On November 4, 2012 · 1 Comments

Despite the title, this article has nothing to do with the upcoming election. I promise. I am so tired of living in a so-called Swing State this election cycle that I’m ready to start breaking things. The incessant phone calls, the constant barrage of negative advertising, the people who won’t quit knocking on my door, are all turning me into a curmudgeon before my time. I’m done. Let’s change the dynamic and redefine flip-flopping.

I wondered if there were examples of state names appearing in other states with the favor returned in the opposite direction. By that, let’s suppose there are two states, X and Y. In state X there is a town called Y, and in state Y there is a town called X. The two state names flip-flop.

First I established a few ground rules. All locations had to appear in the USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS). They also had to match exactly, so even though Virginia City, Nevada exists and I’ve been there in person, it didn’t count for this purpose. It would have to be called Virginia, and only Virginia with nothing appended to it. My final condition was that it had to be a populated place large enough to appear on Google Maps.

Those criteria were more stringent that I expected. I found exactly one and a half instances.

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The half instance involved the town of Georgia in New Jersey and the town of Jersey in Georgia. There would need to be a town of New Jersey in Georgia for it to be a complete example, and unfortunately that didn’t exist. However, it’s still pretty remarkable so I counted it as half.

Does it seem preposterous that someone would name a town New Jersey? Perhaps that’s the case as none exist however it didn’t prevent similar situations such as New Hampshire, Ohio (map) and New York, Texas (map). Why wasn’t New Jersey blessed the same way?

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This left me with a single exact flip-flop, the case of Virginia in the state of Washington and Washington in the commonwealth of Virginia. I’ve been to both. Well, that’s a little bit of an exaggeration. I’ve not been within the boundaries of Virginia, WA proper, however I have been within about three miles of it as I drove through Bremerton on the way to the Olympic Peninsula.

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Virginia, WA is located just outside the gates of Naval Base Kitsap, the Pacific port for Trident submarines. These ferocious ships are equipped with nuclear ballistic missiles designed to obliterate entire cities should a conflict ever escalate beyond the brink. Let’s hope that never happens. It appears that one submarine is docked at the base and another one is in dry-dock on this satellite image. Virginia, WA does not appear to be large enough to be an actual town. It’s probably more of a neighborhood or subdivision. However, GNIS considered it a populated place and Google Maps slapped a label on it. I couldn’t afford to be too choosey at that point so I counted it.

Washington, VA on the other hand is most definitely a town, and often called "Little Washington" due to its proximity to a much larger city with the same name (map). The town claims to have been surveyed by George Washington personally and to be the oldest town named for Washington. Foodies know this as the location of the Inn at Little Washington which has garnered enough accolades to justify its own Wikipedia page.

That was it, the only true example of a state-state flip-flop: Virginia, WA and Washington, VA. I’m sure I could find others if I relaxed the criteria to include place names that were additive (e.g., the Virginia City example) or too obscure to be labeled on Google Maps.

Totally Unrelated

Brant from North Carolina read an early 12MC article, Sunrise and Sunset over Water, about places where it should be possible to observe both a sunrise and a sunset totally over water from the same position on the same day.

Pine Knoll Shores Sunset

He discovered another rare example and provided this stunning sunset photograph which I am sharing with the 12MC audience with his permission. The phenomenon occurs at Pine Knoll Shores in North Carolina (map). He noted that it happens only during the fall and winter. Thank you, Brant!

Even More Totally Unrelated

Someone with the user name "theBirdsofWar" has started A reddit community devoted to geo-oddities. I hope it takes off. Several of the links refer to pages on Twelve Mile Circle and I’ve already noticed a few new visitors to the site as a result. Thank you, theBirdsofWar!

On November 4, 2012 · 1 Comments

One Response to “Flip-Flopping”

  1. Philip Sites says:

    I didn’t have a very strict definition of place names (other than being a populated area) when looking up state-named places a little while ago myself, but found at least 38 instances of Washington being a place name – including roughly eight times in Wisconsin. Though despite owning at least 17 places named after states, no one state seems to return the favor to Wisconsin. Wyoming turns the other trick, it seems, as there are 13 states with a place named Wyoming, yet Wyoming has no places named after states (not even Washington).

    If we are stretching definitions, there is a New York, Texas (unincorporated community) and a Texas, New York (hamlet)

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