Nicknames & Nomenclature

What is Portland known for? Coffee, beer, roses and bikes come to mind. So, I sat wondering as I watched the Blazer’s playoff game last week, why is it called Rip City? The short answer is an announcer randomly said it in 1971 and a professional sports starved Portland grabbed on.

Here are a few of Portland’s Nicknames and their origins.

Rip City- In 1971 the Trailblazers, who now prefer the Blazers since it doesn’t sound as much like Jailblazers, were behind in a game against the Lakers.  Jim Barnett made a shot from just past half court to tie the game and Bill Schonely, the play-by-play announcer, yelled “Rip City- Alright!”  It seems he just said it in excitement and oddly it stuck.  In a Sports Illustrated piece he was asked what it meant and he replied “something good, something positive.”

Rose City-  Roses have made a few appearances in Portland’s history.  Twenty miles of roses were planted in Portland to celebrate the Lewis and Clark Centennial, a sort of World’s Fair that drew 1.6 million visitors to Portland in 1905.  The International Rose Test Garden opened in Washington Park in 1917 and is the longest running public rose test garden in the US.  In 1917 Portland introduced the Rose Festival which is the city’s largest annual celebration to this day.  Maybe the longevity of this name is why Portlanders seem to have a lock on the ability to stop and smell the roses.

Stumptown-  This nickname comes from the early days of Portland when many trees were cut down for the settlement of the emerging city.  Rapid growth was happening in the 1800’s the way it is now and there was just as much criticism about the haste with which the growth was happening.  Trees had to be quickly cleared to make room for the roads.  As the trees were felled, the stumps remained in the ground, and rumor has it caused all sorts of accidents. Being a town that likes to wear rose colored glasses, Portlanders found a use for the stumps- jumping between them to cross the muddy roads.

PDX- This is simply the airport code.  It is the nickname I find myself using most, especially when texting.  Other airport codes like ORD (Chicago) or MCO (Orlando) in no way evoke the place, PDX just sounds like amazing rapper slang for Portland.  Even the old airport carpet has a place in Hipster culture.

Be careful what nonsense you yell in Portland.  It may one day be imbedded in the culture.  “Rip City, Alright!”