Florida: Officially the Weirdest

Some interesting statistical analysis on True story locations from Premium subscriber Mark in (yep!) Florida:

I’ve been reading TRUE for a long time now, and it feels like every week I sigh as my home state of Flori-duh manages to embarrass itself yet again. I remember you mentioning before in the author notes that you believed Florida (not California) is the weirdest state in the union, and you won’t get any argument from me there — I didn’t need TRUE to tell me that. But up to this point, I was depending on my gut instinct, so I finally decided to prove it.

I went back and scanned the last 24 issues covering this calendar year to date and made a note of how many times each state and country appeared in True. I found that Florida indeed has been featured 45 times, far ahead of second-place finisher Illinois (15) and obvious choice California (13). In fact, of the most recent 24 issues, only four of them did *not* feature Florida. 15 issues included Florida multiple times, and two of them showcased Florida four times.

Just for fun, here are the weirdest states in the union based on year-to-date mentions in TRUE:

Ashlee Lineberger's official Floriduh driver's license
Ashlee Lineberger’s official Floriduh driver’s license. When she complained, DMV officials demanded money. Click the photo for the full story.

1. Florida (45)
2. Illinois (15)
3. California (13)
3. New York (13)
3. Ohio (13)

And the states most overdue for having Obliviots Gone Wild featured:

46. Hawaii (0)
46. Kentucky (0)
46. Louisiana (0)
46. Rhode Island (0)
46. South Dakota (0)
46. Wyoming (0)

And not to leave our international friends out, the weirdest other countries in the world:

1. United Kingdom (11)
2. Australia (8)
3. Germany (6)
4. Canada (4)
4. New Zealand (4)

(Headline of the Week, Tagline Challenges, and Bonus Articles do count, but they aren’t counted again if they are repeated in follow-up content in a future issue. Double stories where two people do something similarly stupid in two states count for both of them. Where possible, I counted the story for the state where the event happened, not necessarily where the source is based.)

Sure, there are lots of factors for what makes the cut (availability of English-language content, population and media coverage of different areas, and whatever happens to catch your eye). But I thought it would be fun to verify what we both already thought was true, and the statistics don’t lie — your instinct was right about Florida.

Keep up the great work!

Thanks, Mark, for your number crunching! Each of the slighted states you mentioned do have stories in the archive, even if they weren’t represented in the previous 24 issues:

  • Hawaii: “Tired of Working for Peanuts” (Volume 1) is the first, but I think “This Won’t Hurt a Bit II” in Volume 2 is funnier, even though it doesn’t really have much to do with the state.
  • Kentucky: “Baker’s Dozen” (Volume 1) is an early-but-goodie.
  • Louisiana: “Yes, Master” (also Volume 1) might be the first for the Cajun State.
  • Rhode Island is infamous for being the location of the first Zero Tolerance story in True (which was sixteen years ago last week!)
  • South Dakota kept out of True until 1997, and then managed to be included two weeks in a row! “Herpetology News” and “Big Haul” are both in Volume 3.
  • Wyoming: a “little country bumpkin” from there was first featured in 1995, in Volume 2’s Odd Couple.

But yes, while most expect California to be the weirdest state in the Union, it’s not; Florida is definitely weirder. Residents there whined when I once did an all-Florida issue, yet I could probably do one every month, if I was so inclined.

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17 Comments on “Florida: Officially the Weirdest

  1. Wow. I am impressed, not just with Mark’s thorough analysis and reporting on this year’s issues, but also with his writing style, which is very precise. I believe you’ve mentioned before that you suspect True readers are a bit smarter than average; shall we point to Mark as anecdotal evidence of that?

    Heck: just look at the comments in the blog. The vast majority of the readers here actually have the ability to articulate and reason. Quite a difference from the average online forum! -rc

  2. I can’t help wondering; IS Florida weirder than California, or is California just better at hiding it? Okay, so they don’t hide it very well; just better than Florida (which is still quite an accomplishment).

    But, to answer my own question, Florida really is just weird. And don’t blame the snowbirds for it. Florida natives are more redneck than the good ol’ boys in southern Georgia. Even the accent is stronger.

  3. Perhaps Florida is just more intolerant of the weirdos?

    I dunno: I think tolerance is why they flourish. -rc

  4. Florida even has its own FARK tag, something which nanny state Britain has avoided in spite of cancelling Easter weekend activities (4- and 5-year olds might fall down on the grass), prohibiting firefighters from using stepladders to check smoke alarms (they didn’t have training), and numerous other, almost daily, face palmings.

  5. At the risk of blowing RC’s comments about intelligent commenters, “Woo Hoo!, New Zealand!”

    Ahem.

    I now return you to regularly scheduled intelligent comments.

  6. I see that Australia is high in the international rankings. I have noticed that one of the new guest writers seems to pen quite a few stories from Australia. Could it be that Randy has an Occer on the staff?

    To my recollection, no non-Americans applied as writers. In any case, all three are Americans, and all three live in Ohio or east. -rc

  7. Hey Randy and Mark from Florida

    Can you run the stats on a per capita basis? I’m sure we’ll beat Florida hands down. Giggle.

    Franz, Melbourne, Australia

    (Not the Florida Melbourne!!)

    It’s not my impression that Aussies are particularly weird, not counting your propensity to abbreviate half the words you use in everyday speech. 🙂 -rc

  8. How could anyone not realize Florida is the weirdest state in the union when it is the only state where voters approved a constitutional amendment giving pregnant pigs rights.

    What is a FARK tag?

    Fark is a crowd-generated weird news linking site. Each entry is “tagged” with a category; “Florida” is rather popular. -rc

  9. As a Californian born in Berkeley, home of the Naked Guy as well as other general oddities, transplanted into the hub of Civilization and New Life Churchiness, I am still amazed that Colorado isn’t on your list simply for the fact that it can rain/snow on one side of the street and be sunny on the other!! Maybe I’m jaded but there is not much that really surprises me anymore. Your column and annual Stella Awards renew my faith as well as my belief that the power of stupidity, especially in large groups, can do amazing things.

    Colorado does have pretty weird weather, but that’s not the people being weird! -rc

  10. Hello from under-represented Ky, by way of under-represented LA (and I don’t mean the one in California!) In my experience, the two states don’t make the cut for weird news for two totally different reasons — Kentuckians just don’t know how to be weird enough, and Louisianians are so weird that they don’t recognize it in each other and so it doesn’t get reported! As evidenced by the campaign slogan during the rip-roaring governor’s election between the oft-indicted and finally convicted Edwin “Fast Eddy” Edwards and David Duke, head of the KKK. “Vote for the crook — it’s important!” On the other hand, in Kentucky there was a HUGE scandal when one mayor’s wife got a job connected with the city for which she was the absolutely best-qualified candidate for and which she performed better than anyone else in the past. But, you know, wife…. That’s Kentucky. And the controversy rages on.

  11. “But, you know, wife…. That’s Kentucky.”

    But not a “First”. Alabama state law prohibited a governor from running more than two consecutive terms. So the wife of Gov George Wallace successfully won election as new governor in 1966. But even that strategy wasn’t new. In 1924, Miriam A. (Ma) Ferguson successfully followed her husband as governor of Texas after he’d been impeached (and convicted) on several crimes.

    While Kentucky may have been weird, Alabama still steals the honor as Georgie never even told his own wife, while she was running for election, that she was dying of cancer. AND he still went on to win three more elections after she died. As for Ma Ferguson, well, she’s still controversial long after her death. “If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, then it ought to be good enough for the children of Texas.” (unsubstantiated)

  12. Hey there Franz, fellow Melburnian (not-the-Floridian-one) here. I’m quite proud of Australia’s weirdness, and I reckon Randy could easily do an all-Australian issue without much trouble.

    Australia: Land that tries to kill you, people too lazy to die.

    I figure the proper thing to do is come down there to gather the stories in person. I just need to figure out how to pay my way! -rc

  13. I’m a little surprised Washington didn’t make the top 5. It seems to me on both True and Fark, it’s been showing up more and more in the past 18 months.

    I agree an annual update would be fun! (In all your spare time…)

  14. Thank you for the kind words, Audrey. Sometimes I think that writing skills are going out of style, largely because our culture now demands that 140-character-or-less bytes of information be transmitted as fast as thoughts and emotions can pop into our heads.

    Don’t get me wrong — I have no problem with social media, text messaging, etc. They’re all wonderful tools, and I really like the way Randy explains the right way to use them. But they can also make it very easy to get into the habit of carelessly jotting down emotionally charged drivel until all of our writing starts to sound that way.

    To Randy’s point, TRUE’s readers, for the most part, have a remarkable (and increasingly rare) ability to engage in civil, thoughtful conversation. But that’s to be expected — it is not a random sample of web surfers who read and respond to the articles and blog entries. It is a self-selected group people who enjoy reading thought-provoking material that lends some often-humorous insight into the human condition. (And frequently leaves my state with egg on its proverbial face.) These readers must be intelligent because intelligence is required to understand irony. And so they form a community of which I enjoy being a part.

  15. Sorry to take the fun out of the analysis but given that the top seven states by population are
    1) California
    2) Texas
    3) New York
    4) Florida
    5) Illinois
    6) Pennsylvania
    7) Ohio

    it is not surprising that the ranking would be
    1. Florida (45)
    2. Illinois (15)
    3. California (13)
    3. New York (13)
    3. Ohio (13)

    I would think Texas and Pennsylvania 4 and 5 or close to it.

    As for international rankings Randy only sources stories from English language sources so there you go.
    But then again Florida does have a disproportionate number of stories.

    I don’t follow you. If California is the most populous state, it would make sense if California had the most weird stories. Yet it doesn’t. Instead, 4th-most-populous Florida does — by far. As for foreign stories, indeed there is a skew related to my need of English-language news reports. Even with that, Germany figures highly. -rc

  16. I am deeply disappointed that my home state of Texas isn’t in those top 3. Obviously we need to work on our weird factor a bit more!

  17. Well, Heidi, for what it’s worth, Texas takes pride in the biggest and best of everything, including weird stuff. So it’s not the quantity, but the QUALITY of weirdness that counts here.

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