Every week, I get together with my brother and some friends to play trivia. We’re pretty good, if I do say so myself, because each member has an area of expertise.
A couple of our friends are good at music questions. Another knows sports. And a couple of the younger members know pop culture. Marvin handles all the science questions. I’m good at a few subjects. One of them is geography.
A few weeks ago, one of the questions was how many states that border Missouri. I drew a map on a napkin and I was able to guess the correct answer of eight – Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas.
I was proud of myself, especially given a news report I read last week that said Americans as a group don’t know diddly about geography. In fact, the report said, a surprising number of Americans think Diddly is the capital of North Dakota.
It’s not. Bismarck is. Makes sense. Bismarck certainly sounds like it would be the capital of some place cold.
I was always pretty good in geography when I was in school. I had a Georgia history teacher who thought I would be an abject failure in life if I couldn’t identify all 159 of Georgia’s counties on a map and name their county seats.
I was also pretty good at world geography because of another teacher who was obsessed with the notion that I be able to identify Liechtenstein on a map of Europe, as if it were something I would be asked to do every day for the rest of my life.
I could identify all the countries in Europe back then, but war and revolution changed the landscape significantly since the 10th grade. When I was in school, there was one Czechoslovakia. Today, there is a Czech Republic and a Slovakia, and I can never remember which is which.
Fortunately, my knowledge of state capitals is still pretty good. In fact, one of my favorite trivia questions involves state capitals. Here it is: What four state capitals begin with the same letter as their state? Was your first answer Philadelphia, Penn.? Harrisburg is the capital of Pennsylvania.
Knowing state capitals can be tricky because, like the example above, some state capitals aren’t the city you would expect them to be. You may have known, like I did, that eight states border Missouri. But do you think that St. Louis is the capital? A lot of people do. But it’s not.
Likewise, Detroit is not the capital of Michigan. That would be Lansing. New York City isn’t the capital of New York. It’s Albany. And Springfield, not Chicago, is the capital of Illinois.
Of course, everyone in Georgia should know that Atlanta is our capital. But it has only served in that capacity since 1877, and a lot of people probably can’t name the four cities that served as capital before Atlanta. They are Savannah, Augusta, Louisville and Milledgeville.
Louisville, incidentally, was the capital from 1796-1806. As a tribute to my Georgia history teacher, I can proudly tell you that, today, Louisville is the county seat of Jefferson County, which is southwest of Augusta, not that anyone has ever asked me for that nugget of knowledge.
By the way, the four state capitals that start with the same letter as their state are Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Indianapolis, Indiana; Dover, Delaware and Honolulu, Hawaii.
Oh, and Jefferson City, not St. Louis, is the capital of Missouri.