Seattle needs a new nickname, but please no Silicon!

Seattle Skyline Super Moon

Seattle skyline. Photo by Kevin Lisota.

During the dot-com boom years, it seemed like every major city (and even some minor ones) looked to affix the “Silicon” moniker to themselves, part of some false hope that a nickname would in some way help bring prestige, jobs and wealth.

Names such as Silicon Alley (New York); Silicon Hills (Austin) and even the Silicon Prairie (Omaha, Des Moines, Kansas City) popped up.

Pike Place Market sign. Photo via Runner310

Pike Place Market sign. Photo via Runner310

I was always proud of Seattle that we resisted the urge to label ourselves as Silicon Sound, or some other ridiculous nickname that tied to this chemical element. (See my earlier rant about a publication which oddly dubbed our community the “Silicon Canal”).

Of course, there’s the fact that Seattle doesn’t have much silicon, a basic building block of the semiconductor industry that is so deeply rooted in Silicon Valley’s lore.

For me, it was more about the idea that Seattle didn’t have to brand itself as anything tied to another region.

We were — and are — Seattle. And that’s good enough.

But that’s not to say a new nickname — something that really captures the essence of this place — isn’t warranted. I got to thinking more about that concept this morning after Crosscut columnist Knute Berger penned a wonderful history of nicknames in Seattle, and suggested it was time for a new one to define the era we’re living in.

Berger writes:

Our city is built on immigration and technology, and rapid changes have regularly turned over our collective identity. At different points in our history, we have adopted different monikers, each revealing the contemporary thinking about what Seattle should be.

I agree. A nickname can say a lot about a community — where it has been and where it is going.

There’s a new Seattle emerging — one which is far distant from “Jet City” or “Queen City” or “Emerald City.”

None of those really work so much anymore. In my own writing about Seattle, I often struggle to put the correct moniker on the city.

But I always fall back on this new concept of a “New Seattle.” The city of the Sounders; technological innovation; immigrant entrepreneurs and philanthropy. A city of transplants, like myself, who are proud to call this place home.

It’s an odd mix of innovation (companies like Tableau, a Stanford University spin out that moved here from Silicon Valley) and progressive thought (legalized marijuana) and outdoorsy and can-do spirit (see the inspiring story of Peruvian Olympic athlete and Seattle resident Roberto Carcelen). There’s some awesome alchemy at work here.

The politics of Seattle haven’t quite caught up with the changing tide, but it will.

Berger too says the old nicknames aren’t quite right for a city which is undergoing enormous change and is now “filled with members of the globe-hopping ‘creative class.’”

So, what’s it going to be Seattle? What’s the nickname that defines this new era we’re living in?

  • Thomas R.

    Flappy Bird Land. Ca-caw!

  • Jeremy Irish

    The Emerald City moniker is perfectly fine. The evergreens, the gem of the Northwest and the uniqueness of the city matches it well. Don’t rebrand for the sake of rebranding.

    • johnhcook

      Emerald City never quite stuck with me, for some reason. It is OK, just not my fave.

    • Mike

      Jet City is the other one we have. Still making billions and employing more than Amazon here.

  • Jennifer Albee

    I think Innovation City sums it up well. Seattle is often the vanguard of new ideas, businesses and technologies, as well as cultural shifts that then become much more widely accepted across the US.

    Of course, I also like Quiet Riot. :) #HowSeattleRiots

  • Ivan Vukovic

    We could always try out “metronatural” again.

    • johnhcook

      Ha!! That gave me a chuckle…. :)

    • Bill Schrier

      Ivan: “Metronatural” is still on a wall at Pike Place Market.
      -bill

    • Snapper6

      Or metrounnatural

  • Chris

    Get Lando in here, and we could call it “Cloud City”

    • jlasser

      It’s a three-fer. You get the Star Wars reference, the weather, AND our technology focus (as per McIlwain’s comments earlier this week).

      • Rita Patterson

        Love it!

  • CiteePritee

    “The Great Passive Aggressive Northwest”

    • Guest

      That’s pretty much how it’s known outside.

  • Mariecor

    How about “Guru Town, USA” because of all the Idea Gurus that Seattle has, reminiscent of ‘Fighter Town, USA’ for fighter jet pilots at NellisAFB or the eighties film TOP GUN :)

  • Liberty

    “Progressive Lemming Town”, “Utropian Socialism West”, Nicholas Hanouer as Head of Secret Police, because hard working people must surrender theirs gains to the state and the good of all as deemed by wealthy elites

    • GTFOH

      Are you referring to the same region that has no income tax – defeated soundly by popular vote – and opts instead for an ultra regressive, high sales taxes and accident-of-history gross receipts business taxes?

    • Guest

      Nick Hanauer is the McMansion in Sarasota. He has $, but no power.

    • GTFO

      pretty sure your naive understanding of human nature, civics, and economics will be appreciated in the midwest, perhaps Kansas?

      I hear there are weekly rand fan club meetings all over the place where you can define liberty how ever you want and spend all day whining about all of the tyranny of paying for stuff we all use.

      You should move there and name it freedom liberty plains of awesome bootstraping galts who never got anything from society! Don’t take my Stuff land!

  • Deruman

    How about just “Seattle?” Seattle has a unique culture and a distinctive voice. It’s ascendant, with a growing, international reputation in business, technology, sports and education. It doesn’t need a nickname to explain to people what it is. As a Silicon Valley transplant, I can tell you that I’d rather live here. I say let it ride.

    • boop

      One thing I have noticed when comparing Seattle to other cities, is there is no other place called “Seattle.” The Washington in “Seattle, Washington” is redundant. There is Paris, Texas; London, Ontario; San Jose, Costa Rica; San Francisco del Rincón, Mexico; Grenada in the Caribbean and Grenada in Spain; New York city and state … and on and on … it’s cool there is no other Seattle anywhere.

  • http://anandam.com/ Parvez Anandam

    AltTown

  • http://www.kickstartdigital.com/ Kickstart Digital

    We are Cloud City, USA (Big Cloud Platforms, Big Data, Big Head-in-Cloud Dreamers, Big Foamy Lattes, Big Aerospace, Big Rainfall and Big Ganga)

  • http://lasermotive.com Tom Nugent

    Rocket City.
    This name ties to the earlier history as Jet City, but also highlights the New Space companies that are aiming beyond Earth.

  • brian

    The Last American Dream

  • Lew

    Incubator City. Or maybe, Gluten Freeville. Or ShittyDriversLand?

  • http://www.christopherbudd.com Christopher Budd

    I vote Cloud City myself. It’s accurate for the weather. And given Amazon and Microsoft are here and major cloud providers that also seems accurate.

    It does mean Ed Murray will need to dash up his wardrobe some to keep pace with Lando Calrissian though.

  • Pinch

    Freezeland.

  • Guest

    Silicon Valley.

    I do my dev on a comp made of silicon.

    Our companies are not in the mountains nor on hills, but rather in valleys.

    Silicon Valley is the new name of the Seattle metro area.

    • Guest

      And the Redmond tradition of stealing names continues…

    • Guest

      I agree. Silicon Valley is a great name. We should use it.

      • Chris F.

        Silicon Valley is in California not in Washington

  • Garrett Massey

    The Innovation Station

  • http://humanosphere.kplu.org Tom Paulson

    I like Cloud City given the multiple meanings – our weather, the web and looking up. Futurama? Matt Groening came from this soggy state so maybe he’d be okay with that. Smugsville because we are, well, so smug these days….

  • James Temple

    S3At713 – 1337!

  • C3

    SEA-3 – we are in our third phase of evolution. First was timber, second was aerospace, third is tech.

    The alternative formulation, pronounced the same way, is C3 or C^3. The three C’s are code, coffee, and clouds.

    • C3-PO

      S3A is another way to spell it.

      • James Temple

        S3A really speaks to me, and our region, The Sea, The Clouds and
        Rain, and everything – we’re all connected digitally, socially, environmentally
        .. , S3A is perfect!

      • James Temple

        “SEA-3-IPO” for our startup community ;-)

  • Anders Maul

    I like both Rocket City and Cloud City. Another idea is “Boom City” – Inspired by Seahawk’s Legion of Boom, the loudness of the 12th man *BOOM*, and our growing and prospering city.

  • Guest

    Cloud City will be a mistake in the near future – remember when everything had to end in .com? How about just calling it Seattle like Deruman suggested? When everyone else has a nickname this is a differentiator in a good way. Or go the other way and pick something like Rainhattan or Coffeeville or Beerburg or Damptown.

    • Alex Sawyer

      Yeah, but “cloud” can have a weather meaning in Seattle as well as a tech meaning. “Damptown” is good, though.

  • walter henderson

    I think a name should reflect who we are and how we want others to view us. I’m all for ” It RAINS!!!! Stay the Hell away. ” But then again, I am old and grumpy. Oh, another that I had considered was ” We got marijuana and you don’t. “

  • Kapil

    C@L(Seattle) C for Code, Coffee & Cloud, @ for Technology and L for Love! the other alternative is to simply call it the code city!

    Code City Seattle has a nice ring to it, No?

    • buckfush

      City++

    • Alex Sawyer

      That’s pretty good, Kapil.

  • guest

    What rhymes with the word seattle? Better yet… invent the word that rhymes with seattle… it’s not yet born!!! …a word-generation app perhaps?

    • Snapper6

      Freeattle?

      • buckfush

        I like that. much better than weedatle

  • livethedream68@yahoo.com

    Startup Fantasyland… startupland (for short)… I just came out of “The Lego Movie”… America’s current #1 movie… in Seattle, there is a chance of building a “tribe” of people who love each other.

  • Jerry J

    You forgot one of the most appropriate monikers: Rat City, a nod to our maritime industry and all the residuals that come with it.

  • A.T. Murray

    There was this guy in San Francisco for many years…He wrote a newspaper column…They called it “three-dot journalism”…[Escape to Google...] BINGO! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herb_Caen came up with “Baghdad by the Bay” for San Francisco. Meanwhile, in merry old England many towns end like “Henley-on-Thames” or “Walton-on-Thames.” We could come up with a name like “Podunk on Duwamish”.

  • lunarmobiscuit

    I’m with you and @boop. “Seattle” is itself a great, unique brand, which is why we’ve not seen another nickname stick, not even “Emerald City”, itself created by a marketing team for some long forgotten purpose.

    Perhaps this also flows from the fact that our startup scene is tightly contained, not spread around like the Bay Area or the once dominant 128 Corroridor, or purpose-build constructs like the Research Triangle.

    We see the same elsewhere, like Boulder and Austin, which do just fine with a one-word, unique name.

    If anything, what we lack is a great tag line. 3-5 words that explain why this city is such a great place to start a startup. I’d personally highlight the string of successful entrepreneurs, e.g. “Boeing, Gates, Bezos, … and you!”

  • http://www.matthewshobe.com/ mshobe

    Caprica City. #sosayweall

  • Jack

    NoSunCity

  • Kyle Vasquez

    Seattle: Flakey and Fake. If they’re from the state, you can’t trust them.. It won’t matter cause they won’t let you anyways.

  • brian

    CtrlAltDlt

  • Mr. Bradley

    I always love it when people misspell Silicon Silicone. So on that note I nominate: The Emerald Silicone City

  • Orin

    Silicon Valley got its name from the companies making microprocessors that were located there in the 1960s and 70s. There is no manufacturing involving silicon happening in or around Seattle, so any nickname containing the word “silicon” would be inaccurate, to say the least…

  • Bill Schrier

    Silicon Sound
    Silicon Mountain <– lots of reasons for this one
    Chip City
    Silicon Coffee
    Digital City
    Digital Emerald

  • Guest

    Yuppie Gulch

  • Joseph Wolf
  • Scott Neilson

    Creativity is a characteristic shared by a large proportion of Seattleites, from musicians and visual artists to software startups and technology juggernauts. From writers and film makers to those who design and build the Dreamliner. While “Creattle” is unlikely to get much traction, I think any nickname for Seattle somehow needs to reflect our city’s creative DNA.

  • David Adams

    Somewhere, Emmet Watson is rolling over, ever so slightly, in his grave.

  • John Y

    #12

  • G

    Sparkle City

  • Aaron Bird

    +1 for “Cloud City” or “Cloud Capital”: weather, Matt’s comments about being the center of cloud computing & bonus Star Wars reference.

  • Arjun Sundararajan

    CloudCapital

  • Campo

    I remember when they had the contest that came up with the “Emerald City” moniker. Before that it was the “Jet City.” I always thought emerald was kind of lame. Not organic like the Jet City. Seattle has the best music, the best software, the best airplanes, the best online store, the best coffee, the best football team, and the best fish and chips(Ivars) We really don’t need anything else.

  • http://www.anvilacademic.org Fred Moody

    Protean City.

  • Evan

    Call it Tent City and get it over with!

  • Marty Hall

    Digital Forest

  • Chris F.

    Rain City works for me