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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Smart cities need to be more human, so we’re creating Sims-style virtual worlds

The Sims 2 on show in 2005. Image: Getty.

Huge quantities of networked sensors have appeared in cities across the world in recent years. These include cameras and sensors that count the number of passers by, devices to sense air quality, traffic flow detectors, and even bee hive monitors. There are also large amounts of information about how people use cities on social media services such as Twitter and foursquare.

Citizens are even making their own sensors – often using smart phones – to monitor their environment and share the information with others; for example, crowd-sourced noise pollution maps are becoming popular. All this information can be used by city leaders to create policies, with the aim of making cities “smarter” and more sustainable.

But these data only tell half the story. While sensors can provide a rich picture of the physical city, they don’t tell us much about the social city: how people move around and use the spaces, what they think about their cities, why they prefer some areas over others, and so on. For instance, while sensors can collect data from travel cards to measure how many people travel into a city every day, they cannot reveal the purpose of their trip, or their experience of the city.

With a better understanding of both social and physical data, researchers could begin to answer tough questions about why some communities end up segregated, how areas become deprived, and where traffic congestion is likely to occur.

Difficult questions

Determining how and why such patterns will emerge is extremely difficult. Traffic congestion happens as a result of personal decisions about how to get from A to B, based on factors such as your stage of life, your distance from the workplace, school or shops, your level of income, your knowledge of the roads and so on.

Congestion can build locally at pinch points, placing certain sections of the city’s transport networks under severe strain. This can lead to high levels of air pollution, which in turn has a severe impact on the health of the population. For city leaders, the big question is, which actions – imposing congestion charges, pedestrianising areas or improving local infrastructure – would lead to the biggest improvements in both congestion, and public health.

We know where – but why? Image: Worldoflard/Flickr/creative commons.

The irony is, although modern technology has the power to collect vast amounts of data, it doesn’t always provide the means to analyse it. This means that scientists don’t have the tools they need to understand how different factors influence the way cities function and grow. Here, the technique of agent-based modelling could come to the rescue.

The simulated city

Agent-based modelling is a type of computer simulation, which models the behaviour of individual people as they move around and interact inside a virtual world. An agent-based model of a city could include virtual commuters, pedestrians, taxi drivers, shoppers and so on. Each of these individuals has their own characteristics and “rules”, programmed by researchers, based on theories and data about how people behave.

After combining vast urban datasets with an agent-based model of people, scientists will have the capacity to tweak and re-run the model, until they detect the phenomena they’re wanting to study – whether it’s traffic jams or social segregation. When they eventually get the model right, they’ll be able to look back on the characteristics and rules of their virtual citizens, to better understand why some of these problems emerge, and hopefully begin to find ways to resolve them.

For example, scientists might use urban data in an agent-based model to better understand the characteristics of the people who contribute to traffic jams – where they have come from, why they are travelling, what other modes of transport they might be willing to take. From there, they might be able to identify some effective ways of encouraging people to take different routes or modes of transport.


Seeing the future

Also, if the model works well in the present time, then it might be able to produce short-term forecasts. This would allow scientists to develop ways of reacting to changes in cities, in real time. Using live urban data to simulate the city in real-time could help to inform the managers of key services during periods of major disruption, such as severe weather, infrastructure failure or evacuation.

Using real-time data adds another layer of complexity. But fortunately, other scientific disciplines have also been making advances in this area. Over decades, the field of meteorology has developed cutting-edge mathematical methods, which allow their weather and climate models to respond to new weather data, as they arise in real time.

The ConversationThere’s a lot more work to be done before these methods from meteorology can be adapted to work for agent-based models of cities. But if they’re successful, these advancements will allow scientists to build city simulations which are driven by people - and not just the data they produce.

Nick Malleson, Associate Professor of Geographical Information Systems, University of Leeds and Alison Heppenstall, Professor in Geocomputation, University of Leeds.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.