Origins of the state names, nicely charted here. The post title refers to Delaware and Wisconsin, my original and current home states.
There are some great state names and some not-so-great ones. I plan to list the state names from best to worst. I'm not quite ready. I seek your input. But I have developed some principles:
1. I strongly approve of the use of words from Indian languages. I suspect all the best names will fit this category: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas...
2. The names of Spanish derivation are all good: California, Colorado, Florida, Montana, and Nevada. Except for California, it's pretty easy to see what they refer to. Vermont works the same way with French. (It means green mountain.) This is an okay approach to naming.
3. I celebrate the 4-letter names: Iowa, Utah, and Ohio. All 3 are also from the Indian language and therefore belong at or near the top of the list. There are also 2 great 5-letter names: Idaho and Texas. And then there's Maine.
4. Anything with "New" that looks back to the old country is pathetic.
5. Points off for including a compass point. "Dakota" is a great name, but one of the Dakotas should have consulted the Sioux dictionary for another suitable — siouxtable — word. Don't the both of you be grabbing at the same word.
6. Naming the state after an American President, done exactly once, was not a very good idea, because it's unAmerican to adulate Presidents and because we already had the national capital named after that President, so it created unnecessary confusion and required us to say "D.C." all the time, which isn't amusing at all.
7. I deplore references to English or French royalty, even when these are processed away from the original name — like Virginia and Carolina — and not embarrassingly plain — like Louisiana, Maryland, and Georgia.
8. References to other English celebrities is stupid but that stupidity may be canceled out by the contribution the character actually made in America or by the coolness of the resulting word. There are only 2 names in this category, and I think I've just given both of them a pass.