 PM on November 14, 2013 [15 favorites]


My final semester in college I took the required pre-Civil War US history course. I'd put it off because even though I was a liberal arts kid, history was sooooo booooorrrriiiiinnnngggggg. It was the instructor's first year teaching college and he was AMAZING. Dates weren't the point, they were incidental to the story. And the story differed depending who was telling it. And the best part was that this guy could draw every map in U.S. history freehand on the board. The colonies. Each colony. The Louisiana Purchase. The New Netherland territory. Tribal lands. It was insane, and fascinating. This guy put Al Franken to shame. I got an A in the class without trying, and learned all the dates in spite of myself, and fell in love with history, and regretted that it was my last semester in college!

Although I can picture the Louisiana Purchase and a U.S. map in my head, no way in hell could I draw them.
posted by headnsouth at 2:06 PM on November 14, 2013 [11 favorites]


Someone really just drew a tooth? Now that's giving up.
(third from bottom)
posted by heyho at 2:06 PM on November 14, 2013


The great banana peel
posted by ckape at 2:07 PM on November 14, 2013


You know there are two Michigans, right?

Yes, but I never knew the southern one was hurricane-prone.
posted by OHSnap at 2:09 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


As a professional cartographer MY BLOOD IS BOILING RIGHT NOW
posted by troika at 2:11 PM on November 14, 2013 [10 favorites]


Yes, but I bet you can do better than "Bath Salts" and a heart for NYC.

I don't think anybody can do better than "Bath Salts." That was my favorite.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 2:12 PM on November 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


Why? It's illustrative of nothing that's actually important to governing the country.

Seriously. I can't imagine why anyone other than a geography/cartography combined Masters level student would actually need to know that much detail. There are maps for this purpose. Memorising it, or implying that people should (especially politicians perhaps), is bizarre. There seems to be (looking in from the outside) a weird obsession with domestic fine detail with US education that really confuses me.

Like naming all the Presidents in order. Who needs to know that? Who cares? It doesn't tell you anything about history, it's just unconnected fact memorisation. Similarly, what possible use is the shape of a State to anyone?

I just find this whole detail-focussed domestic knowledge stuff I see every now and then in US culture bizarre. Of all the countries I've lived in or worked in or known people from, no-one else gives a rats arse about 'naming states/counties/presidents(or PM's/Monarchs)' in such a drilled in fashion. Because it is useless information even within the direct historical/geographic context it is most relevant to.
posted by Brockles at 2:13 PM on November 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


You know there are two Michigans, right?

Yoosta wuz.

N. Michigan seceded years ago and is now known as Yoopistan.

 
posted by Herodios at 2:13 PM on November 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


Thats because more then half our country isn't an alien death desert remote as the moon.

Our alien death desert still encompasses six of our states and territories. We know enough to share the death desert out amongst the People. But seriously, two Dakotas? It's such a Yank thing: "We have double the Dakotas of any other country in the world!"
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:14 PM on November 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


Labeling a map is one thing; drawing it is another. I'd end up just drawing a happy face for the U.S. with a Canada hat. THAT'S AS GOOD AS IT GETS. One time my students complained that I could not accurately draw a stick person because the legs never ended up joined to the body. So, if my U.S. circle has a vaguely Florida-shaped protrusion in the bottom right corner, I WIN AT MAPS.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:14 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


WORLD SERIES DAKOTAS
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:14 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I keep finding more things wrong in the "we are not all dummies" one:

Wisconsin and Minnesota, Ohio and Indiana, Colorado and Wyoming, Kansas and Nebraska, and Alabama and Mississippi are all transposed, and Iowa and South Dakota don't lie east-west of each other. That's 12 wrong out of 50, for a C-.

What low standards we have anymore.
posted by OHSnap at 2:15 PM on November 14, 2013


N. Michigan seceded years ago and is now known as Yoopistan.

i have dated two yoopers, i can confirm this.
posted by nadawi at 2:15 PM on November 14, 2013


This where I have a spontaneous memory if having MIMal the silly elf burned into my brain in grade school. I'm never forgetting the mississippi river states that's for sure.
posted by The Whelk at 2:15 PM on November 14, 2013


Ha! What is it good for? It's FUN! my SO and I used to do this to pass the time at restaurants waiting for our food. (We visited the classy places with paper place mats.) It was amusing how it revealed our different home turfs. He drew the northeast perfectly, and then a bunch of big square boxes in the middle. I drew the middle states in their ACTUAL SHAPES! South Dakota has a little tail in the south east, did you know? and then a bunch of fiddly little circles in the northeast. I had the hardest time with which is VT and which is NH. If you've never been there, how much can it matter?
posted by evilmomlady at 2:16 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seriously. I can't imagine why anyone other than a geography/cartography combined Masters level student would actually need to know that much detail. There are maps for this purpose. Memorising it, or implying that people should (especially politicians perhaps), is bizarre. There seems to be (looking in from the outside) a weird obsession with domestic fine detail with US education that really confuses me.

Like naming all the Presidents in order. Who needs to know that? Who cares? It doesn't tell you anything about history, it's just unconnected fact memorisation. Similarly, what possible use is the shape of a State to anyone?

I just find this whole detail-focussed domestic knowledge stuff I see every now and then in US culture bizarre. Of all the countries I've lived in or worked in or known people from, no-one else gives a rats arse about 'naming states/counties/presidents(or PM's/Monarchs)' in such a drilled in fashion. Because it is useless information even within the direct historical/geographic context it is most relevant to.










You must be loads of fun at parties.
 
posted by Herodios at 2:18 PM on November 14, 2013 [14 favorites]


This is the best party game ever. Everyone starts out really confident, and then at the end you get Kansas and East Kansas and my father has given up and is just drawing sharks.
posted by Madamina at 2:18 PM on November 14, 2013 [33 favorites]


I always think I would be really good at this until I remember I CANNOT DRAW FOR SHIT.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:21 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


As a professional cartographer MY BLOOD IS BOILING RIGHT NOW

If it helps, there are people out there who consider your job as basically wizardry.
posted by griphus at 2:21 PM on November 14, 2013 [9 favorites]


VT looks like a V and NH looks like a lower case h. Sort of. That's how I remember.

Also, Alabama looks like a fat blocky Bart Simpson head and Mississippi looks like a wrinkly Bart Simpson head, but I forget which one goes where.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:21 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Metroid Baby, if that's a C- I don't know what my effort gets.

Sorry, I'm Canadian
posted by Beardman at 2:22 PM on November 14, 2013 [13 favorites]


yeah, it's my drawing skills that get me here, not my knowledge of states. apparently a hilarious party trick for all my friends was to get 5 or so drink into me and ask me to draw texas (a state i lived in for like 9 years). it really just showed that no matter what i'm asked to draw, i will draw a radish.
posted by nadawi at 2:22 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, Alabama looks like a fat blocky Bart Simpson head and Mississippi looks like a wrinkly Bart Simpson head, but I forget which one goes where.

I remember it like a Southern lady's name. Ms. Al Georgia
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:24 PM on November 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


Elsewhere:

The United States As Seen by a New Yorker (*map to scale)
Another New Yorker's Map of America ("Fucking Red Sox Fans" fill the great central void)
Saul Steinberg's map of America (a New Yorker cover)
The New Yorker's map of New York neighborhoods (Fughgeddabouditstan, et al)
posted by beagle at 2:25 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Beardman - ABQ? I am dying over here. Your map is made of such amazing awesome especially in the labeling that I have little laughter tears. Best map.
posted by stoneweaver at 2:29 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Although I left out one 'p' in 'Mississippi', I made up for it by drawing two Mississippis.
posted by Beardman at 2:30 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Like naming all the Presidents in order. Who needs to know that? Who cares?

Chicagoans. It makes navigating the downtown/Loop area a bit easier. When I first moved here, I was very happy to have learned that. Believe it or not, that shit paid off!
posted by heyho at 2:30 PM on November 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Other Mississippi. LAUGHTER TEARS.
posted by stoneweaver at 2:30 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Honestly my attempts at even drawing a correct map of the 5 boroughs would be thwarted by tragic ignorance. I know that long island ends in a fork but if the fate of the universe depended upon it I could not accurately delineate the border between Queens and Brooklyn.
posted by elizardbits at 2:30 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Beardman, I'm a big fan of Alaska in the place of what I think you mean is Arkansas.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:31 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


but if the fate of the universe depended upon it I could not accurately delineate the border between Queens and Brooklyn.

It's an invisible line where people stop eating perogies and start eating meatballs.
posted by The Whelk at 2:33 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Drawing the US is really hard! The problem with most of these is not a lack of artistry, it's that they don't know how these things fit together, which is really what geography is all about. It's not just where stuff is, it's where things are in relation to each other. I could go on a long angry screed about the state of geography education in this country but, eh, this isn't the thread for that.

A solid trick to drawing the US is to start with the north-central column (ND/SD/NE/KS) and, working your way outward, draw each state individually. This way you avoid the problems of scale that start with drawing the coasts and trying to cram everything inside of them, and as you draw each state you're also covering the borders to everything else it touches, so you're less likely to forget something.
posted by troika at 2:33 PM on November 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


Like naming all the Presidents in order. Who needs to know that? Who cares? It doesn't tell you anything about history, it's just unconnected fact memorisation. Similarly, what possible use is the shape of a State to anyone?

I'll admit that I briefly had a similar thought, because when you think about it that way, it does seem trivial compared to the actual knowledge it sometimes stands in for.

The thing, though, is that knowing this stuff shouldn't be the product of tedious rote memorization. It should be the product of deeper knowledge. Ideally, US citizens would know where Kansas is because they know enough about Kansas to accurately place it. Maybe about the border raids with Nebraska, maybe about Kansas City and it's relationship with Missouri, maybe because they've driven through it and know how they got from Mount Rushmore to Austin, whatever. They should be able to place Washington DC between Maryland and Virginia because if you know about the history of DC, that's exactly where it has to go and nowhere else makes sense.

Similarly with the Presidents, if you know enough about American history, many of them fall into place automatically. Someone who puts Washington midway through the 19th century or Lincoln after Roosevelt hasn't just failed to properly memorize a list, they've failed to understand the actual history everyone agrees we should be teaching. Anyone who's studied modern American history should be able to rattle off from FDR forward without having had to consciously memorize a single fact because the most basic narrative of the last 100 years of American history makes it clear that Kennedy goes to Johnson goes to Nixon goes to Ford goes to Carter and so on.
posted by Copronymus at 2:37 PM on November 14, 2013 [47 favorites]


knowing this stuff shouldn't be the product of tedious rote memorization. It should be the product of deeper knowledge. . . . Similarly with the Presidents, if you know enough about American history, many of them fall into place automatically. . .

Correct answer.
 
posted by Herodios at 2:39 PM on November 14, 2013


Okay here's mine. Most of it's there but some of it's in the wrong spots. And trying to get everything to connect up didn't go so well...oh, and I did eventually remember that Illinois exists and connects to a Great Lake.
posted by Diablevert at 2:42 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Of all the countries I've lived in or worked in or known people from, no-one else gives a rats arse about 'naming states/counties/presidents(or PM's/Monarchs)' in such a drilled in fashion. Because it is useless information even within the direct historical/geographic context it is most relevant to.

Not all countries are as large and as geographically diverse as the United States. I think the can-you-identify-all-the-states test is a shorthand way of confirming that you're at least aware of how spread out and different parts of the country are.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 2:45 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


But what do the Aussies think?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:45 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


But what do the Aussies think?

I think Southwest Virginia was my favorite of the five Virginias depicted.
posted by heyho at 2:48 PM on November 14, 2013


I bet I could do a better job of putting the presidents in chronological order by hair than name.
posted by griphus at 2:54 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


A solid trick to drawing the US is to start with the north-central column (ND/SD/NE/KS) and, working your way outward, draw each state individually.

Exactly, and if you watch the Al Franken video referenced in the first comment you'll see that that is how he does it, too. You get the Mississippi River (the notional midline of the lower 48) right away, and start out on the right foot with the Great Lakes states (instead of drawing a bunch of bananas up there after you've finished).

I first saw Franken do this on SNL in a Weekend Update segment about the 1992 presidential election, and he started out more or less the same way.

The fun part of the SNL performance was that you had no idea where he was going, and it slowly dawns on you that the patter he's spouting is irrelevant -- the equivalent of a magician's sleight-of-hand misdirection -- and you realize that, yes, he's really drawing a map of the United States, freehand, live on teevy, and the finished result is really pretty good.

Neat parlour trick.

I'd vote for that guy.

 
posted by Herodios at 2:55 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


wait what state is lava lamp

is that a state or a lake

help
posted by elizardbits at 3:06 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


is it a canada
posted by elizardbits at 3:08 PM on November 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


Who ever thought 50 states was a good idea? What were they thinking?!?
posted by mazola at 3:12 PM on November 14, 2013


Ideally, US citizens would know where Kansas is because they know enough about Kansas to accurately place it.

Which involves rote memorization. Otherwise, why should someone on the east or west coast know a lot about Kansas (and vice versa)?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:14 PM on November 14, 2013


I made this one a couple years ago in a similar discussion after examining a few too many electoral maps. It's probably a considerably rustier skill now, at least in terms of getting it all to line up right.

(Still ace at drawing the world, though!)
posted by Rhaomi at 3:16 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Great bar trick! I start with Iowa and work outward. Of course I was born there so...
posted by djseafood at 3:16 PM on November 14, 2013


Really, we'd all just get along better if we redistricted our states by sportsball team.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:17 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


What were they thinking?!?

"Surf's up!"
posted by griphus at 3:18 PM on November 14, 2013


I wonder what the ACSE would have to say about this.
posted by ApathyGirl at 3:19 PM on November 14, 2013


oh ,and Master's Level is adding all the Capitals.
posted by djseafood at 3:20 PM on November 14, 2013


Q: Why do some people think there are 52 states in the USA?

A: It's because Washington D.C isn't counted because it is the nation's capital. If it were counted there would be 50.

posted by Atom Eyes at 3:23 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Otherwise, why should someone on the east or west coast know a lot about Kansas (and vice versa)?

Because you took a devoted Civil War unit in High School?
posted by The Whelk at 3:23 PM on November 14, 2013


Which involves rote memorization. Otherwise, why should someone on the east or west coast know a lot about Kansas (and vice versa)?

I think I gave some examples of non-rote-memorization ways to know where Kansas is, which boil down to reading about Kansas history and geography and visiting the state. I'm sure there are plenty of other methods. I know a great many things (probably most of the total knowledge I have) from sources other than sitting down and consciously memorizing facts.
posted by Copronymus at 3:24 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


The strangest thing to me is how basically everyone seems to think that Baja California is part of California.
posted by 256 at 3:27 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Because you took a devoted Civil War unit in High School?

YOU DON'T KNOW ME!

Which doesn't say a lot about being interested in the Kansas of today, for those who don't know need to know
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:35 PM on November 14, 2013


I have a really hard time with maps and spacial orientation, so save for distinctive-looking states, I have no idea where any of the states are.

Same. My husband is convinced I have some sort of yet-to-be-named spatial learning disorder. I've lived in Wisconsin for four years and we just had a conversation wherein I realized that Illinois was south of us and not east.
posted by gerstle at 3:36 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Q: Why do some people think there are 52 states in the USA?

I know why I used to think there were 51 states. It's because Rocky and Bullwinkle campaigned to get Moosylvania admitted as the 52nd state. For much longer than I'm willing to admit, I'd always refer back to that and apply the appropriate offset because Moosylvania has yet to achieve statehood.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 3:40 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised at how many people remembered to include New Mexico on their map (I'll forgive switching positions with Arizona; I can barely keep Utah and Colorado straight). Growing up in New Mexico there was this myth that many Americans didn't know it was a part of the United States, which I've found not to be true in my own experience. In fact, I don't think I've encountered a single person outside of New Mexico who didn't know New Mexico was a state, if it ever came up.
posted by pravit at 3:47 PM on November 14, 2013


52 feels like a good number, every state could get its own week! we should admit two new states at once to avoid the funny looking flag issue.

I purpose Puerto Rico And Washington D.C
posted by The Whelk at 3:47 PM on November 14, 2013


Q: Why do some people think there are 52 states in the USA?

52 cards in a deck, and Alaska and Hawaii are the jokers, I guess. Who knows. People are... diverse.
posted by heyho at 3:57 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


52 because of a deck of cards.
posted by odinsdream at 4:04 PM on November 14, 2013


Because I always mix up the number of states in the country and the number of weeks in a year.
posted by jamaro at 4:11 PM on November 14, 2013


Once you learn this super annoying song, you won't mix it up again. You can't sing 52 here, because it doesn't rhyme.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:12 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's because everyone knows there are 50 states, and everyone knows that Alaska and Hawaii are the two bonus states, and 50 + 2 = 52. QED.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:15 PM on November 14, 2013


I bet I could do a better job of putting the presidents in chronological order by hair than name.

Seriously. Everyone knows that Jefferson had red hair but So Did Washington. I learned this in a museum exhibit about the French and Indian War.

Please don't ask me anything else about the French and Indian War.
posted by Morrigan at 4:22 PM on November 14, 2013


which french and indian war though
posted by elizardbits at 4:26 PM on November 14, 2013


I think Al Franken is the only person who can draw the map. And he probably learned that deliberately, repeating it over and over by brute force so he'd never forget. I'm sure some cognitive scientist can explain better than me how our brains--even smart persons' brains--aren't wired well to recall and draw this kind of detail.

But don't feel too bad, Americans. When I went to Germany years ago, I stayed with a host family and we were talking about all the states in Germany and I asked my host parents if they could name them. Now my host father was a engineering professor who spoke like four languages and had a list of degrees. He looked puzzled at my question as if he had never really thought about the names of all the German states. He and his wife could only name about ten of them. So they asked if I could name the fifty U.S. states, so I did, but I only got 48 or so. They were absolutely floored that anyone could know all those state names. Maps weren't involved; that would've been too much for all of us.
posted by zardoz at 4:32 PM on November 14, 2013


They were absolutely floored that anyone could know all those state names. Maps weren't involved; that would've been too much for all of us.

When I lived in England, I won so many beers with my amazing ability to identify all 50 states on a map.

So. Many. Beers.
posted by scody at 4:46 PM on November 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


I remember being shocked in 4th grade when we were partnered to fill in a map of the US and my buddy could only get Michigan and Florida. My parents did have US map placemats though, and I went on to win the geography bee in 7th grade (but failed to advance to states because holy crap there are hard questions on the qualifying test!)

But I'd be lost if you asked me to identify states of Australia.

1. Death Spiders
2. Big Rock
3. Darwin?
4. North Party Beach
5. Queensland
6. Desert Stuff
posted by Turkey Glue at 4:55 PM on November 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


It's weird to see a site that's so often down on the United States for anti-intellectualism be against this kind of expectation. For an American citizen or politician knowing the states and very basic information (like where they are) is important to understanding the country you live in. It's no more useless trivia than a European knowing the countries of Europe, which doesn't seem like an outrageous expectation.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 4:57 PM on November 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


Relevant:

Chuck 'The Cut Man' Kimmel: So strap yourselves in, folks. We're in for the night. 12 rounds from here at Bally's Park Place, just a stone's throw down the boardwalk from where a new Miss America was crowned just a few months ago. Miss Rochester, I believe it was.

Dan Rydell: Ok, well, Rochester's not a state, but we'll have somebody look that up.

Casey McCall: No, it's a city, Cut Man, in upstate New York. Contestants in the Miss America pageant have to come from one of the 50 states.

Chuck 'The Cut Man' Kimmel: Well, I hate to correct you on your own show, Casey, but there's 52 states with Alaska and Rhode Island.

Casey McCall: Ok.

Chuck 'The Cut Man' Kimmel: Though I'm no college professor, you see.

Dan Rydell: That's almost hard to believe, Cut Man.

posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:00 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Copronymus:...should be able to rattle off from FDR forward without having had to consciously memorize a single fact because the most basic narrative of the last 100 years of American history...

god damn that was a beautiful comment, thank you and well said
posted by RolandOfEld at 5:16 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Never tried to draw the map free hand, but one night for REASONS some friends decided to play "How quickly can you list all the states?" (Mostly in reference to the Friends episode where Joey comes up with such gems as South Oregon.) I got 49 in two minutes.

Took another 10 to remember Michigan. Sorry, Michigan. I have a visual memory and in my mind, I confused the actual state for more lakes. Maybe don't be all weird shaped and lumped in with lakes next time.
posted by sonika at 5:30 PM on November 14, 2013


It's a mitten floating in the water, and there's a rabbit jumping over it. I thought everyone saw that instantly.
posted by heyho at 5:35 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oddly relaxing, map of the Lower 48 states - drawn freehand from memory in 8 minutes (sped up 200%). Extra bonus points for Brubeck, Mexico and Canadian provinces.

especially loved the bit when lakes Saint Clair, Huron, Superior and all three of the Michigans were formed.
posted by shoesfullofdust at 6:17 PM on November 14, 2013


Little known fact: Nebraska is not a rectangle. It has a panhandle.
posted by that's how you get ants at 6:19 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah somewhere in the SE I think you got One Mississippi and Two Mississippi, then a bunch of Sweet Virginnies. That's fried tomater and mint julep country, that is.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:16 PM on November 14, 2013


Bar I used to go to had a mini Etch-a-Sketch for bartrons' entertainment. It was affixed to a little book of game suggestions. "Draw a state, have your friends guess what it is" was one suggestion.

I did the whole continental US in about ten minutes. My biggest screw up was whether Kansas touched NM or if OK touched CO.

Two years later, when the bar closed down, they still had that damn thing up behind the Stoli.

Another story: when I taught math, often I'd have to re-introduce students to graphing. I'd use the map as an example. Only, math classrooms don't have maps, so I'd throw one up on the board, by hand, as fast and rough as I could (so as not to slow down the lesson flow). I came back to the room after the first of a back-to-back substitute-teaching session, to find a couple students at the front of the class with a history book out, looking up at the board and down at the book. Muttering, like it was magic or something.
posted by notsnot at 7:32 PM on November 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Bulgaroktonos: "It's weird to see a site that's so often down on the United States for anti-intellectualism be against this kind of expectation. For an American citizen or politician knowing the states and very basic information (like where they are) is important to understanding the country you live in. It's no more useless trivia than a European knowing the countries of Europe, which doesn't seem like an outrageous expectation."

Personally I feel incredible guilt about only knowing the counties in my state that actually contiguous to mine or are the Chicago collar counties. One time we saw a news story datelined, "Undisclosed Location, Jo Daviess County" and my husband was like, "The fact that it's in Jo Daviess County renders it undisclosed automatically."

One time I listened to a Frenchman complain bitterly about my total lack of knowledge of geography as an American because I didn't know where his tiny town of 8,000 where Charlemagne sneezed or something was, and it was OBVIOUSLY HISTORICALLY IMPORTANT. He finally asked where I was from. I said Chicago. He was unfamiliar with it. I have ever since taken people's complaints about Americans' lack of geographic knowledge much less seriously.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:38 PM on November 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Henceforth Florida shall be known to me as Bath Salts.

With the exception of the reasonably sized states of ME, NY, and VA, I prefer think of the rest of the upper East Coast collectively as The Dinky States. There may be fewer of them to memorize after peak Global Climate Change.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:12 PM on November 14, 2013


Some of these maps had me literally crying with laughter
posted by TurquoiseZebra at 8:24 PM on November 14, 2013


complaints about Americans' lack of geographic knowledge much less seriously

Americans really do have a lousy grasp on geography though. It's one thing to not know where Charlemagne sneezed, but it's another to realize that in 2006, nine out of ten young Americans couldn't locate Afghanistan on a map. How embarrassing to be proving Mark Twain wrong. Not to focus on the youth, of course, when shit like this happens all the time.
posted by troika at 8:47 PM on November 14, 2013


Honestly I wouldn't expect any non north Ameican to know anything about Chicago except " Major big city in the Midwest" and " near a large body of water, possibly for the purposes of CRIME."
posted by The Whelk at 9:08 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


They made my entire elementary school from the third to fifth grades have to draw all of America from memory and all of the WORLD from memory as well. Massive testing was done on this.

Fuck if I know WHY, as someone else pointed out.

Oh, adding to the Chicago facts: the weather is either winter, or Fourth of July.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:09 PM on November 14, 2013


This is the best drawing of the Great Lakes.
posted by artychoke at 9:29 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh god, this reminds me of begin quizzed on state capitols. Who really outside of their respective states gives a fuck about Albany, Sacramento or Olympia. Even the people who live in those states hardly do...
posted by smidgen at 10:08 PM on November 14, 2013


I must learn the Al Franken trick.

As a party trick I memorized the the number of elements and proportions of a bunch of iconic buildings. I can draw the white house with the right number of windows, doors and columns,back and front. The Eiffel tower, the parthenon, the big pyramid in palenque, the taj mahal, Sydney opera, burj Al Arab. My best one is Chartres cathedral, it looks like I messed up the proportions and the symmetry, but then you look it up and that is how it is built. Never ocurred to me to try it with maps.

I wish I got invited to more parties.
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 12:10 AM on November 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


Bulgaroktonos: "It's weird to see a site that's so often down on the United States for anti-intellectualism be against this kind of expectation. For an American citizen or politician knowing the states and very basic information (like where they are) is important to understanding the country you live in. It's no more useless trivia than a European knowing the countries of Europe, which doesn't seem like an outrageous expectation."

Well good thing it is like exactly two people who were cranky and annoyed at this, and the entire rest of the thread is people who immediately began drawing on napkins--a full 40% of which gave up after realizing the only feature of the US they're sure of is Florida a.k.a. America's dong, and ended up drawing hand turkeys instead.
posted by danny the boy at 1:00 AM on November 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


This reminds me of one of my ESL students who, when he was studying the Americas, told me confidently, "The United States has four states." Me: "Oh really?" Him: "Yes, New York, California, Florida, and Miami."
posted by lollymccatburglar at 5:27 AM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mostly in reference to the Friends episode where Joey comes up with such gems as South Oregon

When I was in high school, my friends and I saw this episode and decided to try it out ourselves during a social studies class. The substitute we had that day happened to be an American expat, and when he noticed what we were doing (and, I guess, how poorly we were doing) he stopped teaching the class in order to list all 50 states for us. I remember being really struck that he listed them in order of geographical location, beginning at the top left and progressing from there, and that he never missed a beat in doing so.

I moved to Australia from New Zealand a few years back to live with my boyfriend, who's lived here all his life. The other day, he asked me how many states there are in Australia. It quickly came out that, despite the relative simplicity of Australia's territorial divisions, he only really knew where Victoria and New South Wales were.
posted by lwb at 10:50 AM on November 15, 2013


.. and OMG Miami Beach is not an island off the Florida coast.


Actually, it is. Really!
posted by millipede at 11:45 AM on November 15, 2013


The Whelk: "Honestly I wouldn't expect any non north Ameican to know anything about Chicago except " Major big city in the Midwest" and " near a large body of water, possibly for the purposes of CRIME.""

Well, after you berate someone with the misfortune to be trapped next to you on public transit for 15 minutes for the crime of "Being American" in general and "not having heard of your tiny town of 8,000" in particular, both of which are signs that, according to you, point to wild and willful ignorance about the world beyond your narrow concerns, and claim that knowledge of highly specific and detailed geography of foreign countries is the primary way of demonstrating one's status as an educated person, one might expect you to have at least HEARD of Chicago before. I feel like it undermines your point when you're completely unaware of Chicago.

BTW, from experience what most not-Americans know about Chicago is "Michael Jordan" and "Al Capone" and they like both of these things. Sometimes they know "It's somewhere in the middle?" Only rarely do they know it's near a lake -- "You know, the giant ones you can see from space on satellite maps?" ".... maybe? I guess? I ... might have thought that was the Great Salt Lake?" These days sometimes they know Obama's from Chicago, but unless they're into political news they're more likely to have a vague idea that Obama's from Hawaii. (I mean, he's from both, you know what I mean.) Those are all perfectly good things to know about Chicago, I've got no beef. I only have a beef when people are insisting they're worldly while being totally provincial. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:59 PM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


You can't sing 52 here, because it doesn't rhyme.
Fifty-two, nifty-two United States.
posted by soelo at 2:21 PM on November 15, 2013


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