The 50 states game

Lull in the conversation? Looking for something to do between courses at dinner? Enjoy extorting money from your friends? Play the 50 states game! Ask another person to write down all 50 US states in under 15 minutes. It sounds easy, but due to the limitations of human memory, and a general disinterest in geographic knowledge, people are exceptionally bad at it.

WARNING: Do not play this game with English citizens or other foreign nationals!! While eight consecutive Americans have failed to beat the clock, two English chaps have passed the test. This game is only appropriate for stupid Americans.

40 thoughts on “The 50 states game

  1. child’s play.

    here’s a more sinister version to play which requires no troublesome time limit.

    starting in california and heading north, name each of the states which comprise the continental US border. here, I’ll start you out,

    california, oregon, washington, etc.

  2. Fiendish. I got the first 44 within 5 minutes, but then I hit a wall. I picked up 5 more before time ran out. The fact that I missed New Jersey highlights my west coast bias.

  3. 49 in five minutes (utah was 49th). Took me a couple of runs back through before I realized I’d forgotten Oklahoma. Done in 7:15. I blame National Geographic magazine.

  4. hmmm…. seems like i remember playing some variation of this in college. except it involved large quantities of alcohol. and it was a couple of hours instead of 15 minutes.

    heheh. nevermind 🙂

    i sympathize with frank. i had to learn that horrid little song as well.

  5. 48 in about 7 mins, then took 3 mins and couldn’t find the ones I was missing – delaware and rhode island, our two smallest states.

  6. It took me 12 minutes to get them all.

    It was smooth sailing for the first 4 minutes, as I got 43 of them, basically west to east in groups. Then I realized I missed a few in the southeast; Missouri, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Arkansas took me 2 more minutes. It took me one more minute to remember New Jersey and five agonizing minutes to remember Rhode Island.

    What an amusing method of intellectual self-torture. My brain actually tried to get me to believe during those last 5 minutes that, no, there actually were only 49 states.

  7. I’m from New Zealand and I can name all States in less than 15 mins. A few years back, for some odd reason I took an interest in doing this. My method of remembering was also alphabetically based.

  8. This song that everyone is talking about “50 Nifty” Does the chorus go something like
    “Alabama Mississippi Georgia AND TENNESSEE!!”
    I am looking for that song that i had to sing when I was a kid in grade school, for my class now, and just can’t remember what it is.

    1. No that’s no it. I had to sjnf that song you’re talking about and I just can’t remember the name. Man that was back in the 80s.

  9. I used to know this song when i was in elementary school, you would sing the states in alpha order. does anyone know what i’m talking about?? i did it, and only dame up w/ 48…is there something someone isn’t telling me??

  10. I’m an elementary school music teacher, and we do 50 Nifty every year in 4th and 5th grade. I insist that my students not be the ones Jay Leno interviews on his “Jaywalking” skits. The kids love the feeling of accomplishment they get when they can rattle off all 50. I also teach the War of 1812 and the history of the Star-Spangled Banner. Now, tell me about “a Ray Charles” who wrote it. I can’t find any information about him.

  11. This game is actually very very very easy. There’s a song called “50 nifty United States” in which you sing all 50 states in alphabetical order. If you can sing the song, all you have to do is write down the states as you sing them. It’s actually very easy, and giving 15 minutes is way toooooo much time.

  12. I just named them all in 30 seconds; so I imagine it wouldn’t take me but a few minutes to write them down. The game is too easy. If you know, “50 Nifty United States,” you’re fine.

  13. The “insipid” song 50 Nifty United States was not written by the blues singer and piano player Ray Charles, but by the “other” Ray Charles, who worked with Hollywood types. He wrote “50 Nifty” in 1961. It is an excellent way to learn the states, but somehow I couldn’t see Ray Charles the blues singer performing such a song.

  14. My wife, late 40s, learned this in Central Ohio while in elementary school. I moved from NYC to Florida about the same time and, perhaps, this is why I never learned it.

    Anyway, I’m posting this in case anyone else out there is as surprised as I was to find that they are still using this incredibly lame song. It can’t even qualify as a song, can it? I mean, its less accessible than free jazz!

    Regardless, though: what is the point of learning the names of the 50 states? I mean, really. It’s like spelling bees. They only exist in the United States because we’ve borrowed from other languages; most languages only have one way of spelling a word.

    Likewise, knowing the names of the states without knowing their borders and other more relevant facts is, like I said, pointless.

  15. Most teachers use it as a springboard for studying the states so you are supposed to go further. Most kids get a kick out of being able to know the 50 states and actually still request to sing that so called insipid song. Anything that helps someone remember the 50 states can’t be bad. It’s just an aid, why so negative?

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