U.S. state names are hardly original. Americans, after all, took most of them from indigenous tribes, European languages, and British royals. But ever since the 50 states dubbed themselves, their names have cropped up in bizarre ways around the globe. From an Argentine pizza chain named after Kentucky to a Bulgarian quiz show called Nevada, the names of American states have popped up in some wacky places. Here are 10 of them.
1. TOAST HAWAII // GERMANY
In Germany, Hawaii was the name given to a Cold War era attempt at exotic cuisine: a slice of toast topped with ham, canned pineapple, processed cheese, and, in some iterations, a maraschino cherry. Originally, Toast Hawaii was a take on the American grilled spamwich, which U.S. soldiers ate while stationed in Germany. During the 1950s, TV chef Clemens Wilmenrod made the dish live on West German TV, cementing its place in the national cuisine for generations. Today, according to German bloggers, Toast Hawaii is considered “a modern classic that has just about nothing to do with the typical German cuisine, but is still inseparably connected to it.”
2. PIZZERIA KENTUCKY // ARGENTINA
In Argentina, Kentucky is the name of the country’s biggest pizza chain. In 1942, a group of former soccer players in Buenos Aires had a lucky day at the horse track. They used their winnings to open a pizza place, and named it Kentucky, after the Kentucky Derby. Since then, they’ve opened nearly 50 additional locations, fed Diego Maradona, and confused countless American tourists.
3. ALASKA MILK CORPORATION // PHILIPPINES
In the Philippines, Alaska is the name of a corporate dairy empire with a mission to “raise milk consumption levels in the country” and “bring health to every child in every Filipino home.” The company also owns the Alaska Aces, the second winningest team in Philippine Basketball Association history, with 14 championship titles since they joined the league in 1986. As it turns out, the Alaska brand took its name not from the U.S. state but from a contraction of the Tagalog words alas and ka, meaning "You're an ace!"
4. MAINE SOFT DRINKS // NORTHERN IRELAND
In Northern Ireland, Maine is a soft drink company known for its fleet of distinctive blue-green trucks that have delivered soda to families door-to-door for six decades. Their classic flavors include Sarsaparilla, Scottish Kola, and Pineappleade. Not as popular? “Smak," which anti-drug activists protested in Scotland in 1998, arguing that it trivialized heroin addiction at a time when roughly 350,000 UK residents were using the drug.
5. YUGO FLORIDA // YUGOSLAVIA
In the former Yugoslavia, Florida was the name of a five-door hatchback produced by automaker Zastava from 1987 until 2008. The model was "the most advanced and independently engineered automobile" the Serbian manufacturer produced before refocusing on arms sales [PDF], and was named "Florida" to celebrate the success of the Yugo in the U.S. In a history of the Yugo, author Jason Vulc says that the Florida was born when Zastava engineers bought a Hyundai Excel, took it apart to study its design, then lost some of the parts and couldn't put it back together again. "To their credit, the Yugoslavs did succeed in building a second car," Vulc wrote, "not a good car, mind you, but a viable car nonetheless." The squat, sensible family car saw the fall of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the Yugoslav State, but sadly did not outlast the Great Recession. The Florida lives on, however, and is still popular with vintage car lovers for being “very functional, universally and highly applicable” and for its “lower medium class” price point, according to one fan page.
6. SUPERSHOW NEVADA // BULGARIA
Supershow Nevada, the first major Bulgarian TV quiz show, aired in the ‘90s, before being renamed and eventually canceled in 2001. Since the show was co-sponsored by Moto-Pfohe, the Bulgarian representative of the Ford Motor Company, the grand prize was a Ford car. In the final round, contestants spun a giant wheel in the hope of getting a chance to win the car. Even at the time, the game show was described as “little more than an extended advert for car dealer Moto-Pfohe.”
7. LOUISIANA MUSEUM OF MODERN ART // DENMARK
In Denmark, Louisiana is the name of an internationally renowned art museum. Formerly a seaside villa built by a Dane named Alexander Brun, it was converted to a museum that houses works from Pablo Picasso, Jean Dubuffet, and Louise Bourgeois among others. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it isn’t named after the state of Louisiana, but in honor of Brun’s three wives—each of whom was named Louise.
8. "THAT’S SO TEXAS" // NORWAY
In Norway, Texas is slang for crazy. For example, one Norwegian soccer manager described the atmosphere at a rivalry match between the Blackburn Rovers and the Burnley Clarets as “totally Texas.” The idiom comes from Texas’s association with the Wild West and cowboys that were featured in Norwegian films and literature.
9. MARYLAND COOKIES // UNITED KINGDOM
“Maryland” is one of the UK’s best-selling cookie brands. According to the company’s website, the British Maryland nabbed its cookie recipe from the U.S. in 1956, and has been selling whimsically named Big and Chunky snack packs, Gooeys, and Snapjacks ever since. They claim that if you took every Maryland cookie baked in a year and laid them end to end, the cookies would wrap around the equator 1.5 times.
10. THE TOWN OF VIRGINIA // LIBERIA
In addition to being a U.S. state, Virginia is also the name of a suburb of Monrovia, Liberia’s capital city. The Liberian Virginia was originally a settlement colonized largely by freed slaves and freeborn Black settlers from the U.S. state of Virginia. It was the birthplace of Angie Brooks, the first female African president of the UN General Assembly.