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Defining ‘Continental’ and ‘Contiguous’

Americans who frequent online marketplaces like eBay and Etsy—or those who like to keep things old school and still make mail order purchases—may notice that certain phrases often appear during the checkout process: Because delivery outside of the lower 48 states of America can become quite expensive, it is not uncommon to see sellers designating delivery only to the continental United States or the 48 continental states.

Here’s the problem: there are in fact 49 continental states. I won’t list them all here, but in short, there are the lower 48…and then there’s lonely, old Alaska, which, as any map of North America will tell you, is on the continent.

The states often referred to as the “lower 48” are more specifically contiguous, which means ‘touching or connected throughout in an unbroken sequence‘, so anyone designating shipping to the continental USA should actually be designating contiguous USA.

Naturally, there’s only one way to solve this miscarriage of grammatical justice: a reverse boycott (sometimes called a carrotmob).  Alaskans (or Alaska-friendlies), anytime you come across a product that advertises delivery to the continental US, use the hashtag #ContinentalAlaska to tweet it, Instagram it, Facebook it, party-line it, whatever you need to do to get it out there so that our friends to the north can order this product and ask for delivery to their lovely, majestic, continental Alaskan homes. For the sake of grammarians and geographers everywhere, get this out to the public so that we may present a united front to this injustice.