52 States in America

I sure hope this question hasn’t been asked tenfold already…

I work for the Registry of Motor Vehicles here in Massachusetts, and, a few years back, there was a dispute in the office between a few people and myself. I heard one of them on the phone saying that some law was valid in “all 52 states in America…” - I talked to him after his call and said that there were only 50 states in the continental U.S., but he said he was certain there were 52. I let the subject drop.

Now it’s a few years later and another one of my co-workers is saying the same exact thing. He said he saw it in a Websters Dictionary.

Now, rather than shrug him off, I went online to a few websites. Some sites that are school run ( http://www.sunnysideud.k12.az.us/resources/cool_stuff.asp - scroll down to see the contest they’re having for the "52 States.); and some that sell maps (the decorating options map on the bottom right here: http://www.masonsmaps.com/ - read the description)…

Am I crazy? Were two states added and I wasn’t invited to the party? Are the two extra stars on the backside of the flag? Throw me a bone!

No, there are only 50 states. Some people erroneously count Washington, D.C. as a state, but it isn’t. I guess the other one would be Puerto Rico? (It’s not a state either.)

Simple answer?

Coworker: “There are 52 states.”

You: “Name them.”

This seems to be a common mistake in my experience, as well. In fact, a friend of mine once insisted there were 52 states, only to correct himself a bit later: “Oh, there are 52 in a deck of cards, but 50 states in America”. Maybe it’s just a brain fart and they are remembering certain “memorable” numbers, but are ending up backwards on what the numbers represent.

From the Sunny School link:

“Students in grades K-9 must research, compile, and creatively present a minimum of 52 spectacular sights, one from each of our 52 states and territories”

They are counting territories… Puerto Rico and Guam?

Aha. I missed the “and territories”.

Still, the OP is talking about coworkers and not the school.

Slight Hijack:

I used to HATE being taught by a teacher who obviously didn’t know what they where talking about.

One subsitute Music teacher tried to sell me on the fact that the Amazon was the longest River. (I knew it to be the nile)

My 6th grade teacher really took the cake though.

She said the fish is Sal mon

She said Leonardo Gavinci painted the Mona Lisa.

She said the best places to find used clothing was at a Confinement shop.

She also told me that Kennesaw Mountain was in Alabama. (We both lived in GA at time… Kennesaw was a key location in the Civil war… 40 minutes from down town Atlanta. A Teacher of any grade should know this in GA.

In any event, the fact that she like to eat Lucky Charms Cereal must have sent a red flag.

I reckon they are confused by the relatively recent addition of 2 states, Hawaii and Alaska.

48 + 2 = 50, but I suspect people think “there are 50 states, oh yes and two more were added so that must make 52”.

Well there’s a lot more than 52 if we count territories. According to the CIA (and they should know) there are 14 US dependencies:


I had a co-worker who said “SAL mon”. He is a Texican whose first language is Spanish. I’d mention “sammon”, and he’d correct me and say it’s “sal mon” (which it is in Spanish). I finally opened up the old dictionary, and the only pronunciation listed is “sammon”. Another co-worker (also Hispanic, but 100% So. Cal. Girl who doesn’t speak Spanish) used to joke about his pronunciation.

I’ll be deep in the cold, cold ground before I recognise Missoura!

friedo: I was looking up state abbreviations at my former job (since we didn’t take foreign data), and I came up with (I think) 62 valid ones. (A few of them were military region abbreviations.)

Probably the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. (I’m not sure whether DC is technically a ‘territory’, but it’s something less than a state and it’s what most Americans would put in the #51 spot.)

Offhand, I can think of the following US territories: Puerto Rico, Guam, the US Virgin Islands, and The Northern Mariana Islands. There’s also a bunch of little uninhabited islands like Palmyra Island, Kingman Reef, Johnson Atoll, and several others.

Here’s the current US Code concerning US territories and such: (some, obviously, repealed)


I think Johnny L.A. has the right idea, have them name the “52” states.

some sites list the “District of Columbia” as a state… it’s not a state, is it? It’s a district…

The District of Columbia is not a state. It is a federal district. Also, it’s the only federal district. But a state it most certainly ain’t.

Do all those territories have a National Guard that is part of the US Army? I know Puerto Rico and Guam do. That’s why I figured they were the two included in the Sunny School “52”. Maybe they are ‘closer’ to being a state than the other territories…

Are you a miner, then?

This was a question a while back on the Danish version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. It was the 4th or 5th question, the options were 48, 50, 52 and 54 AFAICR.

Piece of cake, the contestant confidently said C, 52.

The host paused and asked if he was sure. I shouted “Get on with it, of course we’re sure!”

The contestant said he was sure, he didn’t need to use any lifelines (why would he? It’s obviously 52!)

The host pointed out that there were three lifelines left, and it couldn’t hurt to use one. (Sheesh, we know the answer, buddy. Move on!)

The host said “If that’s your final answer…?”

I turned TV off shortly after. Not my proudest moment.

Yes Petter, but you’re Danish. I think I’d have a hard time naming anything but Copenhagan (I probably didn’t even spell it right!) in Denmark!

We, on the other hand (well, some of us in this thread) should know these answers, as well as the coworkers. I’d bet you money that over 80%(probably more) of the legalized immigrants would know thta fact.

Is this really what you said? If so, I’m afraid you made a mistake as well. “Continental United States” refers to the 48 contiguous states, meaning that you too were off by two.