Tales from the City–Mr. Post Man Please…

Susan Nolen's London Red Pillar Post Box PhotographOne of the things I marvel at is my life on both sides of the pond. There are so many little differences we  take for granted. For example, I was giving my dear friend my new address for the farm in Washington State, and she stopped me in my tracks with this question…what’s a ZIP code?

Oh sorry… Post code.

I do forget which side of the pond I am at times! But I have to confess I had no idea why in America we call it a ZIP Code, and why in the United Kingdom we have POST CODES.  Same thing…different words?  Those of you who know me, know that I wasn’t about to let this rest, so this is what I have discovered.

They are of course both numerical formulas to let the post office know where to deliver that letter. ( Do we still send letters in this age of multi media?) The post code was originally called the mail code, a very unglamorous name. So heads together, they came up with the snappy little moniker of  ZIP Code. The ZIP Code I was quite surprised only started up around 1963.  ZIP is a lovely little acronymn for ZONE IMPROVEMENT PLAN. An interesting choice, as it makes one wonder, was the plan ever implemented?  But it was chosen to persuade people that the post ( UK) mail ( USA) would travel at the speed of light if those numbers were added to the address. Hence it ZIPs along!  Forget to add it…and that urgent letter might end up in the slow lane around the world and back again.  They even came up with a Cheeky Chap to get people used to the idea of adding all those numbers at the end of an address!


Mr. Zip Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

Now in Great Britain we use numbers along with letters in our codes.   For example in the United States the ZIP code might be…123123  but in the UK the post code always start with letters followed by number,  for example ABC123 . All of this coding first started in London about 1857.

But call it a POST CODE or a ZIP CODE, it’s all the same at the end of the day, a way to speed up all that junk post!  We can’t have any of that go missing, can we?

About susan sheldon nolen

It’s rare to catch me without coffee, a form of camera, or my beloved wire fox terriers. I love the history, the art, and it’s a massive part of my life, as I either paint, write, or get interrupted by my dogs, reminding me of the real world. I hope you enjoy your time here. It’s such a privilege to have readers.
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