Seaboard Vs Coast?
July 20, 2010 8:57 AM   Subscribe

Why is the east coast of the United States so often referred to as the "eastern seaboard," whereas the west coast is never (AFAICT) referred to as the "western seaboard?"
posted by davidmsc to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

"Eastern seaboard" is really old. There are references on Google books from the mid 1800s, which is basically predating the west coast entirely. It may just be that the new thing got a new name.
posted by smackfu at 9:32 AM on July 20, 2010

Right. By the time we got a western coast border, the term "seaboard" itself was obsolete. I suppose we continued using the term for the eastern coast out of habit.
posted by litnerd at 9:40 AM on July 20, 2010

I think smackfu and litnerd are probably right. It's got nothing to do with East vs. West since Scotland appears to have a Western Seaboard.
posted by Xalf at 9:42 AM on July 20, 2010

I think the reply to Obscure Reference's link sums up the history: there's a long history of maritime contact along the Atlantic coast, and a very obvious historical and geographical continuity between the coastal regions, particularly from Cape Cod up through the Maritimes towards Greenland, Iceland and the west coast of Ireland and Scotland.

'Eastern seaboard' dates from when the only substantial transport and trading network connecting North America to the rest of the world used the Atlantic. It doesn't just imply 'coast', but a navigable, functional coastline with ports and harbours and all the other stuff to support maritime activity.
posted by holgate at 9:46 AM on July 20, 2010

There is a Western Seaboard in Scotland, interestingly.

In summary: the Eastern seaboard actually meant something - civilization and a link to the motherland. At the time, the Western seaboard was just the edge of land and also poorly settled. The same is probably true of Australia, where there is also no Western seaboard.

IMHO seaboard also implies some degree of settlement and civilization although this doesn't show up in the dictionary - which again wouldn't have been true of pioneer-era west coasts of Oz or the US.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:47 AM on July 20, 2010

since Scotland appears to have a Western Seaboard

Scotland's western seaboard connects to North America's eastern seaboard. Likewise, Ireland's. The accents in Newfoundland and Maine point to a history that connects coastal regions thousands of miles apart, while distinguishing those coastal communities from nearby ones further inland.
posted by holgate at 9:50 AM on July 20, 2010

Interesting - thanks, team.
posted by davidmsc at 3:25 PM on July 20, 2010

Australia becomes interesting. First convict boats went to the east coast ca 1800. Other convict boats did not go to the west coast until 1850, at least, if wikipedia is to be believed.

What a difference five decades makes
posted by IndigoJones at 4:53 PM on July 20, 2010

Nobody I know calls Scotland's west coast a seaboard. It's just the west coast.
posted by ComfySofa at 5:43 AM on July 21, 2010

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