A few weeks ago, I asked readers to come up with nicknames and slogans for Washington. The model was "Charm City," the Baltimore moniker dreamed up by adman Bill Evans in the 1970s.
The entries fell into two categories. There were nicknames: words we might use as synonyms for Washington. And there were slogans: boosterish phrases that might show up on a travel brochure. I've selected a few of each.
Baltimore's "Charm City" works the same way Boston's "The Hub" and New York's "The Big Apple" work. All can be used synonymously with their city's proper name. Newspaper copy editors appreciate such synonyms, since they provide alternatives when it comes to writing headlines.
We don't have the same sort of need here, because buried in the five syllables of "Washington, D.C." are all sorts of alternatives. You can use the whole shooting match: Washington, D.C. Or you can take just the first or second half: Washington or D.C. Or you can spell out the D: District.
All these choices allow headline writers to pick and choose depending on how much space they have. On the other hand, it's my belief that this surfeit of options has stunted the synonym movement.
Still, readers gave it their best. My favorite nickname was "Dream City," submitted by Barbara Jacobik of Clifton. It has several things going for it. First of all, it maintains the initials we're used to. It makes reference, Barbara points out, to the "I Have a Dream" speech that Martin Luther King Jr. delivered in Washington. And it works on two levels: Washington is a place where the dreams of our country are realized. "Or not," Barbara says. (That mixed message is probably why Harry S. Jaffe and Tom Sherwood chose it for the title of their 1994 book about the city's political legacy.)
Here are other finalists, each of which plays up a different aspect of Washington:
"Bloom Town," Dot Lin, Bethesda. Because of the cherry blossoms, of course.
"Liberty City," Mary Jane Grossman, Laurel. Philly might object. So might Miami.
"Politicity," Lauryne Wright, Falls Church. I like saying this one.
"Drama City," James Norman, Washington. More appropriate than "Dream City"?
"PCDC," Jo B. Spiegelman, Derwood. Also fun to say.
"CUSA," Mike and Ben Hammett, Huntingtown. This one stands for "Capital of the United States of America," says Mike. It can be pronounced " see-you-ess-ay," but Mike prefers "CUE-suh." Sort of like "Soho."
A slogan, or brand, is supposed to plant a warm and fuzzy feeling in your brain and get you to book a hotel room. The one that's stuck in my head forever is "You've got a friend in Pennsylvania." (I always worried that my friend would turn out to be a hammer-murderer with body odor and a lazy eye.)
Washington's current brand is "Washington, D.C.: The American Experience." Here are the best ones readers sent in:
"Washington, D.C.: Diamond of the Nation," Pete Morelewicz and Christine Henry, Washington. "Referencing," wrote Pete and Christine, "both its shape and value."
"Washington D.C.: We'll Roll Out the Red Tape for You," Pete and Christine again, in a more flippant vein.
"Washington D.C.: Freedom Rocks," again Mike Hammett, Huntingtown. Because of all the monuments in town, Mike said.
"Washington, D.C.: Capitalize on it!," A. Grace Lopez, Washington. I like the typographical opportunities for this one.
Share your nickname ideas, and anything else that's on your mind, today at 1 p.m. during my online chat. Visit www.washingtonpost.com/liveonline.