Sometimes it is difficult for me to decide how to refer to points of the compass when using them as adjectives. Thus, we spoke of West and East Germany while they existed, but I am much more doubtful if I should speak of Western Europe or West Europe. My guess is that you use the form without -ern when speaking of a political entity (East Timor, West Virginia, North and South Carolina, etc), but the longer form is used when you refer to an area as part of a whole (therefore Eastern Europe and not East Europe). Any comments?
What you've stated above agrees with the consensus when this topic was discussed about a month ago (you may be able to find it in the archives). Also, several people mentioned that there are numerous exceptions.
Dulcinea, can you recall what the title of that topic is in the archive? It would be good to take a look.
This is a good topic. Here in the US you will find very consistent ways that people refer to certain geographic areas:
Its always "SOUTH Flordia", almost never "Southern Florida"
in every day conversation.
But you would NEVER hear "South California" Its always "Southern California" with no exception. I have no idea why.
Whats even stranger is now that I think about it. Florida is "south florida" yet its also "NORTHERN Florida" not "north florida", explain that!
Texas is simply, WEST Texas, North Texas etc and very rarely western, eastern, northern
New York(the state) is ALWAYS called "Up-state New York" and as far as I know, almost never "Northern New York" in every day conversation. Again no idea why.
May I ask a related question here?
Which is correct -- "midwest accent" or "midwestern accent"?
I would say "midwestern accent", but then I'm not a native English speaker, so I may be wrong. I have seen both varieties used. However, after all the irregularities mentioned in the previous posts, I tend to think this is not a matter of correctness but of preference or habit (or maybe it depends on where you come from :-)).
It may also have something to do with which one sounds better. I guess most people prefer the short form unless it does not make pronunciation more difficult (after all Northern Florida is easier to say than North Florida: I mean there are to many consonants at once). Even some major pronunciation changes are a result of an effort to make things sound better.
I can draw some kind of a conclusion as follows: when you refer to a distinct geographical ol political entity, you use the shorter form: North, South, East, West. However, when you mean a part of a larger area or the fact of belonging to an area, the use is much less consistent, and depends on the given community.
Sometimes I even feel that the difference in use can carry a difference in meaning: for example, when we say Eastern Asia, we can mean the geographical eastern part of Asia including China, Japan, Korea, South-East Asia and some other countries; however, East Asia refers more to the area as a single entity, to mean the countries, the people and the languages as constituting a whole.
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Don't know which is actually correct, but "midwest accent" is what you would hear in every day conversation.