In all of my schooling--first grade through my last year in college--I was educated about the geography, history, and economics of Kentucky...for all of TWO WEEKS. And it was in fourth grade.


But that doesn't mean I didn't retain what I learned, and that includes what this otherwise very odd word "Kentucky" really means. And as the years have passed, I've learned there is some minor disagreement about the meaning. From, we learn that "Kentucky" is of Native American origin but has different meanings depending on the specific language to which you are referring. One meaning has the Commonwealth's name derived from the Iroquois word "ken-tah-ten", which means "land of tomorrow." Another definition indicates it means "dark and bloody ground." Not exactly what you want on your license plates and state line tourism guides, is it?

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But "dark and bloody ground" is the definition I learned in school. It is also an unofficial nickname of Kentucky. Of course, we all already know "The Bluegrass State" is the OFFICIAL nickname. And "dark and bloody ground" isn't the only other unofficial nickname. There are MULTIPLE nicknames, but none, in my opinion, as interesting as the Corn Cracker State.

When I first learned of this name--I'd never heard this before--from a friend's Facebook post, I immediately thought it had something to do with food. I had an aunt who used to make something called corn and cracker casserole and it was delicious.


But no, according to The eReference Desk, it is believed that the nickname either can be attributed to the poorer people who lived in the mountainous parts of Kentucky (no, I do not get that connection at all) OR it can be attributed to a type of crane that was common in Kentucky--a crane that made what's called a "craking" sound--and that the nickname Corn Cracker State is a corruption of "corn-crake."

Again, I can't connect the dots here. I don't even know what a "craking" sound is, nor do I understand where "corn" enters the picture.

Clearly, it's a good thing we stuck with "Bluegrass State," right?

EDITOR'S NOTE: If you want to learn more about H.W. Hill's "Nicknames of the States" map, visit

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