Benny and his friend Griffin at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Better Living Through Dorkiness

So apparently Benny needs to know all the U.S. states and capitols by Sept. 13. Actually, the entire fourth grade needs to know their states and capitols. The school's really serious about this; we parents had to sign a little form saying we would help our children learn this lesson and not allow them to sink into state-and-capitol-less despair.

The form even had fine print, which I didn't really read but might say that if Benny fails, Social Services will turn up and place him with a new family that knows the capitol of Connecticut is Dover. I mean Frankfort. Hartford?

I realized tonight, as Benny and I were eating dinner, that I had a captive audience here and could address this topic in my own dorky way. So I started reading off states in alphabetical order: if Benny guessed the capitol, great. If not, then I would tell him not only the name of the capitol, but how the city got that name, on the theory that knowing the history behind the name would help him remember it. Well, I don't know if it works, but it was a fun way to learn new facts while listening to Benny moan every time I said, "Okay, let's look it up!"

After a while I didn't want to stop and that's how I learned about the following state capitols:

A piece of the Little Rock at the Arkansas capitol.
Little Rock, Arkansas
named after a little rock on the river that was a navigation aid for boats.

Hartford, Connecticut
named after Hertford, England, but pronounced Hartford.

Tallahassee, Florida
Indian name for "old fields" because earlier Indians had cleared a bunch of land already.

Atlanta, Georgia
I thought it was after the woman with the golden apples in Greek mythology. Actually, it was named by a railroad guy who called it Atlantica-Pacifica and it was shortened to Atlanta.

Des Moines, Iowa
Named after the Riviera Des Moines or "River of the Monks" in French, but I don't know what the monks had to do with anything.

Baton Rouge, Louisiana
French for red staff or stick, maybe after the big cypress tree on the site

I end with Lansing, Michigan, our home state.
Lansing was originally some lame little settlement named after some guys' hometown in New York State. But in 1847 the state leaders wanted to move the capital further into the interior away from hostile British Canada, which had taken Detroit in the War of 1812. Michigan's other big cities vied for the honor, but they chose some flyspeck village with 20 people.

Stay tuned for more dorkiness tomorrow!

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