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I came across this sentence:

I met him at the coffee place where I was working after I’d dropped out of graduate school out West, many states and several states of mind away from the New England college town to which I’d returned.

I'd like to know what "West" means. Is it a university? And when "West" refers to a university, which university should it be?

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closed as not a real question by jwpat7, FumbleFingers, StoneyB, Mahnax, tchrist Sep 23 '12 at 20:48

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out West means in the West. There's further clues this is a geographical location with the following sentence about many states away from another college. –  Chris Sep 19 '12 at 6:18
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Chris is right: if "West" alluded to the name of a particular school, it would probably read, "after I dropped out of graduate school from West". Moreover, if that were the case, there'd be no way to tell which school the speaker was referring to, although I'd surmise it would have the word West or Western in its name. Also, since the West in that case would refer to the school name, it could be a school in the eastern part of the country (like West Virginia University, e.g.). –  J.R. Sep 19 '12 at 8:58

2 Answers 2

West simply refers to the general region of the western United States.

The West can be divided into the Pacific States; Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington, with the term West Coast usually restricted to just California, Oregon, and Washington, and the Mountain States, always Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. Alaska and Hawaii, being detached from the other western states, have few similarities with them, but are usually also classified as part of the West.

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No, it doesn't refer to a particular university in this sentence but to a region of the USA, probably somewhere west of the Rocky Mountains, the modern "West".

If it were to refer to a specific university, it might be West Texas A&M University, West Virginia University, or some other American university with "West" in the name, but I've never heard it used that way (means nothing, of course).

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Perhaps that far west. But if he is in New England, then "out west" could mean Indiana or something. –  GEdgar Sep 19 '12 at 13:45
    
I went to university in New England substantially after the Midwest and the west were conquered, and I lived in NJ and NYC for the first 27 years of my life. We never thought of Indiana as the West, except when watching Gunsmoke (set in Dodge City, Kansas, in the mid-to-late 19th century) or Little House on the Prairie (Kansas, Minnesota, & Missouri, 1870s) on TV. In the 20th century, the West was west of the Rockies, the Great Plains were the Old West, and Indiana was strictly the Midwest. Like, Philly is west of Providence, RI, too, but that's hardly the West. Today, it's Tibet. –  user21497 Sep 19 '12 at 14:11
    
Similarly, in California "back east" could mean New York, but it could also mean Utah. –  nohat Sep 19 '12 at 17:35
    
I lived in LA, Pasadena, Bishop, and San Rafael on and off for about 15 years. Never heard anyone use "back east" that way. Maybe Iowa or Oklahoma. For me it was NJ and NYC, RI and GA: all four on the Atlantic, same as England. –  user21497 Sep 19 '12 at 18:17
    
@Bill & nohat: It's all relative, based on where you're from, like these maps, drawn by a Texan and a New Yorker, respectively. –  J.R. Sep 20 '12 at 0:52

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