university names

Shall I declare my independence from British English today? No, but I will take the British to task for misunderstanding us colonials. Incidentally, I have tried to convince my council (local government) that I should not be subject to taxation without representation, but they're not having any of it--no matter how many tea bags I throw into the sea. If I were European or from a Commonwealth country, I would be able to vote here without British citizenship. But because my country severed its ties with the empire (only to come back as a different kind of empire), I have no say in how my tax is (AmE = taxes are) spent.

On with the show.

I saw a man at the station wearing a t-shirt from "University of Yale". As another blogger noted, seeing a similar sight: "Somehow, I don't think anyone in New Haven is receiving any profit from those shirts."

People outside the US often get American university names wrong in this way, since elsewhere University of X and X University are synonyms. Thus in the UK, University of Essex and Essex University are two names for the same thing. But in the US, University of X may very well be the name of a different university from X University. Some examples:
Spotted at Tesco (UK supermarket)
by @verbingnouns
(there is no New Jersey College)
University of Miami is in Florida; Miami University is in Ohio.

University of Indiana is in Indiana; Indiana University is in Pennsylvania. [see comments]

University of Washington is in Washington State; Washington University is in Missouri.

New York University is a private university; City / State University of New York are city/state-funded.

University of California is in California; California University is in Pennsylvania.

So, the Guardian is just plain wrong when it writes that Donna Shalala is "now a professor of political science and the president of Miami University" and the Telegraph refers to a non-existent place in talking about "Dr James Enstrom of the school of public health, California University, Los Angeles." You'd think that newspaper (AmE) copy-editors/(BrE) sub-editors would know/care about such things, but they don't seem to.

T-shirt pirates, on the other hand, probably know what they're doing--it's harder to make a copyright infringement case against them if they've changed the name of the university.


  1. Regarding the EU citizen voting in a country of which s/he is not a citizen, the right extends only to local and European elections - since taxation is almost entirely a national government affair in the UK, the EU citizen is nearly as badly off as you are.

  2. Arnold Zwicky took a detailed look at this issue on Language Log. A choice quote:

    The alternation between prepositional and premodifying forms is so natural for the British that they find the rigid American naming schemes bizarre; surely, "Arizona University" is just another way of saying "the University of Arizona", they think, and are annoyed to be told sternly that there is NO SUCH UNIVERSITY as Arizona University.

  3. Well, local elections would be good to be able to vote in, considering the amount of council tax that non-citizens have to pay!

    For some reason, this old post seems to have been re-fed through RSS feeds. I have no idea why!

  4. Note that Arnold's post was a few months after this one.

  5. Oddly, however, the University of Colorado is referred to locally as CU, perhaps to distinguish it from the University of California which is UC. (And without a qualifier, as in UCLA, UC refers to the Berkeley campus.)

    There is no University of New York, by the way. It is always referred to as the State University of New York (SUNY)

  6. @Anon or the City University of New York (CUNY)

  7. @Karen & @Anon--that's what I was trying to indicate with the {State/City} at the start of the name.

  8. At the University of York (the one in the UK), we often get called 'York University' by people in the UK - this, of course, backs up the general point that Lynne and Arnold make about 'University of X' and 'X University' being two different names for the same thing, in this country. And, as has also been observed, this changing of the name order can go on despite what the official policy of the place in question is: nowhere on any University of York building or piece of paper will you see the formulation 'York University'. It's on University clothing sold in the University shop, which I can't understand, but the clothing in question doesn't have the University logo on it - it's just the collegiate-style block lettering.

    In any case, all that is just to lead up to the observation that this is exactly why, when I go to any conference, I list my affiliation as

    University of York (UK)

    '(UK)' doesn't appear in the University's name, and we have no campuses abroad that the one in England might need to be distinguished from; rather, it's to avoid confusion with the institution named York University, which is in Toronto. Coincidentally, someone who studies in my main area, French linguistics, is maybe slightly more likely to come from the Canadian one than from the UK one. The attempt to avoid confusion doesn't always work!

  9. Sorry but there is not a University of Indiana--the state university of Indiana is called Indiana University. The school in Pennsylvania is called Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

  10. I stand corrected! Will put a note in the post to reflect this. Thanks. *blush*

  11. You know, off the top of my head, I can't think of many examples of both an "X University" and a "University of X", where X is the name of the local town. It is quite common, however, to have both a "University of X" and an "X State University." For example, Oregon has the University of Oregon and Oregon State University (both of which are state-run schools in the Oregon University System.

  12. British university names cause a different kind of confusion for Americans. According to my husband's CV, he attended University College, Oxford, followed by University College, London. To an American, this looks like two campuses of University College (the former apparently being some obscure college that happens to be in the town of Oxford), rather than Oxford University and then a totally unrelated university.


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AmE = American English
BrE = British English
OED = Oxford English Dictionary (online)