Why do Americans give their Postal Address when asked where they LIVE ?

Ok, I’m a United Statesian(? :-), but I’m familiar with most of the 2 letter abbreviations for the provinces as well: i.e, AB for Alberta, SK for Saskatuwan(sp?), BC for British Columbia, ON for Ontario, NB for New Brunswick, etc. They’re are all (intentionally, I assume!) unique with respect to the two letter US state abbrevs, so there is no ambiguity if you specify the two letter abbrev for where you live anywhere in the US or Canada. As an experiment, I once sent a letter to a friend in Canada without specifying “Canada” anywhere, and it got there just fine.

To the author of the original note: you can say “Toronto” and everybody knows where it is because it’s a big city. But if you lived in a city with a population of 500 people that nobody every heard of outside of that region, would you be as likely to specify your location using just the city name? No, but you might say “SW Ontario”, and people would know where that was even if they’d never heard of whatever tiny burg you were from. And maybe you’d someday get lazy and just say “SW ON” instead of spelling it out. Same deal.

And did you really not know that those were two-letter abbrevs for US states and not “zip codes”?

I usually tend to assume that people in Canada have at least heard of most of the US states, even if maybe they can’t place them on the map, and vice versa, that most ppl in the US have at least heard of most of the provinces except maybe for that new one way up north and maybe also Prince Edward Island.

peas on earth

Okay, Dandmb50 signed the posting with a postal code (we use an alphanumeric variant of the U.S. zip code (which, by the way, is NOT five digits, it’s really nine (or actually five plus an optional four)(? Please correct me if I’m wrong))). Okay, according to Canada Post, this puts him/her at an even address between 2 and 52 on Dundonald Street in Toronto, ON. Isn’t the web wonderful? Bluepony, if you want to invade, please start with that block and see how far you get.

Next, bantmof, according to your profile you live in Cleveland and it’s not surprising that you know about Canada. As you go further south you find that the concept gets increasingly fuzzy. This is one of the biggest things that bug Canadians. Oh yeah, and Toronto in general - those people have a disturbing tendancy to assume that they are ALL of Canada and kind of ignore the rest of the country … oops, sorry, I digress. Anyway, I’m off now to find out if Nunavit (new Territory in the far north, not an official province) got a mail abbreviation. And along the way, I’ll try to confirm that Prince Edward Island (informally, PEI) does not have a two letter cookie - I’m pretty sure that it’s considered to be part of Newfoundland/Labrador.

As to whether there was confusion between state codes and zip codes, I don’t have an easy answer. As much as I like to promote Canadianisms, even us Northern dwellers make mistakes from time to time …


YOU try typing with a dog in your lap …

Heck. Nunavit shares code NT with the Nortwest Territories, somthing that probably annoys them terribly. Prince Edward Island is PE, so it really is considered a seperate place. NF covers both Newfoundland and Labrador. Now we all know.

I should have pointed out in the previous post that our postal code is faily powerful: from the code posted, I could pin the address down to one side of the block on a specific street in a specific city in Canada. So, you could probably get a letter delivered (if the postal carrier has a sense of humor) addressed with a last name and a postal code.


It’s a similar deal with the newfangled nine digit zipcodes in the US. I believe most of them point to a specific house or apartment complex. I know mine is different from my neighbor’s.

I definately believe you that it gets “fuzzier” as you go south. I saw an interview on Leno where he was talking to some teen actress from california, asking her about her recent trip to Europe. Jay asked what countries she had visited in Europe. “Germany, France, Canada, …” Must be that OTHER Canada over in Europe.

peas on earth

I must be more sane then most of ya. I don’t give out my city to people on the net [most of the time] cuz I don’t know they could be weirdo stalker freaks.

I lived there foe nine months taking care of my brother’s boys (Malamute and Elkhound) when he got a job in Mexico. Which grocery store- Raley’s, Uptown market or Albertson’s (Used to be Johnson’s or something)? I worked at Model T casino, Super 8, The gas station on the north end of Wmca Blvd, and the potato-packing factory.

I say I’m from Ohio. It’s four letters, and easy to type out. If anyone cares to know further, I’ll say I live in Columbus. I won’t say that alone because there’s about ten of them, and although mine is the biggest, it’s still easily confused.

I have always wondered what the letters and numbers in Canadian “Zip Codes” meant.

Re Canadian zip codes: We call them postal codes, dear. The first letter represents the province or region of province; the rest are pretty much serial. Unlike the US, they go down to street level (i.e. only people on my block have my same postal code).

Re Nunavut: We still use NT for the time being, but Canada Post is going to get us to use NU. There was a bit of annoyance when it was realized that “nu” is French for “naked”, but they did some more checking and found out that French people didn’t actually mind. There was no controversy over the fact that “nu” is Yiddish for “well now”.

Re spelling: Saskatchewan.

The other day the lady at the Illinois tourist bureau asked me how to spell “Quebec”, so don’t come complaining to me.

Ok, so what actually is the difference between a province and a territory?

And which is which? NWT, Yukon, and Nunavut are territories, right? Are all the others provinces?

Obviously this isn’t the real definition, but since I don’t actually know the difference, I had formed the mental image that “provinces have people in them, and territories don’t”. I.e, very few people live in NWT or Yukon, but a lot of people live in Ontario or British Columbia. But what is the REAL distinction?

Down here we also have “states” (e.g, florida) and “commonwealths” (e.g, massachusetts), but I have no clue what the difference is, if any. It doesn’t seem to be given much attention either way, but the prov/territory thing seems like a more significant difference somehow.

peas on earth

>>>>Down here we also have “states” (e.g, florida) and “commonwealths” (e.g, massachusetts), but I have no clue what the difference is, if any. It doesn’t seem to be given much attention either way, but the prov/territory thing seems like a more significant difference somehow.

ummm, no. massachusetts is a state man. i think it was like the second one (after pensilvania–see those new quarters are good for something)

people like this make me question the state (no pun intended) of our fine country. sigh

i am on a never-ending quest to eliminate capital letters

From eggo:

Well, the Massachusetts government calls itself a Commonwealth. From the Massachusetts constitution itself:

“…ordain and establish the following Declaration of Rights, and Frame of Government, as the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”

And even use commonwealth almost (but not quite) universally when not using the proper name, as in:

“…the people of this commonwealth have a right…” etc.

Since you were so snippy about “correcting” my claim that Massachussets is a Commonwealth, perhaps you could explain why Massachusetts appears to call itself a commonwealth, why Massachusetts has a “Secretary of the Commonwealth”, a “Commonwealth Ethics Commission”, and so on and so forth? Is your assertion that Mass is NOT a commonwealth, in spite of the fact that they call themselves one? And if that’s not your assertion, then what in the blazes are you calling my education into question for? I feel that was a little uncalled for.

peas on earth

Handy hit the nail on the head- the question was, why don’t we give out city locations?

I live in a reletively city in my large state of NY. If you look at my profile, you can see I’m a computer instructor. I’ve also given my full first name on other boards in another discussion (It’s Suzette). So come to my small town, stalker freak, and start asking around- what computer places do training? Any instructors named Suzette? (Just me, I assure you). Next thing I know some freak is at my house, getting chewed up by my dogs. Who needs that?
Speaking of which, funeefarmer- we’re neighbors…I know exactly where Cooperstown is…(case in point). I’ll be over on Fri to give you a hand on the farm :slight_smile:

An optimist sees an opportunity in every calamity; A pessimist sees a calamity in every opportunity.

Hey Zette I live in a small town called Edmeston. Come on down, if you’re a stalker I’ll be so flattered. Zip code 13335, yes there is 4 numbers after it but since the whole town uses the same numbers at the end it all seems kind of pointless to me.

Eggo -

Too much syrup on the brain this morning? Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Massachusetts are all Commonwealths. And Delaware is “The First State”. Puerto Rico is also oficially a Commonwealth, to note its official status as an autonomous, self-governing political unit voluntarily associated with the United States.

To quote YOU:
“people like this make me question the state (no pun intended) of our fine country.
I know what you mean.


Hawaii is a state. Guam is a territory.

Any more questions?


Nunavut doesn’t have an official mail abbreviation yet, but, in NU is indeed problematic, NN should do the trick just fine, and I imagine it will.

Prince Edward Island is a separate province from Newfoundland and Labrador (in fact, it was one of the first provinces, while Newfoundland and Labrador is the most recent). It does have PE as an official postal abbreviation, but most people still use PEI because it looks more descriptive. NF covers both Newfoundland and Labrador, but I’ve seen LB used for Labrador in one or two places. I’m pretty sure it’s not an official postal abbreviation, though.


Apparently the new quarters aren’t good for teaching you the order of states, because otherwise, you would have noticed that Pennsylvania itself was the second to come out (after Delaware) and following Pennsylvania came New Jersey. Massachusetts was the sixth state.

As for the difference between states that call themselves commonwealths and states that don’t, there is none. See http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a3_307.html for how Cecil explains the matter.

Chaim Mattis Keller

“Sherlock Holmes once said that once you have eliminated the
impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be
the answer. I, however, do not like to eliminate the impossible.
The impossible often has a kind of integrity to it that the merely improbable lacks.”
– Douglas Adams’s Dirk Gently, Holistic Detective

bantmof writes:

Old Brunswick? Scotia Senex? Foundalongtimeagoland?

“Kings die, and leave their crowns to their sons. Shmuel HaKatan took all the treasures in the world, and went away.”

Must be someone fairly old. Back before the introduction of ZIP codes and automated sorting equipment, an address of “City” was perfectly normal and expected.

As to the size, the original ZIP codes had five digits, which got to the specific post office. The longer 5+4-digit ZIP codes get it down to a block or so, so that the mail will be put into the right carrier’s sack.

By the way, the two-character state abbreviations are a direct result of ZIP codes. Some (ME for Maine) go back earlier, but other states were longer (Cal for California, Mass for Massachusetts). The P.O. created the two-character codes so that bulk mailers would have room on their computers (or pre-computer systems) to fit the ZIP code in.

John W. Kennedy
“Compact is becoming contract; man only earns and pays.”
– Charles Williams

Mass mailers use either 12 or 15 digit zips. By the way ZIP means Zone Improvement Plan. But getting back to the author’s gripe I must confer.I tell people I am from CHICAGO. Not IL. What use is it I’m more likely to have something in common with someone from Milwaukee (WI) than downstate IL. I think it’s people in chat rooms are afraid they may meet someone in their they know in real life.