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Seattle nickname: A few modest proposals

It can be a treacherous quest to establish a new nickname for a city that is notoriously touchy about what it's called.
Seattle: Looking less than emerald, aren't we?

Seattle: Looking less than emerald, aren't we? RAM Electronics/Flickr

Several weeks ago, columnist Knute Berger flung down a gauntlet, boldly decreeing in Seattle Magazine and Crosscut: “Seattle needs a new nickname.”

Berger scrolled through our historic monikers, including “New York Alki,” “Pittsburgh of the West,” “Queen City,” “Jet City,” “Lesser Seattle” and “the Emerald City.” The latter, Seattle’s most recent official nickname, emerged from a contest sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and promoted by Ric Trent who, at the time, was ad director for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

At the time of the Emerald City makeover in the 1980s, I was a P-I columnist. When I wrote a few discouraging words about the new nickname, my column was quickly spiked by management. Never mind that Seattle is less of a sparkly Emerald City and more of a misty, pea soup city. No mere scribe dared counter the commercial forces that later promoted the region as “Metro Natural” or coined the unlovely phrase: “Say WA.” Say what?

As a longtime observer, perhaps I can be pardoned for wanting to respond to Berger’s call. Here’s a list of suggestions to consider:

Rain City: Seattle boosters hate to mention the word “rain,” but instead of pretending there is no precip (aka. liquid sunshine), I say let’s flaunt our moist Marine climate. While much of the country suffers from searing drought, Seattle is wrapped in a fluid, life-nuturing mist. Think of how our rain-soaked climate preserves our youthful complexions.

Sovereign of the Salish Sea: With the Alaskan Way Viaduct due to be dismantled in 2016, Seattle should turn its face to the Salish Sea and to Elliott Bay, the sweetest deep-water harbor in the world. The glacier-carved harbor is our number one asset, a waterfront and port that, unlike dozens of competitors, never needs dredging and in nautical miles, is closest to our Asian trading partners. 

Westminster (Dog Show) of the West: Seattle now has more cats and dogs per capita than children. No reason the city shouldn’t become known for its army of canines, its many off-leash dog parks and its well-appointed doggy day cares and grooming salons. It is a well-kept secret that the way to meet a mate in Seattle is to acquire a four-footed friend and do meet-ups in one of the city’s dog parks.

Process City: Seattle is well-known for its dedication to process. Comedians often make fun of the city’s lengthy decision-making, but this deliberative approach, more often than not, protects Seattle citizens from regret. In the 70s, city planners set out to bulldoze the Pike Place Public Market for a parking garage. A citizen referendum saved the city’s pioneer market, destined to become its number one attraction.

Cloud City: This is not an entirely original thought — it was heralded in a recent article in the Puget Sound Business Journal, but the double meaning is fitting for a region that is already associated with overcast skies and tech companies that are moving applications from in-house servers into private cloud infrastructure. As PSBJ reported, Seattle is a central place where the cloud is happening.

These are merely a handful of possible nicknames for Seattle, intended to spark discussion about the city’s true identity. On the bright side, we’re already better off than other Northwestern cities. Take Tacoma, for instance. They call it the “City of Destiny,” a name that sounds as if Destiny has just ridden in after swindling a group of cowhands. And then there’s Bellingham, known as “The City of Subdued Excitement.” Or Yakima, sometimes called “The Palm Springs of Washington.”  Better still is Walla Walla, “the City so nice they named it twice.” And perhaps my all-time favorite is Kirkland's 1926 choice: “Gateway to Seattle."

Jean Godden is a member of the Seattle City Council and chair of its Libraries, Utilities, and Center Committee. She was a columnist and chronicler of Seattle life for many years at both Seattle daily newspapers. She has endorsed state Sen. Ed Murray for mayor. You can follow her on Twitter: @jean_godden.


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Comments:

Posted Fri, Mar 21, 5:08 a.m. Inappropriate

Potemkin City

Cameron

Posted Fri, Mar 21, 7:16 a.m. Inappropriate

Sales Tax City.

crossrip

Posted Fri, Mar 21, 7:51 a.m. Inappropriate

The Grey City

Posted Fri, Mar 21, 7:52 a.m. Inappropriate

"Jam" City
as in Traffic, Process, Blackberry, Music...

ruffner

Posted Fri, Mar 21, 8:07 a.m. Inappropriate

The Platinum City

CP

Posted Fri, Mar 21, 11:33 a.m. Inappropriate

When I first heard the suggestion to call Seattle the Emerald City, I thought, "Why would they steal a meaningless name from "The Wizard of Oz?"

It sounds as stupid now as it did then.

Seattle had a great nickname before that, not just The Queen City, but The Queen City of the Pacific Northwest. It even felt good rolling off your tongue.

We don't need a new name. Let's go back to what we had.

Posted Fri, Mar 21, 12:27 p.m. Inappropriate

I prefer we stick with Emerald City. It is very green both vegetative and ecological wise. I am going to Emerald City Comicon next weekend so it has been embraced by the Geeks.

Queen City reminds me of Drag Queens which are lovely people but do not represent all of Seattle.

Rhonwyn

Posted Fri, Mar 21, 3:54 p.m. Inappropriate

I always think Emerald City, especially arriving home at night in years I was traveling alot and maybe before pundits decided on the moniker. First, seeing the skyline from the air during descent. Second, stepping outside and breathing the best smelling air anywhere. Third, rounding a curve on I-5 where downtown rises all lit up like Oz. Every time I say, 'Home in the Emerald City'.

Lately, seeing the ferris wheel, maybe I think 'Welcome to the Fun Zone'. 'Best smelling air on earth' also works for me. :)

Posted Fri, Mar 21, 3:59 p.m. Inappropriate

The Washington Huskies were once the Sun Dodgers. Two guesses why they changed it. The athletic teams of my alma mater, the University of San Francisco, now known as The Dons (!) were once the Grey Fog. Uncannily appropriate both for the city and the Jesuit curriculum, but no more.

Not a nickname but a slogan, nowhere beats Modesto, California: "Water, Wealth, Contentment and Health". Unless it's Redwood City: "Temperature Best by Government Test".

gabowker

Posted Fri, Mar 21, 6:06 p.m. Inappropriate

North Tacoma.

Djinn

Posted Fri, Mar 21, 7:10 p.m. Inappropriate

king dome

salmonjim

Posted Fri, Mar 21, 8:19 p.m. Inappropriate

Coffeeville

Punktown

Tat City

WJS

Posted Fri, Mar 21, 10:17 p.m. Inappropriate

The wonder bread by the sea
Flannel kingdom
Cycletopia
Beerland
Gatesville

BarExam

Posted Sat, Mar 22, 11:03 a.m. Inappropriate

"Ineptitude City"

"Bertha's Rubble"

"Like Whatever City"

Wells

Posted Sat, Mar 22, 2:23 p.m. Inappropriate

I thought Jean Godden was dead

Posted Sat, Mar 22, 3 p.m. Inappropriate

How is it you never tire of showing up just to make that rude comment? Did she defeat you in some campaign, or some-such, to fuel such pettiness?

noah

Posted Sun, Mar 23, 1:16 p.m. Inappropriate

Jean is a Seattle icon. I don't always agree with her, or perhaps it's just that she doesn't always agree with me, but I do admire her, and enjoy her expressive face and smiles.

Posted Sun, Mar 30, 7:04 p.m. Inappropriate

Never. And what's even better is that Jean probably burst out laughing, at your comment. She whose laughs last, lasts longest..... I remember that Emerald City column! A very good poke at the pompous!

Posted Sun, Mar 23, 1:13 a.m. Inappropriate

I don't think "lesser Seattle" was ever a nickname, it was an aspiration. But anything's better than the phoney, shallow, sappy "Emerald City." It doesn't fit now and it never has.

dbreneman

Posted Sun, Mar 23, 5:59 a.m. Inappropriate

Seattle was THE QUEEN CITY when I moved here in the 70's, why not revive it?

simorgh

Posted Sun, Mar 23, 1:15 p.m. Inappropriate

How about WE GOT BORED, SO WE DUG A $4 BILLION DOLLAR HOLE CITY?

Posted Sun, Mar 23, 8:31 p.m. Inappropriate

Wasn't there a Star Trek episode where Kirk and Spock visited a Hole City?

dbreneman

Posted Mon, Mar 24, 9:15 a.m. Inappropriate

Jean, I'm surprised you aren't pushing Latte Land, one of my favorites.

Posted Mon, Mar 24, 1:44 p.m. Inappropriate

Hi, Casey:
I, too, like Latteland, never more than when I saw Alaska Airlines promoting flights "from Latteland to LaLaLand." Besides, as we know, Seattle works as a partial anagram for "Lattes."
But, perhaps like all good customs, our coffee mania should give way to the next big thing. I really like the idea of Cloud (or maybe Cloud-nine) City.
-- Jean Godden

jgodden

Posted Tue, Mar 25, 4:52 a.m. Inappropriate

Wow, Cloud City? Maybe given the 502 passage Jean could become a Lil' Wayne fan and go with "Strange Clouds".

Cameron

Posted Thu, Mar 27, 3:41 p.m. Inappropriate

The Hammer & Top Hat

seems fitting for a city so cozy with big developers.

word

Posted Sat, Apr 5, 8:56 a.m. Inappropriate

In the spirit of James Corner's vision free design for Seattle's new waterfront (http://handbill.us/?p=29386), maybe we ought to nickname Seattle, the Mee Too City.

Posted Sat, Apr 5, 9:12 a.m. Inappropriate

When we came here the nickname was Queen City. The burghers decided that was too gay. So they had a context and came up with The Emerald City. Gakhhh .... seems like a joke where our natural color is the dark green of the evergreens and the pearl gray of a misty day.

There was once the idea to call us Jet City, until Boeing moved ot Chicago where the new President kept this mistress.

Seriously, why do we have to a nickname? What is the nickname for San Francisco (San Fran?) Los Angeles (LA) Vancouver (Vancouver) San Diego (San Diego)???

Some of the names twirling around include Latteland and Rain Town.

Personally, I think we should see if we could sell then naming rights the way we sell the naming rights to the football stadiums. Imagine WaMu Town! Or maybe Apple and Microsoft might get into a bidding war for naming rights?

Why not SEATTLE?

(cross posted on THE-Ave.US http://handbill.us/?p=30465)

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