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Dictionary Project, Volume X: United States

The Dictionary Project is a post-a-day exploration of The Century Dictionary and Cylopedia, a twelve-volume set printed in New York in 1901. The Project runs from October 1, 2014 to September 30, 2015, and matches volume numbers to calendar months. Volume X is The Atlas, and today is Day 3.

We’re working around the world from West to East, backward toward the International Date Line. From North America yesterday, we zoom in a little closer to the United States. As ever, click on the photo to enlarge and surf around within.)

IMG_1870The state borders that were omitted on the map of the whole continent are in place here, and all the states are where you’d expect to find them. (Well, Hawaii isn’t part of the union yet, but it’s out there in the Pacific. We’ll come to it later in the month.) The green blotches mostly in the West are “US Parks and Forest Reserves”, including Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. A look at Google Maps today shows that the US Parks and Forest Reserves have grown a lot since this map was drawn in 1897.

This dictionary was published nearly a hundred years before “political correctness” was mentioned, and that’s evident on pretty much every page in this Atlas. The yellow blotches in the West, for instance, are “Indian Reservations”. We’ll have a look at that big one in the middle, tomorrow. Unlike the green blotches, traditional native territories have shrunk dramatically in the years since this map was made.

I expected this map to be labelled “America”, or at least to include the word “America”, because I think that’s what most Americans (certainly the American media) call it these days. In my youth, my school years, we called it “the United States” (and it’s les États-Unis in French and los Estados Unidos in Spanish), or “the US”, or “the States”. I don’t remember when the fashion changed; was it when the internet was born? Or is that only when the rest of world learned what Americans call their country?

Do you live in the United States, the US, the USA, or America? See anything in your neck of the woods on this map that surprises you?

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