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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Treating towns as bastions of Brexit ignores the reasons for the referendum result – and how to address them

Newcastle: not all cities are booming. Image: Getty.

The EU Referendum result has often been characterised as a revolt of Britain’s “left-behind” towns and rural areas against the “metropolitan elite”. But this view diverts attention from the underlying issues which drove the Brexit vote – and ironically has diverted policy attention away from addressing them too.

It’s true that a number of big urban authorities, led by London, voted to stay. And overall people living in cities were less likely to vote leave than towns. Setting aside Scottish cities and towns, which both voted very strongly for remain, Leave polled 51 per cent of the vote in English and Welsh cities, compared to 56 per cent in local authorities that include towns. (Consistent data isn’t available below local authority level.)

Yet there is a lot of variation underlying this average across towns. In Boston, 75 per cent voted Leave, and in Hartlepool and Grimsby it was 70 per cent. But at the other end of the scale, there were a number of towns that voted to stay. For example, Leave polled at 49 per cent in Horsham and Harrogate, and 46 per cent in Windsor and Hitchin. In places such as Winchester, Leamington Spa and Bath, the Leave voted amounted to less than 42 per cent of the vote.

What drives this variation across towns? Data from the Centre for Cities’ recent report Talk of the Town shows economic outcomes were the biggest factor – with towns that voted Remain also having stronger economies.

For a start, pro-Remain towns generally have smaller shares of people who were either unemployed or claiming long-term benefit. (This is based on 2011 data, the latest available.)

Towns which voted Remain also had a higher share of jobs in high-skilled exporting businesses – an indication of how successful they have been at attracting and retaining high-paid job opportunities.

And both measures will have been influenced by the skills of the residents in each town: the higher the share of residents with a degree, the stronger the Remain vote.

So the Brexit vote was reflective of the varying economic outcomes for people in different parts of the country. Places which have responded well to changes in the national economy voted to Remain in the EU, and those that have been ‘left behind’ – be they towns or cities – were more likely to have voted to Leave.

This sends a clear message to politicians about the need to improve the economic outcomes of the people that live in these towns and cities. But the irony is that the fallout from the Brexit has left no room for domestic policy, and little progress has been made on addressing the problem that, in part, is likely to have been responsible for the referendum outcome in the first place.

Indeed, politicians of all stripes have seemed more concerned about jostling for position within their parties, than setting out ideas for domestic policy agenda. Most worryingly, progress on devolution – a crucial way of giving areas a greater political voice – has stalled.


There was talk earlier this year of Theresa May relaunching her premiership next summer focusing on domestic policy. One of her biggest concerns should be that so many cities perform below the national average on a range of measures, and so do not make the contribution that they should to the national economy.

But addressing this problem wouldn’t ignore towns – quite the opposite. What Talk of the Town shows is that the underperformance of a number of cities is bad not just for their residents or the national economy, but also for the residents in surrounding towns too. A poorly performing neighbouring city limits both the job opportunities open to its residents and impacts on nearby towns’ ability to attract-in business investment and create higher paid jobs.

This isn’t the only factor – as the last chart above suggests, addressing poor skills should be central to any serious domestic policy agenda. But place has an influence on economic outcomes for people too, and policy needs recognise that different places play different roles. It also needs to reflect the importance of the relationships between places to improve the access that people across the country have to job opportunities and higher wages.

The Brexit vote didn’t result from a split between cities and towns. And if we are to address the reasons for it, we need to better understand the relationship between them, rather than seeing them as opposing entities.

Paul Swinney is head of policy & research at the Centre for Cities, on whose blog this article first appeared.

Read the Centre’s Talk of the Town report to find out more about the relationship between cities and towns, and what this means for policy.