Tuesday, 1 June 2004

And what about The Chastity Belt?

I wrote in a recent post (May 23rd) that I didn’t seem to have any readers in the Bible Belt. This produced a friendly email from a distinguished academic in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who said, "Yes you have, you’ve got me". I told him that I didn’t think Louisiana was in the Bible Belt, and he explained that the northern part of the state is Baptist/Fundamentalist, culturally indistinguishable from East Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, etc, but the southern part of the state has a quite distinctive culture, heavily Catholic, and in some ways socially progressive. This explains why Louisiana might not be included in some definitions of the Bible Belt.

So that put me straight on the Bible Belt, and I turned to the online encyclopaedias to find out about other belts. They gave fairly straightforward definitions:

The Rust Belt: Declining heavy industry in northern states, like the opening sequence of The Full Monty (they mean the American musical version, but change “states” to “counties” and the British film fits).

The Corn Belt: Agricultural area in northern states (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas).

The Cotton Belt: Former agricultural region where cotton was the main cash crop throughout the 19th and much of the 20th century: the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, W Tennessee, E Arkansas, Louisiana, E Texas, and S Oklahoma, etc.

And there was one I hadn't heard of:

The Borscht Belt: Upstate New York. This appears to be just a snide comment on the culinary style of the resort hotels in the Catskill Mountains.

My friend in Louisiana tells me that certain places (eg, Arkansas) have come to be known as The Buckle of The Bible Belt. Could Roxbury, NY, be The Sour Cream Dollop of The Borscht Belt?

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