Flip Flop Flying

Washington, state or D.C.?

with 34 comments

So, Americans, I was thinking the other night about Washington after Cameron referred to the nation’s capital as simply “D.C.” I was, of course, in Washington state at the time. And it got my mind a-whirring. Can the contiguous states of the country be carved into two, along a line which would denote which Washington, state or District of Columbia, one is referring to?

I’ll make myself clearer: if someone was to say to you, “I’ve got to go to Washington next week?” which Washington would you automatically assume they were talking about. I’m guessing that folks here in Oregon or in Idaho would be referring to their neighbouring state. Similarly, I’d assume that people in New York, Philadelphia, or Baltimore would be talking about D.C. My fabulous furry freak friends Kraig and Barbara are of the opinion the dividing line might approximately run along the Mississippi.

This is where you come in, citizens of the United States of America. We could make a map. And who doesn’t love maps? So, all I would like you to do is tell me where you are in the States, and which Washington you would assume someone would be referring to. Of course, if you’re from Seattle, but living in New York, you might think differently than your fellow New Yorkers and skew the results a bit, but, I think it’d be cool to make this map. So, y’know, if you’d like to help make me happy, please leave a comment, and ask your pals or electronic pals around the country to join in. No need to sign in to comment, you can leave them anonymously if you want. Thanks, y’all.

Update 8 Jan: Thank you so much to everyone who commented. The conclusion I’ve come to is that most people would say “state” at the end if that’s what they meant, or would just say the name of the city within the state instead. It seems that most references to a Washington would be referring to D.C. Again, thanks for your help. Follow-up question brought up in the comments: How far away from New England do you have to get before people assume you mean Portland, Oregon not Portland, Maine when you simply say “Portland”? I guess this question could be asked of Germans, too, Frankfurt am Main and Frankfurt (Oder)? And, indeed, how far away from the hamlet of New York, Lincolnshire do you have to get before people assume you’re talking about that other New York?

Written by Craig

January 6th, 2009 at 4:07 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

34 Responses to 'Washington, state or D.C.?'

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  1. From Philadelphia. If someone under 20-25 told me they were “going to Washington,” I’d think DC. Anyone else, the state.


    7 Jan 09 at 01:53

  2. I’ve often heard “washington state” vs. “washington d.c.” or just “d.c.”.


    7 Jan 09 at 02:22

  3. Since I live in Washington state, I assume D.C. automatically.
    Not helpful huh?


    7 Jan 09 at 04:18

  4. Also from Philadelphia…if I heard “Washington” I’d assume Washington D.C. But, as was mentioned above, most people just say “D.C.”

    I hope I don’t screw up your map!


    7 Jan 09 at 04:50

  5. I live in California. I hear “Washington” I think “DC”. Most people I know around here say “Washington state” when referring to the place to the north.


    7 Jan 09 at 05:08

  6. I guess if the person were a senator or a congressperson, you’d assume DC no matter where they were at the time.

    (I’m Canadian (in Ontario), but if someone in Canada said “I’m going to Washington”, I’d assume DC but I’d also ask for clarification immediately, though.

    If you want to include Canada in your map, I suspect anyone east of Alberta would assume DC.)


    7 Jan 09 at 05:21

  7. I’m in Michigan (Cadillac); I would probably think D.C.

    A. Yzsaakc

    7 Jan 09 at 06:13

  8. i assume d.c.
    and i'm from germany :>


    7 Jan 09 at 06:52

  9. Hi, I’m from Baltimore. Ironically enough, we typically just say “D.C.” when referring to the city, and “Washington State” when referring to the state. If someone mentioned an “unmodified” Washington, I would assume D.C.


    7 Jan 09 at 08:46

  10. From Western Pennsylvania and I assume D.C. when someone says they’re going to Washington.

    I would hazard a guess only those living in states bordering Washington (state) are those that come close to assuming the state and not D.C. when someone says they’re going to Washington. Just a guess though.


    7 Jan 09 at 12:13

  11. i am in portland or now and would think washington state. i would think dc if i were in pa or florida or nyc, which are other places where i lived. i think on the east coast people would say “seattle” or “olympia” or “washington state to specify. and here people say “dc” to specify washington dc.


    7 Jan 09 at 12:18

  12. I’m from Massachusetts, and would automatically assume “DC” unless someone specified “Washington State”.

    Jen C.

    7 Jan 09 at 17:35

  13. I’m from Philly, and you’re right, I would assume DC. But I would ask for clarification.


    7 Jan 09 at 18:33

  14. I already left my comment, but I am bored at work today, so I just asked a co-worker. She said she would assume DC. Again, we are from Philly.


    7 Jan 09 at 19:41

  15. From Northern Wisconsin, would assume D.C. if someone said Washington. However, I think I’ve only heard “Washington State” as reference to the, well, state.


    7 Jan 09 at 20:38

  16. I am afraid the real Washington is Washington-on-the-Brazos, the birthplace of the Republic of Texas and the city where Texians declared their independence from Mexico. Washington-on-the-Potomac is a far away capital, whose capitol is smaller in height and stature than the one in Austin.

    El Jefito

    7 Jan 09 at 21:24

  17. Born and raised in Washington (state), but now live in Illinois. I think most would think D.C. when someone said just “Washington”….if someone in Oregon or Idaho was going to Washington (the state) that weekend, they’d probably say they were going to Vancouver, Seattle, Spokane, Tri-Cities, etc. rather than the state name…..

    Liz Viall

    7 Jan 09 at 21:45

  18. (Claps hands and jumps up and down) I’m in! I’m in!

    I hail from Michigan and I always assume it’s DC someone is referring to.

    No one goes to Washington state, do they?


    7 Jan 09 at 21:49

  19. I live in New York and would assume they were talking about DC. I’m not sure if that’s because I’m east-coast centric, or if it’s because I generally think people talk about places in terms of cities/towns as opposed to states. Meaning, I think I’d say I was going to Las Vegas, not Nevada – or to Kansas City, not Missouri, etc.


    7 Jan 09 at 22:14

  20. I would think Washington the state. I’m in Colorado.

    Amy B.

    7 Jan 09 at 22:16

  21. I polled some more Denverites. We have 4 that say they would think the state and 3 that would think Washington D.C. And they thought someone should say D.C. or Washington D.C. if they are going to the capital, and Washington State if they are going to the state!

    Amy B.

    7 Jan 09 at 22:20

  22. I think your guess is pretty right on, Craig. In the PNW, I think most people figure you mean Washington state if you say “Washington.” And actually my experience in the Midatlantic/DC area is that people don’t refer to it as Washington at all. In the Midwest, where I grew up, though, the full terms “Washington State” and “Washington DC” are pretty commonly used to make clear which one you mean.


    7 Jan 09 at 23:28

  23. D’oh. By which I meant, Midatlantic people call it “DC.”


    7 Jan 09 at 23:28

  24. In the Boston area, Washington means D.C.

    I think I would either say “Washington state” or “Seattle” otherwise.

    We have a similar issue with Portland. Most of the time when we say Portland we mean Portland, Maine, but it does get confusing especially when you’re talking to someone who isn’t originally from New England.


    7 Jan 09 at 23:31

  25. I’m in northern California, and here most would assume you meant the state. I would guess only far west states would assume that: anything east of, say Arizona, Nevada and Montana would assume you mean DC. There may be a Red-Blue dichotomy here too. . .over the past eight years the West Coast has been blue and the middle has been red, as has DC. Now we’re hoping to rejoin. . .


    8 Jan 09 at 01:21

  26. Here’s the problem, from my perspective: People don’t frequently say they’re going to go to a state, from my experience. It seems that the vast majority of people will be more specific. As a result, I think that whenever anyone, anywhere in the U.S. says they’re going to “Washington,” the listener is almost always going to assume D.C.

    For those living in the Pacific Northwest, my guess would be that the information would always be more specific than “Washington.” Seattle, for example, might be a likely destination, but it’s hard to imagine a conversation like this between two people from Oregon:

    Person 1: Where are you going?
    Person 2: To Washington!

    Derick, Brooklyn
    (East Coast Snob)


    8 Jan 09 at 03:12

  27. Also, Liz Viall, sorry for missing your making of the same exact point.

    I am an internet dunce.



    8 Jan 09 at 03:14

  28. welllll…if you’re going to washington d.c., chances are you’d just say you’re going to “d.c.”

    “washington” refers to the state. AND if people go anywhere in ohio, they’d probably just say, “hey, i’m going to ohio!” and not, “hey, i’m going to north canton!”

    derick’s wrong.


    8 Jan 09 at 04:29

  29. I’m a “bi-coastal”-type living in the Bay Area for the last 16 years, I would still think that something going to Washington would be to Washington DC. I agree that people say “Washington state” but only to clarify that they are NOT going to our capital.
    The great American denominators, television, has turned the place “Washington” into another name for our government…

    dana Constance

    8 Jan 09 at 08:30

  30. Oh God now you tell me. I wondered why it was so easy to get flights and hotels out there when everyone was saying “Washington” would be all booked up for the inauguration


    8 Jan 09 at 14:14

  31. Of course I automatically think of Washington C.D. (Thats County Durham) The original Washington, if not the best!


    8 Jan 09 at 14:40

  32. I’m from Texas. If someone said Washington, I’d assume they meant the state.

    sarah b.

    8 Jan 09 at 14:45

  33. JP from Wisconsin:
    I’d assume DC. But such a query would usually require the standard clarification, throwing an obvious hurdle in the communication. Craig, I think your map is a good idea. After the Washington map is done, how about creating one for “Sox”? Somewhere in Ohio there’s gotta be a delineation between Red Sox to the east, and White Sox to the west. Heading the other way, maybe respondents further west than, say, Nebraska, would just be thinking textiles.


    10 Jan 09 at 05:30

  34. I live in Southern California and when I hear “Washington” I assume the speaker is talking about “Washington, D.C.”

    Perhaps the dividing line of Washington State vs. Washington, D.C. should be drawn from Canada along the Mississippi River to the Missouri Compromise Line and then west to the Pacific Ocean.

    Travis T

    14 Jan 09 at 05:46

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