Oops! An urban legend’s foible

December 8, 2007

I am a long-time subscriber to the newsletter that the urban legend website snopes.com puts out each week, and they released a debunking of one today that had an odd factual/linguistic error:

A dedicated group of ex-Chevrolet stylists and franchised used-car salesmen continued to turn out close to 200,000 1957 Chevrolets, focusing on the 2-door Bel-Air model, between the years of 1956 and 1967, in a small auto assembly plant located outside Jacksonville, Ill.

[Ardell] Malowick and his associates quickly decamped and purchased their own auto assembly facilities in southern Illinois.

If these two sentences are meant to refer to the same plant (and I see no reason to believe otherwise from the context), then there is a grievous error here: Jacksonville, IL, is not in “southern Illinois” by any stretch of the imagination. Although there are of course no stringent boundaries between northern, central, and southern Illinois, Jacksonville, a town west of the state capital of Springfield, is almost never referred to as “southern Illinois” except under the paradigm (almost universally used by Chicagoans or Chicagophiles in my experience) where anything south of Joliet is considered “southern Illinois.” (I should note as well that as a central Illinoisan, use of this demarcation really irritates me.)

Of course, there’s enough in the Snopes debunking to show that this legend carries no support, but even its authors fail by not geographically characterizing Jacksonville as residents of the area would place it: deep in the heart of central Illinois.