OT: Is Michigan the Wolverine State or the Great Lakes State?

Submitted by husker4life on September 11th, 2012 at 5:48 PM

My 16 year old cousin and I are very close and in reality she's basically like a sister to me. She was given this fun quiz by her humanities teacher about state nicknames such a Illinois, "Land of Lincon" state, Maine "The Pine Tree state" etc. She always thought Michigan was the Wolverine state which is what I thought but it turns out the accepted nickname is the Great Lakes state?  Where did the Wolverine State orginiate from? I don't listen to wikipedia anymore so I'd rather hear it from a source who lives there.


Waters Demos

September 11th, 2012 at 8:40 PM ^

That guy posted on mlive recently - basically the spartan hate thread, but found a much more willing/unsuspecting audience for the ruse.  Different handle; same approach.  It almost seems like the guy's various shifting identities revolve around the Spartans. 


September 11th, 2012 at 9:08 PM ^

The proper state nickname IS of course "The Wolverine State". 

It's not the Spartan state. That would instead describe the required fiscal policy of the state.

No, my theory is that "great lake state" stuff was pounded into people's skulls decades ago by the use of auto licenses plate mottos.

Up until 1954 Michigan automobile license plate had just "MICHIGAN" or "MICH" on it.

In 1954 they pulled this off: A yellow and blue plate with "MICHIGAN" and  "WATER WONDERLAND" on it:

1965 Michigan changed the license plate to "WATER-WINTER WONDERLAND". Like the colors dude, but aaarggh make up your mind, Mr. State Secretary of State!

Then in 1968, more blue and yellow "aggression that will not stand, man" for MSU fans:

Then bell-bottoms and groovy "Spirit of '76" took over the state. Like far out:

Then 1979 hit and we stopped going perpetually to the Rose Bowl (where we always lost). Next thing we know, we're 8-4 and losing to North Carolina in the Gator Bowl.


I always admired Nebraska for keeping things simple:


And...what's for dinner?



September 11th, 2012 at 9:04 PM ^

Just like Iowa is the Hawkeye State, not the Great Plains State. Iowa State fans constantly try to remove the state nickname. When I was raised in MI, it was the same way. MSU fans hated with green, putrid, envy the fact that MI was called the Wolverine State.


September 11th, 2012 at 11:24 PM ^

I teach both. Historically the moniker 'Great Lakes state' has been attributed for obvious geographic reasons. However, the residents have long been referred to as wolverines. Probably the most accurate and recent survey of the state's history written but Dunbar & May has the title ' Michigan a history of the wolverine state'.


September 11th, 2012 at 9:19 PM ^

site on the internet called Google. its really pretty cool. You type in your question and lots of different sources come up with your answer. you should try it some time. Oh, by the way, there is another cool site called Facebook...


September 11th, 2012 at 9:31 PM ^



The State Nickname is the "Great Lake State." Others include "Wolverine State" or "Water Winter Wonderland."  


and if we want to go 'historical order of reference' it's officially the 'GREAT LAKES STATE' based on Indigenous people who were here before the Civil War...and Europeans/Vikings/aliens ad nauseum

"Michigan" comes from the Indian word Michigama, meaning "great lake" or "big lake." The French first used the word for the Great Lake that Native Americans called the "Lake of the Illinois"—now Lake Michigan. It was first used officially to refer to the land area when Congress created the Territory of Michigan in 1805. 


snarling wolverine

September 11th, 2012 at 10:09 PM ^

Except that the word Michigama referred to Lake Michigan, not the two peninsulas bordering it.  To use that as a justification for "Great Lakes State" is a reach.  In the name of political correctness, the state now is pushing the "Great Lakes State" moniker, but "Wolverine State" has the most historical legitimacy.

Most state nicknames apply to their residents.  Look up Wolverine in the dictionary and you will see something like "a native or resident of the state of Michigan."    When we needed a nickname for our athletic teams, we did the same thing most other state flagship schools did - we took the existing state nickname.  In contrast, no one has ever referred to an inhabitant of this state as a "Great Lake."



snarling wolverine

September 12th, 2012 at 3:32 PM ^

You are conflating the term Michigan with the nickname "Great Lakes State."  Two different things.  No one is disputing what the name of the state is.  

The nickname "Great Lakes State" was not commonly used until the 20th century.  If it had been our state nickname all along, U-M's sports teams would probably be called the Lakers.  We named our teams after the nickname already well-established for residents of this state - Wolverines.



September 12th, 2012 at 3:53 PM ^

"Michigan" comes from the Indian word Michigama, meaning "great lake" or "big lake."

That's some sloppy work by the state government there.  First, there is no single "Indian" language.  Second, the name comes from two separate Ojibwe words (misi and gauma, IIRC) that are more properly translated as "big water."  



September 11th, 2012 at 11:07 PM ^

back when dinosaurs roamed the planet, thomas jefferson told joseph smith that university of michigan is the place where wolverines were genetically engineered from bear and wolf dna. When his good friend plato was killed by an escaped wolverine he decreed that no man should ever be subject to that kind of fate, so to warn others, he called it the wolverine state. This part of history was lost during the ice age, but the name persists.

Mr. Yost

September 11th, 2012 at 11:25 PM ^

The Bobcat State? Longhorn State? Golden Bear State? The Gator State? The Duck State?

...how about The Gamecock State?

Who gets "The Huskie State"...Washington or Connecticut? I'm so confused!!!

snarling wolverine

September 12th, 2012 at 11:05 AM ^

Nebraska is indeed the Cornhusker State.  And California is the Golden State, as the NBA franchise attests (although the state flag does have a big grizzly bear on it).

Not every flagship university went with the state nickname for its sports teams, but many did.  Ohio is the Buckeye State, Indiana is the Hoosier State, Tennessee is the Volunteer State, North Carolina is the Tar Heel State, Iowa is the Hawkeye State, and so on.  



September 12th, 2012 at 5:28 AM ^

as the overall population of the wolverines in our state. The nickname "wolverine state" came from the Indians when speaking about the early settlers and the way the ate their food, not unlike the ravenous wolverines that actually did reside in the state until many of the great forests had been leveled. The wolverines were restricted in large part to the upper penninsula and even today, there are more wolverines in neighboring Canada and in other parts of the US  than in Michigan, but there was, at some point, a viable wolverine population.

They are rarely seen in the lower section of the state, and they are an incredible animal. Although a 40 lb wolverine would be considered large, they are considered, pound for pound, one of the most feroucious fighting animals on the planet. A photographer lucky enough to capture a picture of one near Whitehall, about 15 miles inland from Lake MI caught a photo of a "large" wolverine, about the size mentioned above, sprinting over a snow covered field. One of the most incredible attributes of the wolverine is that they are so light on their feet, this particular animal was photographed in a dead sprint but left no prints to follow in a snow covered field.

I always look for the license plate and in MI the plate says The Great Lake State. However, OK's plate says Oklahoma is OK, using a play on the abbrev of the state,but most know it as the Boomer State. Another nickname for Mi is the water wonderland, for the obvious reasons.

yossarians tree

September 12th, 2012 at 4:52 PM ^

Someone might have to verify but I believe the territory now known as the Upper Peninsula was "given" to Michigan as a consolation for the US handing Toledo over to the silly little state to our south. I'd say we won that deal.