Men are from areas of declining population and women are from Mount Rushmore

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2007/07/29 23:01 -04:00, original URI:

So I was reading Language Log and saw one of Mark Liberman's latest posts.

After seeing Janet Hyde's quote ("Men are from North Dakota and women are from South Dakota"), I was thinking back to the penultimate third season episode of the West Wing ("We killed Yamamoto").

Donna Moss was sent to a bunch of hearings in North Dakota, as people there were looking at a proposal to drop the word North from the state, just calling it Dakota. A sample bit from it:

Donna: Eliminating the term north from North Dakota is an important state issue and the President feels it should be resolved on a state level. While the President is sympathetic towards the cause and understands the large economics ramifications of this name change, he feels the issue is not yet ripe for national attention. The President wishes you well on your endeavors and thanks you for your support.

Guy from ND
:Uh, Miss Moss? Are you aware that studies clearly show the word 'north' leaves the impression that this state is cold, snowy and flat, significantly depressing tourism and business startup.

: With due respect, sir, your average temperature is 7 degrees. Your average snowfall: 42 inches, and a name change isn't going to take care of that.

Girl from MD
: We enjoy roughly the same climate as South Dakota. We took in 73.7 million in tourism revenue last year. They took in 1.2 billion. They have the word south.

: Also Mount Rushmore.

Now this episode was from May of 2002, and was both very fictional and one of those fun Sorkinian twists on events of not too long before. In this case the actual issue started with a proposal from the GDNA (Greater North Dakota Association -- formerly at but that is now a porn site as the site itself has been defunct since late September 2004).

The proposal, talking about a big new economic initiative, included the idea of the need to change the name. The governor was supportive at first, but some strong editorials (e.g. Just changing 'North' won't keep economy from going south, retrieved from the Internet Archive from July 2001), the fun polls throughout the state that were hugely opposed to a name change, and then in August 2001 the Dave Barry column ("North Dakota name change lacks direction"), it was pretty widely snickered at nationwide when it happened, so the new "history" of it in the West Wing episode is kind of a fun postscript.

Getting back to Janet Hyde's quote "Men are from North Dakota and women are from South Dakota" it does add a fun (unintended) pragmatic dimension to the quote.

I'm not sure what that meaning is, but somewhere in the industrial/economic/touristic issues, the very real population concerns, the Mount Rushmore envy, and more, the intended meaning which was probably much more of a Zook/Yook "butter side up vs. butter side down" kind of thing is thrown overboard, and once again suggests massive differences between men and women despite all evidence to the contrary. :-)

I realize I am being a bit of a troublemaker with the silly suggestion of hidden meaning, but it's Sunday night and I am known for being ornery....


This post brought to you by 𐑧 (U+10467, a.k.a. SHAVIAN LETTER EGG)

# Michael S. Kaplan on 30 Jul 2007 9:45 AM:

Well, it is good that a happy outlook is possible, buzz. :-)

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