With over 4 million articles, Wikipedia is an invaluable resource, whether you're throwing a term paper together at the last minute, or deciding which 19th-century President had the most bitchin' facial hair (it's Chester A. Arthur). But follow enough links, and you get sucked into some seriously strange places. We explore some of Wikipedia's oddities in our 4,287,369-week series, Wiki Wormhole.
This week’s Entry: List of City Nicknames In the U.S.
What It’s About: From the Windy City to the Big Apple to Beantown, burgs across America have been given colorful nicknames since Puritans in Salem started calling Providence “Whoretown” for merely flogging adulterous women in public instead of burning them at the stake. Many nicknames come from the town’s biggest industry, from iconic names like the Steel City, The Motor City, or Sin City, to incredibly specific ones—The Fruitcake Capital Of The World (Claxton, GA), or The Orthopedic Capital Of The World (Warsaw, IN), or The Corn Cob Pipe Capital Of The World (Washington, MO). Some try to capture the character of the town, from Lone Rock, WI’s nickname the Coldest Spot In The Nation (With The Warmest Heart) to Columbia, SC’s status as the Capital Of Southern Hospitality, to Upton, WY’s dubious claim to be the Best Town On Earth.
Also fun are cities with rhyming nicknames: New York, NY is the Town So Nice, They Named It Twice; Chicago is the Town So Dire, They Set It On Fire; Buffalo is the Town So Bereft That Everyone Left; and Detroit is the Town So—Oh, God, I’ve Been Shot.
Strangest Fact: Anthony, a town straddling the New Mexico/Texas border (actually two towns with the same name, one in each state), is the Leap Year Capital Of The World. Every four years since 1988, they’ve had a 30 Rock-worthy Leap Day celebration, inviting people born on February 29th from far and wide to join the party.
Controversy: Cooperstown, NY’s nickname is the Birthplace Of Baseball (and is the home of that sport’s Hall Of Fame), when baseball was in fact invented in Hoboken, NJ. Also, Boeme, TX is listed as “Key To The Hill Country—Totally made up by Jessica,” the first instance of editorializing we’ve seen on the Wiki page itself and not the Talk page.
Thing We Were Happiest To Learn: Pittsburgh was once known as the Birmingham Of America after the English factory town; Birmingham, AL was known as the Pittsburgh Of The South, so by the transitive property, Birmingham, AL is the Birmingham Of America.
Thing We Were Unhappiest To Learn: This writer's hometown of Buffalo, NY shares nickname The Queen City with no less than 10 other towns (most notably Cincinnati). And that’s not counting qualifiers like Queen City Of South Arkansas (El Dorado, AR) or Queen City Of The Ozarks (Springfield, MO). But for Buffalo, even a widely-shared nickname is better than the bleak City Of No Illusions, also listed here. Also, the footnotes seem to indicate that Seattle dropped the nickname Queen City in 1982 in favor of The Emerald City because Queen City sounded too gay.
Also noteworthy: Too much stuff to narrow down. Austin, TX has the most nicknames, with 12 listed here (although “Keep Austin Weird” is more of a slogan than a nickname), including Bat City, Waterloo, and City Of The Violet Crown. Philadelphia is a literal translation of City Of Brotherly Love. One of Indianapolis’ nicknames, The Amateur Sports Capital Of The World, apparently isn’t a commentary on the pre-Peyton-Manning Colts. Also, Washington, D.C. nickname City Of Magnificent Intentions was coined by Charles Dickens.
Best link to elsewhere on Wikipedia: The entry for the Christmas Pickle Capital of the World (Berrien Springs, MI) explains what exactly a Christmas Pickle is. In a German-American tradition right out of the Schrute family album, an ornament made to resemble a pickle is hung on the Christmas tree, and the first child to find it receives good luck for the year and/or an extra present from Santa.
Send your Great Job, Internet tips to GJI@avclub.com