Commentary: Kali-what?

By Beacon Staff

City nicknames often derive from using similar syllables to convey a more apt meaning, such as Spokane, Wash., referred to as “Spokompton,” a reference to its rougher corners, or Atlanta, dubbed “Hotlanta” because of its horrifying heat in the summer. Then there are those cities that have a reputation for producing certain items: “The Motor City” of Detroit, “The Music City” of Nashville, even the “Copper City” of Butte.

Others declare themselves the capital of something, such as watermelons (Hope, Ark.), carpet (Dalton, Ga.), or bedding plants (Kalamazoo, Mich.). And still more just want to be called something besides their God-given name. Most have a cognomen – even in Montana, where some make less sense than others.

Billings is the “The Magic City,” because it supposedly was built over night once the railroad connected it to civilization. Helena became the “Queen City” when gold was found on what is now the city’s main street. Great Falls is the “Electric City.” Missoula is the “Garden City.” Kalispell, however, has none that I could find. And, hard-working journalist that I am, I did make a call to the Northwest Montana Historical Society.

If Kalispell does have a nickname, few people know it, which makes me think that we need one. And when choosing it, we shouldn’t be limited only to our city’s history. While “The Logging City” may be appropriate, there are certainly other personality options.

Take Bellingham, Wash., for example. Its ambitious pseudonym is “The City of Subdued Excitement.” I’m not sure what this says about the coastal town, but at least it says something. Maybe everyone who lives there is happier than they appear and all that pent up excitement means its populace could explode at any second.

Scottsdale, Ariz., is dubbed “The West’s most Western town.” This can also be confusing if you think of it in terms of geography since the city is landlocked. The town, however, is actually calling itself the most cowboy-esque among its competitors. A quick visit to the Scottsdale Fashion Square proves this to be a lie. But stretching the truth is all part of nicknaming a city.

Evidence of such municipal nomenclature hyperbole exists in Wisconsin, where seemingly every town is the capital of something. Two of them – Elmwood and Belleville – claim to be “The UFO Capital of the World.” So does Roswell, N.M. Obviously they can’t all be the capital, but in the world of nicknames it’s best to be overambitious.

So, back to Kalispell. We need to think of something, before city officials beat us to it. If they’re charged with the task, Kalispell may be nicknamed “The City That Admirably Balances Growth With Reasonable Tax Rates, Which Provides Appealing Residential and Commercial Development While Providing Adequate City Services.” Or, for short, “The Balanced City,” which would be just as bad as the nickname for Meuthen, Mass.: “The City Known as the Town.”

I have heard of Kalispell referred to as “Kali.” But that conjures up images of “The Golden State,” which many people here love to hate. So what makes our city unique? Many of you would know better than I do. So, I’m asking you to e-mail your ideas to [email protected]. And don’t be bashful out of fear your idea is absurd. It can’t be worse than Beaver, Okla., the “Cow Chip Capital of the World.”