US State genders (according to the French)

What determines a state’s grammatical gender? And why is one state name translated while another is used as-is?

States by gender:

US states by French gender

Ends with -a?  Maybe, but what about Nevada, Arizona, Montana, Iowa, Alabama… ?

Interestingly, all of the feminine states have a French equivalent, but so do a number of their masculine counterparts:

California                  Californie
Louisiana                   Louisiane
Florida                        Floride
Georgia                       Géorgie
South Carolina            Caroline du Sud
North Carolina           Caroline du Nord
Virginia                      Virginie
West Virginia          Virginie-Occidentale
Pennsylvania             Pennsylvanie
North Dakota             Dakota du Nord
South Dakota               Dakota du Sud
Hawaii                             Hawaï
New York              l’état de New York
New Mexico            Nouveau-Mexique
Washington            l’état de Washington

And it’s Nouveau-Mexique but New Hampshire; Virginie-Occidentale but Dakota du Sud.

At least the rules are clear when it comes to prepositions:

  • you live or travel en feminine states;
  • you live or travel au masculine states that begin with a consonant; and
  • you live or travel dans l’ – or – en masculine states that begin with a vowel.

Totally straightforward, right?

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