1864: City Nicknames

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City Nicknames
This place has so many demonyms. Northlanders. Fair Folk. Honey Barons. Lake Dwellers. Treasurers. Swamp Watchers. Dream Farmers. Wellfolk. Rockeaters. Forgotten Royals. Remote Clients. Barrow-Clerks. The People of Land and Sky.
Title text: This place has so many demonyms. Northlanders. Fair Folk. Honey Barons. Lake Dwellers. Treasurers. Swamp Watchers. Dream Farmers. Wellfolk. Rockeaters. Forgotten Royals. Remote Clients. Barrow-Clerks. The People of Land and Sky.


Cities often have official or unofficial nicknames. For instance, St. Louis, Missouri, is known as "Gateway to the West" among several other nicknames. The nicknames typically invoke some historical or geographic feature of the city, but can sometime be opaque to those not familiar with the city. The full, formal name of Bangkok includes a long list of superlatives translating as "The city of angels, the great city, the residence of the Emerald Buddha, the impregnable city (of Ayutthaya) of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn."

Despite the skyline being clearly recognizable as St. Louis due to the Gateway Arch, Black Hat calls it New York City. However, the nickname he gives is neither a common New York nickname (such as "The Big Apple") nor a St. Louis nickname. Megan tries to correct him, but it becomes clear that Black Hat is making up nicknames. Many of his suggestions are puns for real nicknames of other places.

The title text contains made up demonyms in the same pattern. A demonym is a word for the people who live in a particular place. They are typically derived from the name of the place (e.g. "St. Louisan" for people from St. Louis, or New Yorker for those from New York), but some regions have an informal demonym that can be used colloquially by those familiar with the place to refer to its residents (e.g. Hoosier for people from Indiana).

Though Black Hat may have forgotten, it is more likely that he is messing with those around him

Nicknames and Demonyms[edit]

City nickname in comic Reference Explanation
The Hot Tamale Hot Tamales Possibly a reference to the term big enchilada (something of great importance). In the movie Independence Day, the phrase "Big Tamale" is used in a similar manner as "Big Enchilada" to describe the alien fighter held at Area 51.
The Winged City The Windy City Chicago. Possibly also Incheon International Airport (ICA/RKSI), South Korea.
The Gold Trombone Possibly a reference to the Golden Horn in Istanbul.
Castleopolis Cassopolis, or possibly Dictionopolis. Literally "Castle city." Polis (from the Greek πόλις for city) is commonly used as a suffix for city names, like Minneapolis or Alexandroupolis; Metropolis can either be a type of city, or one of the real or fictional cities bearing the name. Possibly a reference to The Phantom Tollbooth, which has both castles and cities named Dictionopolis and Digitopolis. In the Industrial Revolution, places known for certain industries had nicknames such as Cottonopolis (Manchester), Copperopolis (Swansea) and Juteopolis (Dundee). Could also be a city in Castlevania.
The Kissing Kingdom United Kingdom This would make a Very United Kingdom.
Sandland Sandland is a village in northern Norway, most likely coincidentally.
The High Place Denver Denver is known as the Mile High City. Also, in English translations of the Old Testament, the Hebrew term במה (bamah, plural במות bamot) is rendered as "high place," and denotes a place of worship. In modern Jewish synagogues, the "High Place" (bimah) is the elevated platform from which the Torah is read. In Gene Wolfe's Free Live Free, one character claims to come from the "High Place". The others consider this a metaphor, or simply a lie. Eventually this is discovered not to be the case. It could also a reference to The Man in the High Castle, a novel by Philip K. Dick which was adapted into a TV series (at the time of this comic, two seasons had been produced and a third is expected before the end of 2017).
Ol' Ironhook Old Ironsides Old Ironsides is a nickname for the USS Constitution (docked in Charlestown, MA). Ol' Ironhook may be a conflation of Old Ironsides (also a nickname for English Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell) with Old Hookey (a nickname for Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, English general and PM, who was also nicknamed The Iron Duke) or Old Kinderhook (a nickname for US President Martin Van Buren).

Alternatively, it could be a reference to Ironhook Prison, from the default setting of the 2017 tabletop role-playing game Blades in the Dark.

The Thousand Spires The City of a Hundred Spires / City of Dreaming Spires Prague / Oxford.
The Graveyard of Kings The Graveyard of Champions / City of Kings / Graveyard of Empires Graveyard: Court 2 at Wimbledon, where former champions are often defeated (the playing environment is very different from Centre Court and Court One, which are larger and where games involving highly-ranked players are preferentially located). The comic was released one day after the 2017 Wimbledon Championships were finished. Kings: Nickname of Lima, Peru and Palermo, Sicily. The Valley of the Kings in Egypt is literally a graveyard of kings, namely the Pharaohs.

Alternatively, Afghanistan is also known as the "Graveyard of Empires" due to its success in defending against would-be conquerors.

Bloomtown Boomtown Generic term for a town undergoing rapid growth. Used in the 2002 TV series of the same name as a nickname for Los Angeles. Might also be referring to Bloom County, a comic by Berkeley Breathed, or Dublin, as the setting for Ulysses by James Joyce. Bloomtown also invokes an image of many flowers, so it could be a reference to a large garden, or a city known for its gardens or flowers. The Bloomsbury district of London is famous as a location for intellectuals and writers, and publishing houses.
Lantern City USA Tree City USA A designation supporting municipalities that showcase urban forestry, in connection with Arbor Day. Lantern city is a fictional, steam-punk serial.
The City of Many Daughters City of Daughters Might be a reference to the City of Daughters album by Destroyer.
Big Mauve Big Red "Big Red" is the name of both a soda and a chewing gum by Wrigley's. The Cornell teams are known as the Big Red as is Western Kentucky's mascot Big Red. The Dartmouth football team is the Big Green. IBM is sometimes known as Big Blue.

Mauve, meanwhile, is a specific pale purple color named after the French word for the mallow flower.

The Glass Cradle The Glass Menagerie A play by Tennessee Williams. Or Golden Cradle, referencing Mesopotamia.
The Road Source Rome From the saying that All Roads Lead to Rome. Possibly Rome's antipode (in the Pacific Ocean, a little east of New Zealand), since the saying makes Rome the Road Sink.
London Prime London In the DC comics, to incorporate multiple continuities, there were multiple universes. London Prime would be "real London" on Earth Prime. Various cities named New London in the United States and elsewhere are imagined as London in alternate continuities. Alternatively in mathematics, a prime mark, x' can be the next iteration of variable x.
Hamtown Boston, Hamburg, Toronto Boston is known as beantown, pork and beans are commonly cooked together (as in Boston baked beans), and ham is a form of pork. The German word Burg means castle or fort and is often used as suffix for town names. The origin of the prefix Ham is uncertain, but the food Hamburger derives from this city and Hamburger in German is the demonym of Hamburg. Toronto is sometimes nicknamed Hogtown.
The Salad Bowl A theory of cultural integration in the US, one that stands in contrast to the older 'Melting Pot' theory. Could also refer to the Dust Bowl. Could also refer to Salinas, CA, the "Salad Bowl of the world".
God's Boudoir God's Waiting Room State of Florida, where many elderly retire then expire. As a boudoir is a room reserved for a female (host), this usage would implicate that either God is a woman, or that God frequents there often.
The Glittering Swamp The Great Dismal Swamp , Washington, D.C. A large swamp in Virginia and North Carolina. Also, the city of Washington, D.C. has often been referred to as a "swamp," owing partly to its past as a malarial swamp.
The Steel Forest The Concrete Jungle The Concrete Jungle is a name often given to New York's Manhattan area. There was also a book and movie titled The Petrified Forest.
The Mobius Strip The Strip The Strip is a shortened and commonly used name for the Las Vegas Strip, the main area of hotels and casinos in Las Vegas, Nevada. A Mobius strip is a one-sided piece of paper created by rotating the short edge of the strip 180 degrees and attaching it to the other short edge. The Vegas strip has more or less only one side as well.
The Land of Trains and Fog Britain was home to early developments in railroading, and some portions are known for fog and mists.

In the webcomic Homestuck many events take place on various planets named in the format "Land of X and Y", e.g. "Land of Light and Rain". A series of novels by George R.R. Martin, which was made into the Game of Thrones TV show, is called A Song of Ice and Fire. The Grand Canyon is known as "The House of Stone and Light" by some native people.

The Meeting Place Canberra The capital city of Australia has its name derived from 'Meeting Place' in the local Aboriginal language, because of a seasonal food boom (Bogong Moths) that drew tribes to the area each year.
The Dark Star Dark Star is a 1974 science fiction comedy film.
The Walled Garden Walled garden (technology) A walled garden is a virtual environment where the user can only view content that is published or permitted by the proprietor, e.g. AOL or Facebook. Likely a reference to the Garden Of Eden.This could also be a reference to walled cities, e.g. from the Middle Ages, or the Kowloon Walled City in the modern era. The Secret Garden is a book by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
Skin City Sin City Specifically Las Vegas. Also a generic term for a city well known for gambling, drugs, prostitution, and/or other vices.
The Horse Rotary Horse and rotary are both types of clothes dryer. Might reference The Windy City, which would also likely be good for drying clothes.
Turkeytown Turkeytown A town in Lincoln County, Kentucky.
The Naked Towers The Naked City was a television series. The Two Towers is a book by Tolkien, and Naked Lunch is a book by Burroughs.
The Meta-City Metacity A term for a heterogenous, sprawling urban center with multiple dense centers, such as Tokyo or New York City. Metacity was also the window manager in the Linux GNOME 2 desktop.
The Urban Orb The screen name of a Let's Player on Youtube and Twitch. - Also maybe once more: Rome and the Rest of the world, as in the popes address to the urbi (city: meaning Rome ) and orbi (circle: meaning the world)
The City of Angles City of Angels Los Angeles. Also, the titular City of Angles in the web novel City of Angles. There also exist several songs with that name, a few of them listed here: City of Angels.
The Big Wheel The Big Wheel A 1949 movie about a race car driver. Alternatively, a child's plastic tricycle with an oversized front wheel.
Bird City USA A program started by the Audubon Society.
The City of Seven Crowns City of Seven Hills Rome. Also occasionally refers to Moscow. The next nickname is likely a reference to the 'wrong' part of this nickname.
Hilltopia The Hilltop May be reference to The Hilltop in AMC's The Walking Dead, or possibly the Hilltopper, a train which used to run through Randall's home town of Richmond, Virginia.
Bug City A nickname for the bug-infested Chicago in the roleplaying game Shadowrun. Also, a sourcebook for the game. This may also be a reference to Johnny Rico's description of Planet P in movie Starship Troopers.
The Bottomless Cup There are many mentions of Bottomless Pits in stories. Additionally, restaurants offering unlimited refills on drinks may refer to this offer by terms like "Bottomless Soda."
Lorde's Fen Lord's Fen Lord's Fen is a place in Huntingdonshire, England. Lorde is a musical artist from Herne Bay, New Zealand - an area near Waitemata Harbour. A fen is a type of wetland, which could loosely connect to Herne Bay.
The Last Town The third book in the Wayward Pines series.
The Empty Set The concert hall in the video game Transistor. In mathematics, the empty set refers to an unique set with no elements, often notated as "{}" or "∅".
Ghost Harbor The name for a brewing company in North Carolina.
Demonym in comic Reference Explanation
Northlanders Norsemen Norsemen, literally men from the north, people from Nordic countries. Could also be a reference to highlanders, the people of the Scottish Highlands, with a similar demonym. The "High" in "Highlands" is a reference to the mountainous landscape, not the geographical position. It may or may not have to do with the northernmost province of New Zealand.
Fair Folk Fairy The fair folk is a name for fairies in folklore. The elves in The Lord of the Rings are referred to as the 'fair folk'.
Honey Barons Robber Barons, Honey Badgers, honey bear Possibly a play on The Robber Barons, a group of powerful industrialists in the late 1800s known for questionable business ethics, and honey badgers, animals known for their tough skin, bad tempers, and tenacity. Honey bear is a name for a few types of bear, as well as kinkajous.
Lake Dwellers The Hobbit Most likely a reference the people of the Laketown in J.R.R.Tolkien's "The Hobbit".
Treasurers A treasurer is a person in charge of running the treasury of an organization, for example a governmental department. The Auditors were characters in Terry Pratchett's Discworld books who did the book-keeping for reality, and wanted to simplify the universe by destroying life.
Swamp Watchers Possibly a reference to the Watcher in the Water.
Dream Farmers The Dream Factory Hollywood, California, in its role as the center of the American film industry.
Wellfolk Werefolk, Weefolk The were folk were people who could change into animals: e.g. werewolves. Wee folk is another name for Fairy in folklore.
Rockeaters Rockbiter In the Never Ending Story, Pyornkrachzark, more commonly known as "Rock Biter" is a large creature made completely of stone, named due to their diet of rocks.

May also refer to Lotus-eaters; while these mythical people slept in narcotic apathy, rockeaters might have a tougher time.

Forgotten Royals Forgotten Realms Royalty from Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) campaign setting.
Remote Clients Remote client In computing, a remote client is a program used to access a computer or service over a network. From a System Administrator's perspective, these are typically the users (though sometimes the administrators) of the system.
Barrow-Clerks Barrow-wights Wraith-like creatures in The Lord of the Rings. The hobbits come across them in the Barrow-downs.

Those who keep records of items deposited in a grave mound or barrow.

The People of Land and Sky Sea Peoples Sea peoples were raiders that attacked during the Late Bronze Age collapse.


[Black Hat, Megan, and Ponytail are standing on a hill overlooking a city. The Gateway Arch is visible, as well as a number of skyscrapers in the skyline.]
Black Hat: Ah, New York. The Hot Tamale.
Megan: This is St. Louis. Also, that's not–
Black Hat: The Winged City. The Gold Trombone. Castleopolis.
Megan: It's none of those.
[Close-up of Black Hat]
Black Hat: The Kissing Kingdom. Sandland. The High Place. Ol' Ironhook.
Megan (off-panel): Still wrong.
Black Hat: The Thousand Spires. The Graveyard of Kings. Bloomtown. Lantern City USA.
Megan (off-panel): Please stop.
[Black Hat, Megan, and Ponytail are walking]
Black Hat: The City of Many Daughters. Big Mauve. The Glass Cradle. The Road Source. London Prime. Hamtown. The Salad Bowl. God's Boudoir. The Glittering Swamp. The Steel Forest. The Mobius Strip. The Land of Trains and Fog. The Meeting Place. The Dark Star. The Walled Garden. Skin City. The Horse Rotary. Turkeytown. The Naked Towers. The Meta-City. The Urban Orb. The City of Angles. The Big Wheel. Bird City USA. The City of Seven Crowns. Hilltopia. Bug City. The Bottomless Cup. [Text size getting smaller] Lorde's Fen. The Last Town. The Empty Set. Ghost Harbor.
Megan: How long does this last?
Ponytail: No city has ever let him stay long enough to find out.

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I think "Castleopolis" is much more likely to be a reference to The Phantom Tollbooth (which I'm sure xkcd has referenced at least once before) than a *very* small town in Michigan. As I suggested in the table, The Phantom Tollbooth has castles and cities named Digitopolis and Dictionopolis, so this seems like the more likely reference to me. All open to interpretation of course! Erronius (talk) 23:52, 17 July 2017 (UTC)

For some reason I'm reminded of this comic. OldCorps (talk) 11:41, 17 July 2017 (UTC)

"Urban Orb" may refer to Boston, aka "The Hub". (talk) 12:17, 17 July 2017‎ (UTC) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Los Vegas may be sin city, but I'm pretty sure that Las Vegas is quickly becoming Skin City Seebert (talk) 13:01, 17 July 2017 (UTC)

My only guess as to "The Walled Garden": In the video game series Mass Effect, the name of the homeworld of the Quarian species, Rannoch, translates to "walled garden". Not something I really associated with xkcd, admittedly. PvOberstein (talk) 13:19, 17 July 2017 (UTC)

A guess at "Hamtown" instead of Hamburg would be "Hogtown", a common nickname for Toronto, Canada -- Harebenj (talk) 13:27, 17 July 2017‎ (UTC) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

The Mobius Strip is also a district in the fictional Perplex City. I'm sure I've seen it used in some cyberpunk-ish novel as well, but can't identify it off the top of my head. - 13:46, 17 July 2017 (UTC)

Well Folk might be a variation on Wee Folk. Thaledison (talk) 13:48, 17 July 2017 (UTC)

I thought a similar thing, but about the Fair Folk. 17:03, 18 July 2017 (UTC)An Inside Joke (talk)An Inside Joke

"Horse Rotary" could be referring to a traffic roundabout, which are called "rotaries" in some countries. Kbseah (talk) 14:02, 17 July 2017 (UTC)

Some of these make me wonder if it might be easier to interpret if you connect adjacent ones. Seems to be easy to make the names of some real people/places/things by taking words from a pair of adjacent nicknames. For Example: The Urban Orb - City of Angles - The Big Wheel - Bird City USA - City of Seven Crowns - Hilltopia Could become: (...) - The Urban Angle - City of Wheels - Big Bird - Crown City - City of Seven Hills - (...) All of which seem to be Things That Exist™. Maybe I'm overthinking it :S - 14:39, 17 July 2017 (UTC)

No, I don't think you are overthinking this. If you just try and make random word associations you get interesting combinations. If New Orleans can be called the "Big Easy" and Chicago can be called "Chi (Shy) Town" then why not the "Big Shy" to the "Shy Easy", like Black Hat is just spouting out random words associated with city monikers (demonyms) you get a pretty humorous connection Rtanenbaum (talk) 17:14, 17 July 2017 (UTC)

Game of Thrones is based on the book series A Song of Ice and Fire, not Land of Ice and Fire. Correction made in description. OldCorps (talk) 17:01, 17 July 2017 (UTC)

From my perspective from USA there is nothing more inherently funny than the names given to people in British cities. That someone from Liverpool is called a Liverpudlian makes me laugh every time I hear it. But then again the town I grew up is was referred to with the pejorative "Dreary Erie, the Mistake on the Lake" Rtanenbaum (talk) 17:14, 17 July 2017 (UTC)

Be proud though, not many cities can claim to have set a river on fire. OldCorps (talk) 17:39, 17 July 2017 (UTC)
Agreed! Cleveland Rocks! Burn on, Cuyahoga, burn on. And a song to commemorate it [1] 18:08, 17 July 2017 (UTC)

Random reader here... It may be familiarity bias since I'm from St. Louis, but this is the third (or fourth) comic to my memory that highlights St. Louis when it seems like any random city could have sufficed (I'm thinking of 1321: Cold, 1368: One Of The, and maybe 1243: Snare) and I don't recall any other city getting name-dropped so often (at least outside of major metropolises). Have I just not paid attention as much when other cities are mentioned, or is the repeated use of St. Louis something worth including as trivia on these three/four articles? 17:36, 17 July 2017 (UTC)

Boston (New England) beat St. Louis in Super Bowl XXXVI and Randall just wants to keep rubbing it in maybe? OldCorps (talk) 17:42, 17 July 2017 (UTC)

The Auditors ... wanted to simplify the universe by destroying it. Not so. They merely wanted to destroy humans and humanity, which are unnecessarily complicated from their point of view. To quote George Carlin: The planet is fine. The people are fucked.-- 18:52, 17 July 2017 (UTC)

Space Moose - Rumpleshithead. NSFW, I guess, if you work somewhere stupid.  :-D (talk) 19:33, 17 July 2017 (UTC) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

"The Kissing Kingdoms" Could be a reference to "The Kissing Kings," a common nickname for the two kings that are in the middle together in standard Bicycle new deck order. Dragonfiremalus (talk) 19:51, 17 July 2017 (UTC)

"The Land of Trains and Fog" is obviously Britain (or some portion thereof), famous for fogs/rain, and where much of early railroading was developed. There is a quotation about this someplace, (I think Rowland Emett referenced it in one of his cartoons). I just haven't been able to dig up the source. 22:51, 17 July 2017 (UTC)

The names in this kind of remind of towns names in Dwarf Fortress. Just randomly combined words. (talk) 03:17, 18 July 2017 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

"The City of Seven Crowns" also makes me think of the Seven Kingdoms (ASOIAF/GOT). Admittedly that may be because I watched the season 7 premiere last night. (talk) 04:03, 18 July 2017 (UTC) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Another reference for "The High City" as Denver could be the fact that Colorado has legalized marijuana, making it a place people go to get "high". 09:23, 18 July 2017 (UTC)

Hilltopia is also probably a reference to Zootopia, which also has been referenced before by xkcd regarding wikipedia discussion pages. (talk) 13:37, 18 July 2017 (UTC) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Anyone else think this comic was made specifically to troll this site? -- 15:33, 18 July 2017 (UTC)

Not only for this site, and it's not the first one... --Dgbrt (talk) 17:48, 18 July 2017 (UTC)

Could "Bloomtown" also be a reference to the fact that many cities (especially in the Midwest) have "Bloom(something)" names. There are multiple towns called Bloomfield, Bloomington, etc... 16:48, 18 July 2017 (UTC)

Thousand spires could also be a reference to Kredik Shaw from Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series. The name of the palace is literally supposed to translate as "Hill of a thousand spires". (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Not sure how to edit, but Salinas, CA is nicknamed The Salad Bowl (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Bit off-topic, but is our bot working? A new comic is out now. ~AgentMuffin

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I have moved manually 1864 to 1864: City Nicknames and more; check my edits from that time. I'm hoping this helps.--Dgbrt (talk) 20:02, 19 July 2017 (UTC)

I've added Canberra to Meeting Place. It is really apposite to Canberra - but did Randall mean it that way? Some of these fancy labels are really generic! They could have come from almost anything. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I'm wondering if it might aid readability to have multiple rows in the table for some entries, where there's multiple interpretations. 10:31, 20 July 2017 (UTC)

My first impression on reading the list of demonyms was that they all referred to some degree to the «Fair Folk». I believe some of the explanations given are a bit stretched, aren't they? Can't they all refer to basically the same thing?-- 13:45, 20 July 2017 (UTC)

Isn't "Graveyard of Kings" a reference to "The Graveyard of Empires", i.e. Afghanistan? --14:23, 24 July 2017 (UTC) -- Brandizzi (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Walled Garden is more likely a reference to the Garden of Eden than to Babylon. The Farsi phrase for a walled garden is the origin for the word "paradise", I'm not sure that's worth saying. David Bofinger (talk) 01:28, 1 August 2018 (UTC)

I really don't think the fact that "The Land of Trains and Fog" is somewhat similar to "A song of ice and fire" qualifies as a reference to a TV show that is based on that book series but has a different name (GoT). Bischoff (talk) 11:08, 8 May 2019 (UTC)

Toronto is also known as the meeting place https://www.etymonline.com/word/Toronto Procrastinus (talk) 20:04, 28 November 2019 (UTC)

Why do you think that's Megan and not Danish? Nitpicking (talk) 02:51, 29 December 2022 (UTC)

In general, because more like the typical Megan than Danish? As subtle as you might think that is. Well, it convinces me. 16:49, 29 December 2022 (UTC)