On Cape Cod, not In Cape Cod

So, I’m reading the San Jose Merc this morning, and in the article about Maria Shriver filing for divorce, I come across this phrase:

“The filing, which Shriver signed nearly two weeks ago, signals an end to a union that began with a storybook wedding on a spring day in 1986 in Cape Cod…”

It conjured in my mind the image of an wedding taking place underground-- ie, inside Cape Cod. Growing up in New England, we always said “on Cape Cod” or, more often, just “on the Cape”. Having lived in CA now for more than half my life, I started questioning my memory, so I log onto the Boston Globe’s web site, and sure enough:

“On Friday, 25 years after their fairytale wedding on Cape Cod, she filed for divorce.”

Oddly, though, both stories are stated as being from the AP and both have the same author: Anthony McCartney.

First question: What gives? Did some local edit the article, either changing “on” to “in” or vice versa, depending on the local? The articles are similar, but not identical.

Second question: Do we treat the Cape as if it were an island? Technically I guess it is, but only because of the Cape Cod Canal.

Third: Any other locals treated like this?

An editor might have thought that Cape Cod was the name of a town, not a geographical feature.

I belive a peninsula (whether or not there’s a canal technically making is an island) can be referred to either way. “Cape Cod” is also an area, so you can say “in Cape Cod” just as you can say “in Long Island.”

People on the West Coast may not have as much idiomatic familiarity with the phrase “on Cape Cod,” so a local editor probably saw fit to change it.

I imagine it derives from somebody not knowing what a cape is–that “Cape Cod” isn’t just a place name, but a description of the kind of land mass. It’s like saying someone’s “in Mount Everest” because one doesn’t know what a mount is.

Not sure what you mean by “treat the Cape as if it were an island.”

And for the third, do you mean any other locales? Sure… There are many other capes–Hatteras is probably the next most famous. There are of course countless islands which one may be “on,” as well as banks, reefs and atolls. One is on the shore in several places, not just Jersey, unless one is on a coast (“Gold” or otherwise). Getting away from the water, one can be “on” the aforementioned mounts, as well as peaks, ridges, knobs and tops. Being “in the mountains” (highlands, etc.) just means you’re among them, in the general area, like being “in the islands,” but to be more specific one must be “on” a particular landform. Conversely, for obvious reasons, one can be “in” a specific valley, canyon, holler, coombe or dell. You get the idea.

Or the sentence might have originally said “in Hyannisport, Mass.,” and was changed to be more meaningful to West Coast readers, without paying sufficient attention to the preposition.

You would generally not say “in” when referring to an island, so I was thinking the analogy started there, but maybe not.

Yes. Typo.

So, do people say on or in when referring to that Cape?


New Englander checking to say we don’t say that either. It’s “on Long Island” here.

Right, unless the natural land form actually encloses you in a way that makes “in” natural (“in the Grand Canyon”), I think it’s appropriate to say “on” for all such specific places.

A reference like “in Long Island” suggests to me that one is thinking only of the human-built environment, as if it were a town, rather than the landscape. There may be a trend in this direction, but it should be fought. :wink:

It’s marked, but you do hear it occasionally, as in the song To Leave or Die in Long Island

We do say “in” when referring to a political entity with defined borders (which Hyannisport is not, btw). An LA editor *might *have thought “Cape Cod” is a political entity (which it isn’t, although Barnstable County is), and so thought “in” was correct.

Or the editor might have just let one slip, under unrelenting time pressure. That’d be my bet.

I think so too, but it’s more that someone will perceive “Cape Cod” as a community unto itself, with a cultural identity, not as much that they’re so ignorant as to not understand what a cape is geographically.

So I wouldn’t say this is equivalent. No one perceives a barren mountain as a cultural entity.

I grew up in/on a peninsula called “Point Loma” (forming San Diego Bay), which is not a political entity, but which has its own identity as a community. In that sense, we would say that we were in the cultural milieu of “Point Loma,” but at other times we said we were “on the Point,” to indicate physical location. The local community newspaper would do the same thing. In order to emphasize the physical attributes of the area (its beauty, or climate or whatever), they would say “on the Point.” In fact, if you read the Wikipedia article about Point Loma, you will find both uses.

Grammar is flexible for a reason.

In as much as a peninsula is similar to a cape, we can either call the the SJM usage a perverse “error,” or we can see it as a non-local editor doing something similar with the preposition.

There are a whole bunch of Cape Cod references that I just don’t get even though I live in Massachusetts. I am becoming more convinced over time that I won’t ever be able to understand them because I am not from here and I can’t think of it the same way as New Englanders do. The major difficulty is why people would want to spend an exorbitant amount of money and almost all of their meager vacation time staying 40 miles from home in a crappy shack in an area that isn’t that impressive to begin with yet people fall all over each other to do it year after year.

A similar term to the OP is the answer to the question “Where are you going on vacation?”. In some of the places I have worked, 75% of coworkers responded “Down the Cape” which was only 30 miles away. I always thought they were slurring words so I didn’t hear the full phrase “Down TO the Cape” but they weren’t. I found out that you simply travel “Down the Cape” and not “To the Cape” or “Down to the Cape” for that place specifically for some unknown reason.

Ha. My mother, who’s from South Boston, says the same thing.

Far off editors/reporters often drop/revise place names out of unfamiliarity/ignorance. WHen huricanes approach the Town of Wrightsville Beach, NC. national newcasters often shorten it to the Town of Wrightsville, NC, and I’ve heard the Town of Old Orchard Beach, ME, referred to as the town of Old Orchard.

Ooh! I just noticed the ad at the end of this thread: “Lodging In Cape Cod Suites, Great Food & Wave Pool. Reserve Your Room Today! www.CapeCodderResort.com
tsk, tsk.

Language is sometimes quite subtle. I had never noticed (but of course am quite sensitive to) the difference between “on Long Island” and “in Queens”. It reminds me somewhat of the difference between “à Québec” (in Quebec City) and “au Québec” (in the province of Quebec).

Oh Shagnasty, you don’t need to be a non-native to fail to get this. I was born in Massachusetts and have been wondering the same thing since a Cape Cod vacation when I was five. After that my great-grandparents dragged me to the Cape year after year, and I never could figure out what the attraction was. There was (maybe still is) a restaurant there that served everyone cranberry bread with their meals, and that’s the only thing I ever liked about those day trips. As I got older and began to understand the ecomomics of it all, the thought of spending a great deal of money to spend time there struck me as increasingly bizarre.

Well, you would be lodging in a suite surely, even though the suites themselves are on Cape Cod.

I forgot, as for “down the cape” this is the same constuction as “Down shore” that is also common in the southeastern part of the state. I don’t know why, but I’ve heard it all my life.

I’ve always heard it as “on Cape Cod,” just as I’ve always heard it as, say, “on the Outer Banks.” On the other hand, you’d say “in Hyannis” or “in Nags Head,” or “in Massachusetts” or “in North Carolina.” Just the common parlance in speaking about a land mass as opposed to a community/state.