Mental Floss

The Quick 10: 10 State Nickname Explanations

Stacy Conradt
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So, college football fans, you might have noticed that my beloved Iowa State Cyclones lost the big state rivalry to the Iowa Hawkeyes last weekend. Badly. It wasn't pretty. This inevitably leads to all of the University of Iowa fans to take to Facebook and Twitter to proclaim "It's still a Hawkeye State!!!" Yep. It is. But why is it the Hawkeye State? I have the answer to that burning question "“ and explanations behind nine other state nicknames "“ below.

peace
peace /

3. Delaware has the distinction of being the First State to ratify the constitution, and that's what you'll usually see on Delaware license plates. Surely that's only because "Uncle Sam's Pocket Handkerchief" won't fit, which is a reference to Delaware's diminutive size and its patriotic origins.

4. When I read that Colorado is sometimes called the "Switzerland of America," I briefly thought, "Because it's neutral?" Um"¦ no. Because of the mountains. Duh.

5. Arkansas may have been letting it be known that they are not a state to be messed with when they called themselves the Toothpick State. The Toothpick was a large knife, similar to the Bowie Knife, but longer and more throw-able. Speaking of which, Arkansas also has the nickname "The Bowie State" because the blacksmith who made the Bowie knife for Jim Bowie lived in Arkansas and popularized the blade there. Officially, Arkansas is "The Natural State."

6. "The Goober State" might sound like a pretty rude nickname for Georgia, but it's really not "“ "Goober" is a term for peanuts, and since Georgia is famous for producing peanuts, it makes sense.

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cockade /

10. And, of course, Iowa. We're the Hawkeye State because of literary origins, surprisingly enough. Well, maybe. There are two schools of thought there. #1: Natty Bumppo of James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales (which includes Last of the Mohicans) also goes by the nickname of Hawkeye, and Judge David Rorer of Burlington, Iowa, is said to have suggested the name after reading the novels. Story #2: we're named for Chief Black Hawk, a Sauk tribe leader. Take your pick.

Do you know the story behind your state nickname, or one of the old nicknames that isn't used much these days? Let us know in the comments!

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