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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Businesses need less office and retail space than ever. So what does this mean for cities?

Boarded up shops in Quebec City. Image: Getty.

As policymakers develop scenarios for Brexit, researchers speculate about its impact on knowledge-intensive business services. There is some suggestion that higher performing cities and regions will face significant structural changes.

Financial services in particular are expected to face up to £38bn in losses, putting over 65,000 jobs at risk. London is likely to see the back of large finance firms – or at least, sizable components of them – as they seek alternatives for their office functions. Indeed, Goldman Sachs has informed its employees of impending relocation, JP Morgan has purchased office space in Dublin’s docklands, and banks are considering geographical dispersion rather concentration at a specific location.

Depending on the type of business, some high-order service firms will behave differently. After all, depreciation of sterling against the euro can be an opportunity for firms seeking to take advantage of London’s relative affordability and its highly qualified labour. Still, it is difficult to predict how knowledge-intensive sectors will behave in aggregate.

Strategies other than relocation are feasible. Faced with economic uncertainty, knowledge-intensive businesses in the UK may accelerate the current trend of reducing office space, of encouraging employees to work from a variety of locations, and of employing them on short-term contracts or project-based work. Although this type of work arrangement has been steadily rising, it is only now beginning to affect the core workforce.

In Canada – also facing uncertainty as NAFTA is up-ended – companies are digitising work processes and virtualising workspace. The benefits are threefold: shifting to flexible workspaces can reduce real-estate costs; be attractive to millennial workers who balk at sitting in an office all day; and reduces tension between contractual and permanent staff, since the distinction cannot be read off their location in an office. While in Canada these shifts are usually portrayed as positive, a mark of keeping up with the times, the same changes can also reflect a grimmer reality.  

These changes have been made possible by the rise in mobile communication technologies. Whereas physical presence in an office has historically been key to communication, coordination and team monitoring, these ends can now be achieved without real-estate. Of course, offices – now places to meet rather than places to perform the substance of consulting, writing and analysing – remain necessary. But they can be down-sized, with workers performing many tasks at home, in cafés, in co-working spaces or on the move. This shifts the cost of workspace from employer to employee, without affecting the capacity to oversee, access information, communicate and coordinate.

What does this mean for UK cities? The extent to which such structural shifts could be beneficial or detrimental is dependent upon the ability of local governments to manage the situation.


This entails understanding the changes companies are making and thinking through their consequences: it is still assumed, by planners and in many urban bylaws and regulations, that buildings have specific uses, that economic activity occurs in specific neighbourhoods and clusters, and that this can be understood and regulated. But as increasing numbers of workers perform their economic activities across the city and along its transport networks, new concepts are needed to understand how the economy permeates cities, how ubiquitous economic activity can be coordinated with other city functions, such as housing, public space, transport, entertainment, and culture; and, crucially, how it can translate into revenue for local governments, who by-and-large rely on property taxes.

It’s worth noting that changes in the role of real-estate are also endemic in the retail sector, as shopping shifts on-line, and as many physical stores downsize or close. While top flight office and retail space may remain attractive as a symbolic façade, the ensuing surplus of Class B (older, less well located) facilities may kill off town-centres.

On the other hand, it could provide new settings within which artists and creators, evicted from their decaying nineteenth century industrial spaces (now transformed into expensive lofts), can engage in their imaginative and innovative pursuits. Other types of creative and knowledge work can also be encouraged to use this space collectively to counter isolation and precarity as they move from project to project.

Planners and policymakers should take stock of these changes – not merely reacting to them as they arise, but rethinking the assumptions that govern how they believe economic activity interacts with, and shapes, cities. Brexit and other fomenters of economic uncertainty exacerbate these trends, which reduce fixed costs for employers, but which also shift costs and uncertainty on to employees and cities.

But those who manage and study cities need to think through what these changes will mean for urban spaces. As the display, coordination and supervision functions enabled by real-estate – and, by extension, by city neighbourhoods – Increasingly transfer on-line, it’s worth asking: what roles do fixed locations now play in the knowledge economy?

Filipa Pajević is a PhD student at the School of Urban Planning, McGill University, researching the spatial underpinnings of mobile knowledge. She tweets as @filipouris. Richard Shearmur is currently director of the School, and has published extensively on the geography of innovation and on location in the urban economy.