Friday, December 03, 2004

Former Resident of the Sucker State

Until today, I had no idea that I had spent all but the past three years of my life living in "the Sucker State," otherwise known as Illinois. That “fact” comes from a book I have that lists state and city nicknames. Now I may happen to agree that "the Sucker State" is a pretty good nickname for Illinois now that I live in the far superior state of Oregon, but--it must be said--no one to my knowledge has ever called Illinois the Sucker State (I will from now on, though). This book also says that I now live in "the Webfoot State." Huh? Everyone knows that Oregon is the Beaver State.

What is going on here? If this book had been published in 1907 or something, I’d just figure that these were names that had fallen out of current usage, but the book was published in 1995. It digs itself in deeper by claiming that “what the reader will find within these pages is as close to the correct usage of ... American idiom as we could presently determine.” Here’s what the editors “determined” were the “correct” nicknames of a few American cities. I’ve not heard any of these used in my lifetime:
  • Smear City = New York City
  • Yap Town = Cleveland
  • The Big Pretzel = Philadelphia
  • Swabby Town = San Diego
  • Chili Switch = San Antonio, Texas
  • Craw Town = New Orleans
  • Guitar City = Kalamazoo, Michigan
  • Shaky City = Los Angeles
  • Old Port = Portland, Oregon (no mention of Rose City, Stumptown, Bridgetown, City of Roses, River City, PDX, or Puddletown)
Note the pseudoscientific syntax of the above claim by the editors. I should mention that they put this book together in their offices on Crib Street, Ware, Hertfordshire, U.K. I think it’s pretty clear that not a single one of them has ever set foot in the United States, or “Yankee Land” as they would have it. I can just see them poring over moldering copies of magazines like The Smart Set (founded 1900), completely caught up in “determining” the American idiom through purely academic means.

4 Comments:

Blogger Jamie said...

Or maybe their "sources" were the bad guys in Dashiell Hammett novels!

Sheesh...New Orleans is the Crescent City, people...

8:34 AM  
Blogger Rozanne said...

I know! Crescent City is such a cool nickname. (I like it because it reminds me of crescent rolls.) There's a real town called Crescent City in northern California.

3:37 PM  
Blogger Brandie said...

LOL... I'm from Birmingham, which is supposedly "the Magic City," but we all just refer to it as "the big ol' smelly ham."

7:49 PM  
Blogger Rozanne said...

Brandie,

That is hilarious! It just goes to show that those editors are truly clueless.

2:08 PM  

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