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Driving around New York City on I-287 in Westchester County, the signs used to say

No White Plains

for North White Plains. See, for example, this picture from this webpage. They've recently replaced these signs with ones that say "North White Plains", probably because they confused tourists.

You also see signs "No Brunswick" and "So Brunswick" for North Brunswick and South Brunswick in New Jersey, southeast of NYC.

My understanding was that N. and S. were the standard abbreviations for "North" and "South". Where are "No." and "So." used? Is it just New York City and its suburbs, or is the usage more widespread than that?

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    In California the standard (abbreviated) geographical designations seem to be NorCal and SoCal, but these short forms do not appear on highway signs. – Sven Yargs Jan 2 '17 at 21:47
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    In the UK signs north and south are either written in full – WS2 Jan 2 '17 at 22:22
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    or just abbreviated N or S The only other acceptable abbreviations would be "Nth" and "Sth". – WS2 Jan 2 '17 at 22:23
  • @WS2: I think the same holds for most of the U.S. The "No White Plains" sign was quite confusing to me the first time I saw it. – Peter Shor Jan 2 '17 at 22:25
  • Ireland is same as UK as described by @WS2. The No and So abbreviations look ridiculous to me! – k1eran Jan 2 '17 at 22:30
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In American English, No is a "standard abbreviation" for North.

For instance, see American Heritage Dictionary, which gives the two-letter abbreviation with a period (No. or no.)

In Arkansas the state capital (Little Rock) is contiguous to the city to the north called North Little Rock, and this latter is often abbreviated No Little Rock on street signs and addresses.

For example, see Snagajob and remember that in this context No Little Rock jobs doesn't mean there are no jobs in Little Rock; it's referring to jobs in North Little Rock.

And Google understands No St Paul High School to refer to the high school in North Saint Paul, Minnesota.

The phone number 308-526-xxxx is located in NO PLATTE, Nebraska. (NPNR) That's North Platte, Nebraska.

I think the use of No (or No.) in such contexts is because a two character abbreviation is a bit longer and easier to read or harder to confuse, especially in hand writing, but I'm not sure.

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    No sounds eminently more likely to confuse people than a straight N. No means No (as the art mistress said to the gardener). – WS2 Jan 3 '17 at 10:33
  • @WS2 I can see that cities might prefer that if people are going to abbreviate an official word of their city name, they don't abbreviate to something that is so common as to be used in directions or for streets (N 7th St). Just like anything else, No and So are not sources of confusion if one knows what they mean and the context. – AmE speaker Jan 3 '17 at 15:08
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    Well, we all know what "no" means, don't we! – WS2 Jan 3 '17 at 17:28
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Fwiw, the Neighborhoods around where my parent's live outside Phoenix use it (at least for parcels and mail). Such as: No. 154th Drive.

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Where are "No." and "So." used?

In NoDak and SoDak muchly.

http://www.nodakelectric.com/

http://www.sodaklabs.com/

(no Olie and Lena jokes, please)

Less commonly in NoCar and SoCar

https://twitter.com/espnu/status/341785768898998272

  • What does no Olie and Lena jokes, please mean? Who are they? – Mari-Lou A Jan 3 '17 at 18:12
  • I guess that Nocar refers to North Carolina, but if I were travelling as a tourist and I had never read the OP, I would be at a complete loss. – Mari-Lou A Jan 3 '17 at 18:14
  • @Mari-LouA They are the northern plains states' contribution to humor. Easy to Google. I've lived in about twenty different states, including NoDak, NoCar, and SoCar. As I said in my answer, the usage isn't common in the Carolinas. – Phil Sweet Jan 3 '17 at 21:07

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