Many of us know that Massachusetts is a beloved place to live, work, play, and visit but there are some funky characteristics regarding the Bay State. For example, Massachusetts still has some blue laws that are either strange, outdated, or plain old headscratchers. For example, it's illegal to scare a pigeon in Massachusetts. Another blue law is prohibiting the making or selling of candy that contains more than one percent alcohol. How about the strange law of it being illegal to play the fiddle in Boston? Some laws in Massachusetts will never seem to make sense. When will they ever get updated?

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While on the topic of the strange and outdated, Massachusetts is only one of four states (the others being Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Virginia) that is still referred to as a commonwealth.

We Know Massachusetts is a Commonwealth State but What Does That Mean? 

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a commonwealth is an independent country or community, especially a democratic republic.

That Definition Doesn't Seem Accurate for Current Day Massachusetts 

If you are thinking that the definition doesn't seem to currently apply to Massachusetts or the three other previoulsy mentioned states you would be correct. According to Merriam-Webster (which is located in the Massachusetts city of Springfield), the four states that are referred to as commonwealths are in name only. Here's a statement from Merriam-Webster about the commonwealth name distinction for Massachusetts, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

The commonwealths are just like any other state in their politics and laws, and there is no difference in their relationship to the nation as a whole.

Why is Massachusetts Called a Commonwealth?

As stated by Merriam-Webster:

The term commonwealth was preferred by a number of political writers in the years leading up to 1780, when the Massachusetts constitution officially designated the state as such; the preference is believed to have existed perhaps because there was some anti-monarchial sentiment in using the word commonwealth.

Below is a Brief Video Courtesy of GBH News That Explains What it Means for Massachusetts to be a Commonwealth and How it Happened.

Now we know the history and mystery of Massachusetts being a commonwealth state. Where it may have mattered at one time, like the blue laws, it doesn't have much significance in this day and age.

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