Where States Get Their Abbreviations

[facebook_video url =”https://www.facebook.com/teamcoco/videos/1208411389217741/”]

I was disappointed to learn it’s not a real documentary.

But if you’re just generally into words and language, and stuff associated with words and language, this bit is pretty brilliant.

BTW here’s an explanation I found online…

Not sure how accurate this is but it makes sense, and the OP seemed awfully confident. 😉

There are actually a few rules and in their order of precedence is true:

The first rule is no two abbreviations can be the same. That’s simple enough.

The second, if there are two words, take the first letter of each word to make the abbreviation. (NY, SD, WV)

Third, take the first two letters of the state to make the abbreviation.

Finally, if you have two states that would still end up with the same abbreviation, use the first and last letters.

The rest, if they don’t follow one of the above rules, come from older, 4 letter abbreviations. For example, Alaska used to be abbreviated “ALSK” so they made it “AK”, Tennessee was abbreviated “TENN” so they used “TN”. They would use these if the state’s abbreviation wouldn’t fit the above rules (Like Alaska would be AL or AA which is just awkward) or might be confusing (Tennessee would share TE with Texas so they were chosen to be less confusing – if one state was TE people might see it and interpret it incorrectly).

So it’s a big mix of different systems that led to the current system. It seems to work relatively well if you live in the states.

EDIT: We can note one major anomaly: Missouri. And this is because in the old abbreviation system Mississippi would have been MISS and Missouri had to be changed so it was distinctively different than Mississippi. They abbreviated Missouri as MISO dating back to 1831. When it came time to make two-letter systems they simply grabbed the first and last letter of the old abbreviation.