State nickname

I find very often lately that knowledge I have (had) has been ‘superseded’ by ‘new’ knowledge that seems to spring from nowhere else but the authors mind. The question I have falls in that category…

I live in Massachusetts. The nickname for MA is ‘The Bay State’. I have always “known” that the Bay referred to was the plant whose leaves are used to flavor soups and stews and the berries used to scent candles. Now I am told that it is called the Bay State due to all the bays such as Cape Cod Bay, Buzzards Bay, etc…

I need to hear “The Straight Dope”.

This site, amongst several others attributes the name to the many bays. The original name of the Commonwealth was the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which seems to be the specific source of the nickname, rather than the multitude of bays in the state.

The bay leaf is indigenous to Europe, so it seems unlikely that the state was named after it.

This one although brief says it’s related to the bigger bay, Massachusetts Bay, that body of water surrounded by the eastern coast of the “mainland” and the north and west inner coasts of Cape Cod. That’s what my 30+ years of residence there led me to believe. The MBTA transit system, of course, also adopted the name after dropping the MTA (Metropolitan Transit Authority) so New York could use it. It doesn’t much matter which is the “true” historical basis.

And the trailing arbutus is the state flower, or is it the Mayflower?

I’m pretty sure that trailing arbutus IS the Mayflower.


N. Amer.

a. The trailing arbutus, Epigaea repens. 

1778 J. CARVER Trav. N.-Amer. 520 May Flowers, Jessamine, Honeysuckles. 1853 W. H. BARTLETT Pilgrim Fathers iii. 182 The beautiful May-flowerwith its delicate roseate blossom and delicious scent. 1882 Garden 13 May 323/1 The May-flower…is the emblem of Nova Scotia, with the motto, ‘We bloom amid the snow.’ 1942 E. B. WHITE One Man’s Meat 282 Mayflowers have been reported fifteen miles away in the mayflower country. 1993 T. COFFEY Hist. & Folklore N. Amer. Wildflowers 91/1 Trailing-Arbutus, Mayflower… Legend has it that…the Pilgrims saw this flower and named it after their ship.