tri-state (and quad-state)

Came across a news item on Facebook with a reference to the “tri-state area”, in this case around New York City. A common media usage, serving as “semi-technical” terminology: not subject to a technical definition for some sort of official purpose (like the designations of various metropolitan areas by federal agencies in the U.S.), but still not freely used by ordinary people in everyday speech. Instead, it’s special to some group of users and contexts; it’s a media term. (Though ordinary people might still use it, in effect quoting the usage of newspapers, tv news reporters, and the like.)

Nice survey in Wikipedia:

There are a number of areas in the 48 contiguous United States known informally as tri-state areas. A tri-state area is an area associated with a particular town or metropolis that lies across three states. Some, but not all, of these involve a state boundary tripoint.

The most frequently referenced tri-state area is … the New York metropolitan area, which covers parts of the states of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. [But the official metropoliltan area also includes five counties in northeastern Pennsylvania, so it’s actually a quad-state area.] It is often referenced in New York radio, as well as through countless television commercials.

The Delaware Valley region, which includes [south]eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, and northern Delaware, is also frequently referred to as a tri-state area in radio and TV advertising in the Philadelphia market.

Four other prominent areas that have been labeled tri-state areas are the Cincinnati tri-state area, including [parts of] Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana; the Pittsburgh tri-state area, covering parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia; the Chicago tri-state area, also known as Chicagoland, which includes parts of Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin; and the Greater Memphis area or Mid-South, consisting of West Tennessee, North Mississippi, and the Arkansas delta. [On Chicagoland, see below.]

Smaller tri-state areas include those of Dubuque, Iowa, which spills over into Illinois and Wisconsin; of Quincy, Illinois, which includes parts of Missouri and Iowa; Evansville, Indiana, which includes parts of Illinois and Kentucky; the Chattanooga, Tennessee tri-state area which includes [parts of] Alabama and Georgia; and the Huntington (W.V.)-Ashland (Ky.)-Ironton (Oh.) Tri-State region, which incorporates areas of Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia. The Quincy, Evansville, and Huntington-Ashland areas are noteworthy for the states included all being separated by rivers.

The area that includes Washington, D.C. and the nearby parts of Maryland and the Virginias is sometimes loosely referred to as a “tri-state area,” although the District of Columbia is not a state; however, with the presence of Jefferson County, West Virginia in the official Washington–Arlington–Alexandria Metropolitan Statistical Area, the region, as defined by the US Government, does in fact include three states. This area is more commonly/colloquially referred to as “the DMV” (DC, Maryland, Virginia).

Note 1, on two-state areas. There are two-state areas centered on particular cities — for instance, Michiana, the region of northern Indiana and southwestern Michigan centered on the city of South Bend IN — but none of these seem to be referred to as the “bi-state area”.

Note 2, on DC. DC is a well-defined geographical area and a legal jurisdiction, but it’s not a state, nor is it a part of any state, so it’s customary, but very awkward, to refer to “the 50 states and the District of Columbia”, to be technically correct. (There are similar issues with other federal areas, for instance the DF in Mexico and the ACT in Australia.) Still, in the minds of ordinary people, DC is as near to a state as you can get without being one, so they tend to view it as in effect a state — hence, the designation (by some) of Greater Washington as “the tri-state area”.

Note 3, on Chicagoland. In my 9/16/12 posting on “Urban areas” and their designations in the media, I noted that

for Chicago, we get Greater Chicago, the Chicago area, and the very popular Chicagoland. No doubt some people in the area see subtle differences between these alternatives, beyond the rough stylistic difference (with Greater Chicago more formal/technical and Chicagoland more vernacular).

The patterns can combine: the Chicagoland area, greater Chicagoland, the greater Chicago area, all attested in substantial numbers. And possibly the most common of all: the greater [or Greater] Chicagoland area [or Area]

Quad State.There’s at least one four-state area that the media have given a name to. From Wikipedia:

The Four State Area or Quad State Area, is the area where the states of Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma touch. The Tulsa, Oklahoma; Joplin, Missouri; and Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, Arkansas metropolitan areas are located within the region.

Otherwise, quad state (or quad-state or quadstate) is used for four-state areas embracing all the four states (not just the parts centered on a city or cities) for some specific purpose, typically some event associated with an organization or institution. It’s incredibly frustrating to investigate these designations: they involve relatively tight communities that take for granted things like which states are involved in their activities. Two that I did track down:

the APA [American Planning Association] Quad State Conference: AR, KS, MO, OK

the Quincy Art Center (Quincy IL) Biennial Quad-State Exhibit: IN, IL, IA, MO

I wasted half an hour searching, unsuccessfully, through dozens of websites to uncover the four states involved in

the SOFA [Southern Ohio Forge & Anvil] QuadState Roundup Blacksmith Conference

(SOFA is a blacksmithing organization, fascinating to read about.) My guess would be OH, KY, IN, and WV, but the designation might be merely historical, In any case, no one seems to see any reason to name the four states.

2 Responses to “tri-state (and quad-state)”

  1. Joseph F Foster Says:

    In the mid Ohio Valley area around Cincinnati, in addition to “Tri State” you used to could hear fairly commonly “Otuckiana”. My impression is that anymore that use is waning some.

    But a very common term for the NW Louisiana, SW Arkansas, NE Central Texas area centered on Shreveport, Louisiana is “The Arklatex”. It was used far more half a century ago than “Tri State” and probably still is because I heard it on TV and Radio the last couple of times I was in Shreveport and also in El Dorado, Arkansas 95 miles to the NE. And the big powerful Farm-Timber-Oil News Radio Station, KWKH AM / FM in Shreveport actually carried the University of Arkansas Razorbacks’ football games broadcast live. Some other station carried LSU games.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      Nice. These syllabic initialistic names (posted about some time back by Ben Zimmer, using Nabisco as an illustration) are another route to naming multi-state areas (like Michiana my posting).

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