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How small does a land-mass have to be before you live “on” it, rather than “in” it?

I grew up (in or on ) Long Island.
(in New York)

I've been hearing both versions. Please explain which one is correct and why.

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marked as duplicate by FumbleFingers, Robusto, Alain Pannetier Φ, Rhodri, Thursagen Jun 7 '11 at 4:40

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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@Kit: Is there a difference between commenting that this Q is 'related', and voting to close it for the same reason? –  FumbleFingers Jun 6 '11 at 12:39
    
@FumbleFingers: there's no option to vote to close because two questions are related. If they are duplicates, on the other hand... –  user1579 Jun 6 '11 at 12:45
    
@FumbleFingers "Related" just means that it may be of interest, given the topic. If I had the power to close-vote, and I thought this answer was a duplicate, I would have used "Possible duplicate" and the link, and also voted to close. As this question is worded, I don't think it is a duplicate. I think an NGrams comparison would probably sufficiently answer the question. –  KitFox Jun 6 '11 at 12:46
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@Kit: I don't think an NGrams comparison would answer the question; it might even give us completely misleading information. For one thing, there could be different uses in different contexts — how would an NGram show this? And, there could be countless phrases like "in Long Island school districts" or "on Long Island bus lines" — how would we separate these out? –  Kosmonaut Jun 6 '11 at 12:56

2 Answers 2

up vote 1 down vote accepted

On Long Island

as the linked to question describes it's a question of how large the land mass is - but ultimately it's down to common usage.

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Um... no, actually. The relevance of land mass size was my ignorant supposition when I posted that original question. I was put straight by the eventual concensus that in fact it's mainly down to whether you're talking about a political/cultural, or a geographical location. –  FumbleFingers Jun 6 '11 at 14:57
    
In The Orkneys (not a county) / on the Isle of White (a county) - I think it's largely historic usage. –  mgb Jun 6 '11 at 15:11
    
Well OP has accepted your answer, so obviously you're not alone in your thinking. But a lot more people went for the political/geographical rationale on the original Q, so I'd have to class yours as a minority opinion regardless of whether I agree with it or not. Though in fact I think the in/on switch would be so trivial and easily done that I doubt historic usage would normally be a significant factor. –  FumbleFingers Jun 6 '11 at 15:25

Generally you live on an island but in a jurisdiction. So if Long Island were a town or borough or other political entity, it would be ambiguous, but that isn't the case today.

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A nice, clear definition, but the notion of "jurisdiction" is a fuzzy one. I suspect that Long Island has enough of an identity as a "town" (not the right word, but you know what I mean) that people still consider that they live in it. –  user1579 Jun 6 '11 at 12:49
    
Long Island, as used by New Yorkers, is not the entire island, but the island exclusive of those parts contained in New York City proper (that is, the island minus Brooklyn and Queens). So it is neither a land mass nor a political jurisdiction. I lived in the New Jersey suburbs for nearly two decades, I would definitely say on Long Island, and I'm pretty sure this is the preposition predominantly used by residents. –  Peter Shor Jun 6 '11 at 12:59
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Long Islanders all say "I live on Long Island". –  Kosmonaut Jun 6 '11 at 13:02
    
@Kosmonaut but it usually sounds like, "I live awn Lawn Guyland". –  Darwy Jun 6 '11 at 13:34
    
+1, as in "I grew up in Rhode Island" would suggest the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, while "I grew up on Rhode Island" would suggest Aquidneck Island. –  Henry Jun 6 '11 at 14:14

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