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.
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.
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?