Mason & Dixon Line: note

G S C gscole at ARK.SHIP.EDU
Thu Nov 4 15:37:20 UTC 1999

This is merely a follow up to some posts in early August of this year,
with reference to the usage of 'Mason and Dixon line'.  Still don't know
when the differences in the usage of 'Mason and Dixon' line came into
use, but there are marked differences.  Standard reference works tend to
ignore the issue of differences in usage.  At the least, it appears that
there is a strong argument for using a regional-usage label for the most
encompassing definition.  The question of which came first, the
'regional' definition or the national definition, is yet to be answered.

For that matter, in linguistic studies, does the term 'regional usage'
refer to a usage from which a more widely used definition evolves, or
does the term refer to the usage by a population subset, which evolved
from a more widely used definition?  Or. . . ?

The standard dictionary definition for Mason Dixon line refers to an
east-west  line that extends for much of the boundary between
Pennsylvania (of today) and Maryland.  Microsoft's Encarta 98
Encyclopedia also includes, for Mason-Dixon line, a north-south line,
which is a boundary between Maryland and Delaware.  I, a native of
Delaware, had been taught that the line also included the portion of the
east-west line where the southern boundary of Delaware meets Maryland.

Mason-Dixon Line, in reference to the east-west southern boundary of
Delaware appears in a recent newspaper article.  The item appears in
_State News Sunday_, subtitled _Maryland State News_ and _The Downstate
Daily_ (Dover, DE), vol. 100 #90, 31 October 1999, pp. 25, 28.  Titled
'Delmar: the best of both worlds', by Aaron B. Kellam.

"Straddling the Mason-Dixon Line along the Delaware Maryland border,
tiny Delmar has been dubbed 'the town too big for one state.'" (p.25,
col. 6)  Quoting town historian and local resident George Truitt, about
a consolidation of nearby schools in both states, "The kids got the
parents to forget the dividing line (Mason-Dixon Line) (sic) within the
town.  If it had been left up to the old people, it would have still
been the same problem."  (p. 28, col. 5)

George S. Cole   gscole at
Shippensburg University

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