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Point of View

When Americans refer to the different regions of their country, they might classify the states differently, depending on the purpose. All these classifications are arbitrary, of course.

  • The East, for example, can mean all the states east of the Mississippi River, or just the states on the Atlantic coast, or even just the northeastern states, depending on who is making the reference, and for what purpose.
  • The South always includes the states that from 1861 to 1865 formed the Confederate States of America: Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas. In the mind of a speaker, the South may or may not include states like Missouri or Kentucky (or include only the southern portions of those states). In some contexts the South would not include central and southern Florida, given this area’s cultural variance from the rest of the region, or Texas, given that state’s proud existence as a separate entity.
  • The term Midwest can have several meanings also: the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin, certainly, but it can also extend west to include states like Missouri, Iowa, and Minnesota.
  • Further west, the plains states include Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and the Dakotas (although the plains themselves extend west into the eastern reaches of New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana).
  • The West of the United States is always west of the Mississippi and often considerably west of that: the land associated in the popular imagination with cowboys, horses, Indians, wagon trains, gold mines, and the like. The term usually does not include the Pacific coast states, but usually does include Texas. Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Montana, Nevada, Idaho, New Mexico and Arizona are unquestionably part of the American West.
  • The Southwest includes New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, perhaps a chunk of southern Utah (but, as a popular reference, not California, even though it is situated in the nation’s extreme southwest.)
  • Big states like New York, Texas, Florida, and California are often spoken about on their own.

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