Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The State Song -- A Challenge for You

At my children’s public elementary school here in Georgia, every morning they say The Pledge of Allegiance, sing The Star Spangled Banner, and “have a moment of quiet reflection on the anticipated activities of the day”, much to the horror of the ACLU. Back in the day, at my own elementary school in Oklahoma, we skipped the Star Spangled Banner, but said the Pledge and recited The Lords Prayer aloud, which I’m sure would have turned that O’Hare chick in her grave, had she been dead yet, but she wasn't. Blaine attended another elementary school not far from me, where they also did the Pledge, but instead of the Lord’s Prayer, they took a more geographical-historical route, and every single morning sang something he has long since called “The State Song.”

Basically, it is the complete listing of all 50 of the United States, in alphabetical order, set to music. Blaine has tried to teach it to me several times, but since the music is lodged firmly in his head, and he can’t play an instrument or display it to me in any other way, I can never get past the first five or six states before losing the rhythm entirely. Blaine always gets frustrated with me, “No, no, that’s not how it goes!” and I have to remind him it’s like trying to teach somebody how to do the Time Warp with no music --- it just doesn’t work.

But back to the song ---- it starts out quick, there’s a rapid rolling part in the middle, lots of Proper Pronunciation, with emphasis on certain syllables, and a BIG FINISH on WyOOOOOming! It sounds quite fun and educational, and I really wish they had done it at my elementary school, as well, because even to this day, Blaine sings loud and gets excited and pumps his fist in the air on the final note and damn, if that isn’t some fun, I don’t know what is.

Fast forward ten or twelve years: One of Blaine’s favorite stories is about an ROTC instructor he had in college. This guy was a pompous little ass, short in stature and character, with a huge Napoleon complex. At the time, he acted SO grown up and worldly because he was a CAPTAIN, for goodness’ sake, and everyone should RESPECT THE RANK, which just makes me giggle now because dude, most Captains are in their late twenties, so just how mature could he have been? But he definitely enjoyed lording it over the cadets and impressing them with just how wonderful he thought he was, and all the life-military-experience he had. Needless to say, Blaine couldn’t stand him.

One morning, he had all the cadets in his class, and he told everyone to get out a sheet of paper. Told them to number the paper one through fifty, and then made the following comment: “OK, you guys think you’re so smart? Let’s see how many of you can name all fifty states. You’re going to be DEFENDING them, you should at least be able to name them ….. you’ve got five minutes …. Go!”

And as people started scrambling, mentally scanning US maps in their head, Blaine looked calmly at the teacher, raised his hand, and with an innocent-yet-totally-ha-ha-conniving expression, asked: “Do you want this list in alphabetical order?” The captain sneered at him, thinking no doubt Blaine was being a wise-ass, but in record time, before anyone else in his class had even come close, Blaine handed in a perfect list, of the fifty United states, in alphabetical order. Got up, walked out of class, and gloated about the look on his instructor’s face the rest of the day. All thanks to the State Song he had memorized when he was in elementary school.

When he came home and told me the story, I laughed. And congratulated him. And then I laughed some more, in a smarmy way. Sure, I was pleased for Blaine that he’d been able to best that arrogant twit, but still ….come on, really …. How hard could it be? Fifty states? {shrug} I could do that. I could *probably* even mange them in alphabetical order. At the time, I was working at a nation-wide insurance agency, and our department was arranged geographically. Each girl handled certain states, and we all knew who handled what …. So all I had to do was go through the list of co-workers in my head and write all the states down. Easy-peasy.

Except it wasn’t.

Except it’s NOT.

I wasn’t able to list all fifty states that day. It was maddening. And humbling. Oh, and did I mention maddening?

Every time I’ve ever tried it through the years, I’ve missed at least one or two states. I’ll scour the list, certain, positive, 100 percent sure that I’ve got them all listed …. But I’ll have only gotten to 48 or 49. And I’ll make comments like, “What the hell?? I’m missing NOTHING --- they are all here!!! So why am I two states short???” And then I’ll consult a map, and figure out which states I’m missing, and I’ll want to smack myself, because normally it’s a state right next to my home state, or a state I’ve even LIVED IN, or something ridiculous like that. Seriously, it can drive you crazy.

We’ve had friends try over the years --- very, very few can do it. Bright, intelligent, educated people. But it’s so hard to list all 50!! I tried it again today, before typing this journal entry, just to prove, just to SHOW MYSELF, that I could do it. This time, I would be successful.

I only got 47. Possibly my worst attempt yet. Obviously, all the years of being a stay-at-home mom have sucked the brain cells right out of my head.

So, this journal entry originated when Blaine was performing (ie, showing off) the State Song to our children the other day, and promising them that he would teach them how to sing it, all the while I’m scoffing in my head because seriously, Blaine, you STILL can’t play the piano so how are you going to teach someone a song with no music????

But this entry ends with a challenge for anyone who is reading this. Get out a sheet of paper. Number it one to fifty. Set a timer for five minutes. See how you do. And bonus if they’re in alphabetical order. Big huge super bonus if you get as frustrated as I always do. And no fair if you already know the State Song.

Leave your results in the comments section. I’ll leave mine there, too, because if I tell you *here* which three I missed, that’s cheating. But I will give you this hint: There are a lot more damn “M” states than you think there are.


Kristie said...

OK, I confess, I missed Minnesota, Missouri, and Massachussets. Apparently I just got lost in the vastness of the "M" states. :)


Anonymous said...

I can only name them because I learnt the song "Fifty Nifty United States" By Ray Charles in 5th grade. Amazing what random information sticks in your brain after 25 years.

Amanda in CA

Anonymous said...

"Fifty Nifty United States, from the thirteen original Colonies...."

Anonymous said...

Umm, naming them is bad, but putting them in the correct location is worse.

Try your hand here:


Anonymous said...

Not even going to show my ignorance by trying! Remember the Friends episode where they tried this?


Anonymous said...

The state song really is incredible. I learned in in fifth grade and can still list all the states as a senior in college. I also learned the 'Spanish speaking countries rap' in high school and can list all the countries AND capitals of the Central and South American countries with Spansih as an official language. Perhaps all lessons should be set to music--it seems to be the only way I remember things...

-Mary in Iowa

Anonymous said...

Animaniacs (good old cartoon:) Had a song about this. I found it on youtube:
And of course the fifty nifty:

Dianne said...

Yep. I learned the State Song in 3rd grade. My youngest daughter learned it in 2nd grade.

Mary in Iowa - Hannah Montana set the bones in the body to a song/dance routine, too, and aced her science test, much to the consternation of her science teacher.

FTR - Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana

Anonymous said...

If you really want to be frustrated, try this

I shouldn't tell you I am a certified teacher :(
This is addicting....
good luck, and let us know how you do.

Ashley said...

Holy piss. HOnestly let me just tell everyone what an idiot I am. I even have a college degree, which apparently means NOTHING. How can I EVER yell at my 11 year old for not applying himself, when I can't even name the flipping STATES?!?!?!??! I missed EIGHT!!!!!!

Lisa from Texas said...

Okay, I am a teacher and my minor is Geograghy and I missed FOUR, FOUR. I still can't think of them. I have all the m's. The last state I listed was Texas and I live there. I gave up on the alphabetical and went by region and I'm still missing FO...wait Alaska...okay THREE! Oh, Oregon...okay Two... Now I give up! Thanks for strectching my stay-at-home mom brain!!

Dana said...

Can I first say that I came across your blog just a few days ago and have sat here(at work) and read each and every entry from the beginning, at times laughing my butt off and then getting paranoid because my co workers are probably wondering what in the crap I'm over here doing that's so dang funny. I was even getting really nervous when I got to the post saying you were thinking of quitting the blog. Just my luck to come into it at the end. Anyway I could only think of 43 without cheating and had to struggle for those. I caught myself naming state capitals as a state.

erunginung said...

Ha I missed 2....New Jersey and New York. LOL But I did know the fifty nifty song...I just sang it without the NJ and NY part LOL.

Jessica said...

Ah - Thank God for the fifty nifty. I can't tell you how many bets I have won off of that song. No joke. People will actually pay you (ok - so sometimes in beer) for this knowledge.

Anonymous said...

well, I must confess that when I stuck to 5 minutes...I had 8 left still and you are right...there are alot of "M" states. Also, why is it that the state you reside in is often the one you list last?!
Anyway, I have never heard the state song and would love to!


Cate said...

49 dang it!

Anonymous said...

Oh, darn you. Like you, I was sure I'd get them all....and then I got to 47, and just could go no further. I missed New Jersey, Nebraska and Utah.
No real rhyme or reason to miss those three. Sheesh!

Linda in WI

Kim said...

My brother also learned the same song in elementary school...I learned from him...All together now...Al-a-bama, Alaska, Arizonia ,Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut...oh heck I forget the rest!
Hee Hee loved the trip down Memory lane.
Luv ya,

Heidi said...

Iowa (or Ioway)
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
West Virginia

North South East West, in our cool, considerate, unprejudiced objective.....WASHINGTON is the Best of the 50 nifty United States blah blah blah

So there you have it... I learned it too. We learned it in 5th grade music class. Living in the VERY liberal state that I do, the pledge was recited over the intercom each morning, but no one was required to actually say it or stand for it. And a prayer... or even a moment of silence, HAH! that would never fly.

I typed that in less than 2 minutes (I consider the most important and most useful class I took in school to be keyboarding, hands down). Make sure your kids take keyboarding.

From very rainy Seattle,
Heidi McNulty

jadine said...

Apparently, the Carolinas do not exist in my mind. And I know people who live there! Can I play the I'm-not-American card? :)

High-five to Blaine!

WendyK said...

Ok that is sad. I know the Greek alphabet better than the states. I had a song about the Greek alphabet in high school, but never a song for the states. My daughter has a states song on cd, so perhaps I should borrow that.

Too embarrassed to share.

Anonymous said...

It's okay. It's the children. They secretly suck brain cells from you. You don't even know it is happening, but it is. I will not be offended that you missed Minnesota and Massachusetts (lived in MN for many years and now live in MA). From your admirer in Massachusetts (aka Red Sox Nation)

M, Ms. R, Mom, Auntie M, Marey said...

*The song has saved me in several word games...not as cool a story as Blaine's but impressive on a smaller scale. When I taught 3rd grade I held the "ACADEMIC OLYMPICS" and the history event was to see who could say the states in alphabetical order the fastest!

50 NIFTY UNITED STATES from thirteen original colonies,
Shout 'em, scout 'em, Tell all about 'em,
One by one till we've given a day to ev'ry state in the U.S.A.

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut;
Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana;
Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan;
Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada;
New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina,
North Dakota, O-HI-O!
Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas;
Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, WY-OOOOOO-MING!!

North, south, east, west, in our calm, objective opinion,
(name of home state) is the best of the
Fifty nifty United States from thirteen original colonies,
Shout 'em, scout 'em, Tell all about 'em,
One by one till we've given a day to ev'ry state in the good old U.S.A. we sing "My country tis of thee..."

Anonymous said...

I missed 3. Here's a really fun site that my daughter was given in 3rd grade and still plays in 7th grade. I have to admit that I'm still on the "short bus" lol

Good luck and let me know how you did on this - it's timed and tricky!


Anonymous said...

Ok, so like you, I'm thinking...I used to be able to name all the states and their capitals, all the presidents in order, etc...I can do this! Yeah. Right. I got 43 in 5 minutes, and another 4 in 5 more minutes, but was still missing Delaware, Utah, and Wisconsin. I have heard the Animaniacs song mentioned above, but obviously I haven't heard it enough! Thanks for a few minutes of entertainment this evening! Love your blog!!
Kristen in NY

Jean said...

As a 5th grade teacher, I learned Fifty Nifty United States. It's a great song. Unfortunately it doesn't help kids place the states on a map, but it's a start!

Cathy in MI said...

OK, maybe my friends and I are lame but we used to do that as a contest when we were in our 20s and we would go out for coffee. We would race - there were usually four of us - we all can get all 50 it's just a matter of who can write them out the quickest. I don't know if I do it in alphabetical order - but I do start with A states and so on. My M states might be Minnesota then Michigan but at least it's grouped alphabetical by first letter :)

Katie said...

I also know fifty nifty United States from 13 original colonies...Alabama, Alaska, get the picture.

More frightening? I know all the presidents in order thanks to another beautiful song learned in elementary school. Though back then it only went through Bush Sr. so I've had to add some extra music at the end.

Anonymous said...

My girlfriend knows the song...she is the hit of the party!!
She has started to teach her is so cute!

Anonymous said...

As an elementary music teacher, it warms my heart to know that maybe, just maybe, 20 years down the road someone is going to amaze his friends with the "State Song" (Fifty Nifty United States) they learned in my class. And maybe even win a few beers!

Who said the life of a teacher wasn't rewarding! :)

Connie F-G said...

We learned it in jr high choir for the bicentennial. The most fun was going to 10th grade and having to write down the states. Those of us who did it in ABC order got held after class and accused of cheating...we sang for him and gave him a huge chuckle.

I've been teaching it to my daughter off and on since kindergarten but it's not holding in her memory the way it stuck in mine. It's a very useful song!

Thanks for a great trip down memory lane!


Sandie in (Forgotten) MN said...

I also know Fifty Nifty States.. I bet you can buy it online.

I also know a song that helps me remember the whole New Testament ( I just sang it in my head!). Won't learn that anymore in public school. In fact, I am surprised we ever did!

Anonymous said...

I too am a stay at home Mom and I must admit that I was very nervous to take this callenge you have given us! Even though I only got to 46, I am pleased that I was able to do that well! I missed Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, and Idaho. I could kick myself as I am rambling in my brain along the West coast I said Idaho, but evidently wasn't writing quick enough...dangit! Thanks for the challenge!
Heidi in Iowa

Anonymous said...

It's a video of child singing the song that I remember. It's not perfect (tonally) but it gives you a good idea of what it's supposed to sound like!

Sherry in GA

lizinsumner said...

How about the multiplication tables? The quadratic formula? Pythagorian theorem? I can remember those......but never, ever heard this "Nifty, Fifty" song until today. To my fellow Seattlite/Washingtonian Heidi up above - I went to school here too, and they never mentioned it once....just wondering which school (district) you were in where they taught it (I was in the Seattle district most of my school years, but spent the last 2 in the Tahoma district/Maple Valley).

leeanne said...

I'm not even gonna try....why torture myself? I never learned the 'Nifty Fifty' song (I was from Colorado) but my kids did in grade school. Of course, Nebraska was sung with EXTRA gusto!!!

lizinsumner said...

P.S. - AWANA teaches bible verses set to music for bible verse memorization......I can remember some of those too.....oh, and loved the Animaniacs videos - thanks, guys (never saw those either - I'm sooooo deprived!!)....

Patricia-Georgia said...

I missed 2...Indiana and Maryland. For the life of me...I couldn't figure those 2 out! :)

Anonymous said...

I never learned the Fifty Nifty" state song, but hey, I can still sing Jingle Bells in French!

Abbie said...

Yes, I too affectionately refer to "The State Song" as "Fifty Nifty". Hands down THE BEST thing I ever learned in school. Without a doubt. I've won bets when I say, "I can name all 50 states in alphabetical order in under 30 seconds." When actually, my average is probably 22 seconds...but I've done it in under 20! HA! (Insert cabbage patch dance here.) I make up trivia questions to stump my friends and family...or to stump the dumb dumb sitting nearby who THINKS they know their states, but don't. (Like..."Name all of the states that start with an 'M'!")

And I actually just learned last week while out for pizza with my 10yr old niece that she, too, has learned "Fifty Nifty" this year in school. YES!!! So we proceeded to sing the song, in it's entirety, in the middle of the restaurant. Just because we can. :)

You really should see if you can't download that song somewhere, it's worth every penny.


P.S. Does Blaine also make "sounds" at certain parts of the song? Like a "doo doo doo" after Connecticut?

Melissa in CA said...

I feel so deprived. I was never taught either of the state songs. Boo Hoo! That's probably why I missed 3: Missouri, Nebraska, & Kentucky. Geez Louise! Now I feel the need to learn the damn song(s)!

Anonymous said...

Now you've gotten it stuck in my head! I didn't learn it as a kid, I learned it when my daughter learned it for their Presidents Day/Patriotic program in 3rd grade. She is now a fifth grader & we still sing it together. Her lucky brother (2nd grader) won't have to work too hard to learn it next year (same program every year)... lucky for him he likes not having to work too hard = )

Rachel in ND

Michaela said...

Iowa is officially not a state anymore.
Anyway, my state song is easy!
"British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland & Labrador, Nunavut, Northwest Territories, and the Yukon." I win!

Anonymous said...

Hahaha, I got all the fifty states, but then I *do* know the Fifty Nifty states song, plus the added bonus of knowing the State Capitals song sung by one Wakko Warner way back in the day.
I think all things like the states-- long lists of things we have to memorize-- ought to be set to music. They would be SO much easier to learn.

Patty House, Jasonville, IN said...

I KNOW that song! We called it Fifty Nifty United States. I LOVE it! It was sang every year in our "spring" program all through elementary. All of the elementary sang it.

I'd have to practice a few times before I could get it right now's been a while since I sang it last!

count 'em, shout 'em, sing all about them one by one til you've given a name to every state, In the USA...

Jessie - WA said...

Dude, I thought everyone knew that song.

Anonymous said...

I learned the SAME song in school just like my SIL. No one else did so no one else I know can do it either. My kids are amazed when we sing it. I'm trying to slowly teach it to them as well because I know it will come in handy down the line.

Kristin in NC

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado.......WYOOOOOOMING!

Monica H said...

Okay I learned the 50 in alphabetical order in elementary school. I have always told myself that I knew them. Or at least I thought I did. I can name all states A-M, then I slooooow down when I get to the N's. I timed myself. I got half of them in the first minute, then I kinda flunked. I only got 45/50, but they were in alphabetical order!

Koreen in Utah said...

My sister once kicked my brother out of the car for singing the "Fifty Nifty United States." A highly irritating song after listening to it more than twice! I haven't dared sing it since! :)

Lane said...

I don't know if you'll see this comment since it's from a blog way back when...or like 5 months ago, but this song is awesome. I was actually singing it at the dinner table about 2 weeks ago. I'm pathetic.

Lane said...

I don't know if you'll see this comment since it's from a blog way back when...or like 5 months ago, but this song is awesome. I was actually singing it at the dinner table about 2 weeks ago. I'm pathetic.