I am proud to call myself a resident of Montana this morning.
Why? Because I stumbled across a map of the United States that shows how Google automatically completed the phrase, “How much does (blank) cost in (name of state)?”
Google’s autocomplete, you understand, is generated based on the most popular word or phrase used to complete that search in every state.
I found this on Vice, which had its own opinions on which states had the saddest and the least-sad price-related searches. But I think without a doubt the title of saddest belongs to North Dakota, where the most popular search is, “How much does a minor cost?”
I couldn’t tell if Vice was being facetious when it added, after that listing, “We assume this refers to the cost of raising a child, though it’s unclear.” Anyone following the news would know that the Bakken oil patch has become a hotbed of prostitution and the exploitation of minors.
Still, it is amazing, even somehow unlikely, that “a minor” would be the most popular price search in North Dakota. We can only hope that is not actually the case.
(UPDATE: And apparently it is not the case. A reader on Facebook had this comment: “As someone who grew up in ND, a ‘minor’ is the term used for a minor in possession…an MIP, a term for being caught drinking underage, just thought I’d let you know…” Thank you! We hope you are correct. Now, tell those kids to stop drinking.)
Elsewhere in the country, there is nothing quite as disgusting as the North Dakota query, but some are pretty embarrassing, including “prostitute” in Connecticut and Nevada, “abortion” in Alabama and Florida, “DNA test” in Mississippi and Tennessee, “breast implants” in Indiana and Arkansas, and “breast lift” in Oklahoma.
Some are fairly innocuous. People in Wyoming and Nebraska are most interested in the price of a keg beer, and in New York and Colorado, the price of “weed.” Hardy Vermonters want to know the price of a cord of wood, which is pretty cool, but there’s no topping Montana.
Here in the Big Sky, the most common price-related search was for “fishing license.” We sound so normal, so pure, so outdoorsy, so altogether admirable. And that’s why I’m proud of Montana today.
Editor’s note: To save you the trouble of looking them up yourself, here are translations of a couple of odd-looking autocompletes: In Massachusetts, people wanted to know the price of “The T.” Turns out that is shorthand for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, the public transit in the Boston area. And in Louisiana, the most common search is for the price of “succession,” evidently having to do with figuring out who gets what when a friend or family member dies.