Slang City Mail

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April 5, 2007

Slang of the Week: Emerald City (noun phrase)

Dorothy had heard great things about the
Emerald Cityso she was surprised to find her red shoes melting in the endless rain.

Celebrity quote:
“…the cerebral
Seattle residents (nearly half of adult population has college degrees – the highest percentage in the country) were scratching their heads looking for jobs. The high-tech meltdown led to 129,500 fewer jobs in the Emerald City from their peak in December 2000 to the trough in January 2005.”
Lawrence Yun in Realtor Magazine Online

Sorry I’ve been of touch, but occasionally the job that pays my bills sucks up all the time I’d like to spend on the one I do for fun! I was in
Seattle for a conference last month and noticed Emerald City written in several publications. I don’t believe that people use it in conversation, but it is apparently common in print, rather like Beantown for Boston or The Big Apple for New York. Not an organic moniker, it was invented in the 1980s for a “new Seattle nickname” contest.

Actually, in the Belltown Messenger (I love that
Seattle seems to have a different newspaper for every neighborhood) one letter to the editor compared it to New York: “Do not equate the Big Apple with the Big Salmon.” However, this does not seem to be a standard usage. For most people, the big salmon is what the big bear eats in the big river.

In other language news, I was informed by a barista at an independent coffee shop there that calling cup sizes “tall,” “grande” and “vente” was a “normal” Seattle thing and not exclusive to the overpriced and ubiquitous (but locally-based chain) Starbucks. While I generally embrace new language, I just can’t bring myself to use these words (which strike me as weird and pretentious) and continue to say “small,” “medium” and “large” when I order my regular black coffee. They know what I mean.

As for those ruby slippers of Dorothy’s, you can buy a pair at a marvelous vintage clothing store called Red Light in
Seattle’s funky Capitol Hill area. The sparkly shoes come in women’s sizes up to 14 (that’s 46.5 European, 11.5 UK and 30 Japanese) to accommodate both tall women and the district’s many female impersonators.

Take a look in our bookstore for books and DVDs on all kinds of slang! This week’s pick: Learn more local slang from
Seattle and elsewhere in How to Talk American.