I live in Northern Kentucky, and have for about two years. Before that, except for a brief time in Missouri (Go Mizzou!) I spent my adult life in Central Kentucky, and grew up in South Central KY. I have fond feelings for each of these places, many pleasant memories and dear friends.
Northern Kentucky is different, though. People here can’t really decide where they actually live. Sometimes it’s in Greater Cincinnati, sometimes it is in the town or county they live in, usually it is just Northern Kentucky. As in, “Where are you from?” “Northern Kentucky.” or “Greater Cincinnati.” Never “Kentucky.” In fact, most people seem to be embarrassed that Northern Kentucky is part of Kentucky at all.
In my two years here, I have heard the phrase, ‘down in Kentucky’ so many times, I can’t even count them. The definition of ‘down in Kentcuky’ is anywhere not in Boone, Campbell or Kenton counties. It’s kinda like that old New York poster (from New Yorker magazine?) that had Manhattan with all it’s buildings and landmarks, a little detail for Queens, Long Island, Brooklyn, etc. and none for the rest of the country. Northern Kentuckians think about the rest of KY that way.
Down in Kentucky is such a generic term, it could mean Lexington, Louisville, Lake Cumberland, the Appalachian region or anywhere in the state, really. A friend of mine referred to the movie Elizabethtown as taking place near where her own father’s family lives. Since I have spent a lot of time in and around E-town, I commented, “oh, really, where are they from?” To which she replied “Floyd County.” The two places are like night and day in culture, terrain, population, and are probably about 5 hours apart. Northern Kentucky is closer to either than each is to the other. Yet, because they are both ‘down in Kentucky’ they are practically the same in her mind.
And the rest of Kentucky often forgets that Northern Kentucky is even up here, too, despite the fact that the region is responsible for much of the state’s sales tax revenue, job growth and economic development. Development that helps the rest of the state.
I get so confused with it all. I have started calling this region the great state of Northern Kentucky. There’s a WEST Virginia, a NORTH and SOUTH Dakota and Carolina, so why not a NORTH Kentucky? Makes as much sense to me as ‘down in Kentucky’ ever will.