from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • proper n. the contiguous continental states area of the United States of America, comprising 48 states in number, and the District of Columbia, excluding Alaska and Hawaii.


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  • Well, technically, but you have to remember that the phrase originated when AK was not a state. The term just stuck. It's kind of like referring to certain states as the "Midwest."

    November 5, 2007

  • Alaska is part of the North American continent, so isn't it too a part of the "continental U.S."?

    November 5, 2007

  • Right, cathari, but I still think it's a differentiating phrase from the continental U.S., so there'd be no point getting used to saying "lower 49" anyway.

    I mean--I guess that's skipvia's call, since he's in Alaska, but that's what it seems like.

    November 5, 2007

  • Exactly, c_b. Alaska and Hawaii are bound together in some interesting ways, not the least of which is the sense on the part of many in the lower 48 that we're not actually part of the US.

    The Anchorage airport (before it was remodeled some years ago) was home to a lounge called "The Upper 1." It was a while before I got the joke.

    November 5, 2007

  • "Lower 49" would probably sound right if we were used to it. I'm not sure that it sounds inherently worse than "lower 48".

    November 5, 2007

  • Yeah, and "lower 49" just doesn't sound right. I suspect "lower" is just a shorter way of saying "continental U.S."

    November 5, 2007

  • The continental US as referred to by Alaskans. Hawaii was not yet a state when the term originated. (Nor was Alaska.)

    November 5, 2007