Here are the seven worst city nicknames and slogans in the United States

Oooh, a map. But which town does it show? Read on to find out! Image: Google.

The United States has a penchant for adding taglines and nicknames to anything and everything it possibly can. Whether it’s to sound folksier, friendlier or just to scrape a shred of individuality, almost every city is nicknamed or sloganed with something someone thought would make it sound worth visiting.

I’ve trawled through what I’m nearly certain is every single city nickname in the entire country, and picked out the best (worst) there was to offer.

Fruita, Colorado – Home of Mike The Headless Chicken

Image: Librarian Hat AG /Wikimedia Commons.

If your city had an interesting paleontological history, a booming fruit industry and a range of interesting outdoor acitivities, wouldn’t you want to showcase one of these fun and positive topics to attract visitors?

Absolutely fucking not, thought the people of Fruita, Colorado. Instead, the friendly piece of city history it wants to be known for is that Fruita was home to a chicken that stayed alive for 18 months after getting its fucking head chopped off.

Image: Wikipedia Commons.

In 1945, a local farmer tried to decapitate a chicken for dinner, but that headless bird simply would not die. Mike the Headless Chicken – a.k.a. ‘Miracle Mike’ – became a national sensation, gracing the covers of national magazines Time and Life.

Despite his death over 70 years ago, Mike is still honoured every May with a festival in Fruita and, of course, through its city nickname.

Augusta, Georgia – officially The Garden City, but better known as... well, you’ll find out

Upon first look, Augusta seems branded with the normal enough, pleasant enough, albeit boring nickname of "The Garden City’. It’s on a river, it’s warm, hosts a famous golf tournament every year: great! On the surface, and very much only on the surface, it seems relatively well-liked.

 

Image: Mildred Pierce/Flickr/Wikimedia Commons.

However, upon making the effort to do literally any further research, you’ll come to find that Augusta is better known affectionately by a myriad of other titles: ‘Disgusta’, ‘Hellscape’, ‘The Asscrack of Georgia’, ‘The Shithole of the South’.

What’s the rationale behind these vulgar nicknames? Augusta’s climate is subtropical, leading locals and visitors alike to find the heat overwhelming. Urban Dictionary describes the town as “a place so humid your underwear becomes permantly [sic] plastered to your ass”.

Baxter Springs, Kansas – The First Cowtown in Kansas

Move over, lesser cowtowns: the first cowtown in Kansas has arrived.

Image: AbeEzekowitz/Creative Commons.

Take a quick glance at the list of Kansas city nicknames and it will become immediate obviously that the state is rife with ‘cowtowns’: that is, cities that are either small and unsophisticated and proud of it, or which have a large beef-cattle production industry. There is the Queen of the Cowtowns, the Old Cowtown, and so on,  and honestly, it’s not clear which ones fall into which category.

Baxter Springs is uniquely pathetic for no longer fitting either description, but having so little else to offer that it has to do the equivalent of commenting ‘first’ on a popular Facebook page’s latest upload.

Oberlin, Ohio – The Town That Started The Civil War

Image: Weatherman1126/Wikimedia Commons.

Ah, yes, you remember it well, the wonderful days of the Civil War, the bloodiest war in American history. It was a grand old time where people were literally being brutally murdered in every corner of the country, and the US faced its most racist institution head on while half the country argued it should continue to exist.

So, after all of this positive PR, the city government in Oberlin, Ohio that thought, “You know what’d be great? If we were best known for starting it.”

Although Oberlin was, actually, an abolitionist heartland, spinning your city as kick-starting the most deadly war the US has ever witnessed is perhaps not the proudest emblem to whack on your municipal buildings.

Youngstown, Ohio – Murdertown, USA

Image: Jack Pearce/Wikimedia Commons.

Despite an array of cultural attractions, decent universities and a growing tech industry, Youngstown, Ohio is known for one thing and one thing only: crime.

In particular, it is known for having one of the highest murder rates in the United States.  With a 1 in 136 chance that you will be a victim of a violent crime in the average year, and just over a 1 in 20 chance that you’ll be a victim of property crime too, you are almost three times more likely to be a victim of crime in Youngstown than in the rest of Ohio.

Image: Flickr/JimBobTheBoss/Creative Commons.

While most young thrill-seekers would go skydiving, white water rafting or parasailing, the adrenaline junkies of Youngstown are known for just getting dropped off downtown without a mobile phone.

Jennings, Kansas – Czech Us Out

Image: Arkyan/Wikimedia Commons.

With a city slogan that can only be read in the voice of a middle-aged dad doing a Borat impression, Jennings proudly sports a xenophile name celebrating its immigrant population.

This name is derived from its heavily Czech population due to mass influx of natives moving there to start their farms in the early 20th century. The city planners jumped on the bandwagon – but despite this powerful rebrand, the population has dwindled to 96.

Hurley, Wisconsin – Where 51 Ends... And Family Fun Begins

Image: Royalbroil/Wikimedia Commons.

Picture this: It’s a Tuesday afternoon and group of 40-something white women have gathered for their weekly knitting group to gab. One of their spouses has a birthday coming up; or perhaps they’re planning a big family vacation. They want to, need to, pick a name for this wholesome gathering. What should it be?

The scene I’ve just described to you is the only possible scenario I can fathom that would lead someone to, for literally any reason, write these seven words in succession. Hurley is where Route 51 ends, is 97.5 per cent white, and seems to have one or two historic attractions – the source of the aforementioned family fun.

However, why anyone would pick this dry hump of a city slogan to brandish their town with is, and forever will be, beyond me.  

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Barnet council has decided a name for its new mainline station. Exciting!

Artist's impression of the new Brent Cross. Image: Hammerson.

I’ve ranted before about the horror of naming stations after the lines that they’re served by (screw you, City Thameslink). So, keeping things in perspective as ever, I’ve been quietly dreading the opening of the proposed new station in north London which has been going by the name of Brent Cross Thameslink.

I’ve been cheered, then, by the news that station wouldn’t be called that at all, but will instead go by the much better name Brent Cross West. It’s hardly the cancellation of Brexit, I’ll grant, but in 2017 I’ll take my relief wherever I can find it.

Some background on this. When the Brent Cross shopping centre opened besides the A406 North Circular Road in 1976, it was only the third large shopping mall to arrive in Britain, and the first in London. (The Elephant & Castle one was earlier, but smaller.) Four decades later, though, it’s decidedly titchy compared to newer, shinier malls such as those thrown up by Westfield – so for some years now, its owners, Hammerson, have wanted to extend the place.

That, through the vagaries of the planning process, got folded into a much bigger regeneration scheme, known as Brent Cross Cricklewood (because, basically, it extends that far). A new bigger shopping centre will be connected, via a green bridge over the A406, to another site to the south. There you’ll find a whole new town centre, 200 more shops, four parks, 4m square feet of offices space and 7,500 homes.

This is all obviously tremendously exciting, if you’re into shops and homes and offices and not into depressing, car-based industrial wastelands, which is what the area largely consists of at the moment.

The Brent Cross site. Image: Google.

One element of the new development is the new station, which’ll sit between Hendon and Cricklewood on the Thameslink route. New stations are almost as exciting as new shops/homes/offices, so on balance I'm pro.

What I’ve not been pro is the name. For a long time, the proposed station has been colloquially referred to as Brent Cross Thameslink, which annoys me for two reasons:

1) Route names make rubbish modifiers because what if the route name changes? And:

2) It’s confusing, because it’s nearly a mile from Brent Cross tube station. West Hampstead Thameslink (euch), by contrast, is right next to West Hampstead tube.

Various other names have been proposed for the station. In one newsletter, it was Brent Cross Parkway; on Wikipedia, it’s currently Brent Cross South, apparently through confusion about the name of the new town centre development.

This week, though, Barnet council quietly confirmed it’d be Brent Cross West:

Whilst the marketing and branding of BXS needs to be developed further, all parties agree that the station name should build upon the Brent Cross identity already established. Given the station is located to the west of Brent Cross, it is considered that the station should be named Brent Cross West. Network Rail have confirmed that this name is acceptable for operational purposes. Consequently, the Committee is asked to approve that the new station be named Brent Cross West.

Where the new station will appear on the map, marked by a silly red arrow. Image: TfL.

That will introduce another irritating anomaly to the map, giving the impression that the existing Brent Cross station is somehow more central than the new one, when in fact they’re either side of the development. And so:

Consideration has also been given as to whether to pursue a name change for the tube station from “Brent Cross” to “Brent Cross East”.

Which would sort of make sense, wouldn’t it? But alas:

However owing to the very high cost of changing maps and signage London-wide this is not currently being pursued.

This is probably for the best. Only a handful of tube stations have been renamed since 1950: the last was Shepherd’s Bush Market, which was until 2008 was simply Shepherd's Bush, despite being quite a long way from the Shepherd's Bush station on the Central line. That, to me, suggests that one of the two Bethnal Green stations might be a more plausible candidate for an early rename.


At any rate: it seems unlikely that TfL will be renaming its Brent Cross station to encourage more people to use the new national rail one any time soon. But at least it won’t be Brent Cross Thameslink.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and also has a Facebook page now for some reason. 

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