[Ads-l] Rocket City

Tue Mar 21 12:03:42 EDT 2017

The Beltway is a nickname for Md./Va. I-495, a circular highway outside of Washington, D.C.  The media started using "inside the Beltway" to refer to Washington, D.C. and nearby areas around 1987.  It may be that by synecdoche "the Beltway" is sometimes used to refer to the inside-the-Beltway area, but I'm more used to hearing it to refer specifically to the highway.  Since the area inside the Beltway specifically includes nearby suburbs (otherwise people would just say "Washington," "D.C.," or the "District"), it's not really a city reference but is more like the New York "tri-state area."  

The oldest city nicknames that immediately come to mind are Windy City for Chicago and Motor City for Detroit.  I don't think Washington has a true nickname like this; D.C. and the District are just abbreviated forms of its proper name, the District of Columbia.  (If the name Washington has any legal status, beyond the postal address, I don't know what it is.)  Radio DJs have started to use "DMV" to mean the District, Maryland, and Virginia, but I've never heard it in conversational use.

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of MULLINS, WILLIAM D (Bill) CIV USARMY RDECOM AMRDEC (US)
Sent: Tuesday, March 21, 2017 11:19 AM
Subject: Re: Rocket City

I've also heard Nashvegas, and Huntsvegas.  Sometimes in Nashville I've heard it referred to as "the 'Ville", typically from radio deejays.  Also Murfreesboro as "the Boro."  Local newscasters and deejays will refer to my hometown of Huntsville and environs as "The Valley", referencing the Tennessee River Valley (which isn't much of a valley, as the Tennessee goes mostly through wide flat floodplains in this area.)

The first occasion I ever heard this tendency for referring to a city by some name other than its own, in an attempt to come up with something with a little more cachet perhaps, was when I was travelling to Los Angeles a bunch for work 25 years ago -- "The Southland". Then I started going to Washington DC, which area uses "The Beltway" (meaning the interstate loop around it) as a name, also sometimes "The District."  To my feeble mind, this is different than typical nicknames cities will pick up ("Twin Cities," the "tri-state area" around NYC, "Music City USA" for Nashville), but I'm having trouble describing why I see it as different.

From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] on behalf of Wilson Gray [hwgray at GMAIL.COM]
Sent: Monday, March 20, 2017 5:53 PM
Subject: [Non-DoD Source] Re: Rocket City


On Sat, Mar 18, 2017 at 6:58 AM, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at gmail.com>

> Sometime around 1980 a fellow grad student referred to Knoxville as "Knox
> Vegas," for no reason that I could see.

The trivializing of the art of punnery is sadly, one of my own failings.
So, my guess - and I'd bet money on it - is that the mere fact that "Knox
Vegas" is vaguely reminiscent of "Las Vegas" struck this fellow as
sufficient motivation for not only coining this pointless pswaydo-pun, but
also for inflicting it upon his nearest and/or dearest.

My late wife suffered through a quarter-century of that crap with great
good humor.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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