One of the most frustrating and mysterious experiences when visiting a new city is the riot of unfamiliar names and places. We offer up our own “Local Lingo” dictionary to help you understand words and phrases popular with locals living in Portland and Oregon.
Alphabet District – the east-west streets in the Pearl and Nob Hill neighborhoods are in alphabetical order: Alder, Burnside, Couch, Davis, Everett, Flanders (you get the idea). Pared with numbered streets that run north and south (5th, 6th, etc), it’s pretty easy to orient yourself as you walk around in unfamiliar areas. They were the names of Portland’s founders and pioneers.
Blazers – professional basketball team. Short for the Portland Trailblazers.
Beervana – With more than 100 craft beer breweries, Portland has earned its ranking as the best beer city in the nation. Beer and beer-filling stations are found in nearly every movie theatre, concert hall, and supermarket in the city. The beers are great.
Couch – the name of a street and a park, the word is pronounced “COOch,” not “COWch.” John H. Couch was the founder of Portland.
Ducks – the name of the athletic teams at the Unversity of Oregon (the big “O” on cars and shop windows is a signal the individual or business is a Duck fan). Actually located in Eugene, Oregon, two hours south of Portland, the team members are referred to as (Ducks – men and Lady Ducks – women). Beavers – the name of the athletic team at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon, between Eugene and Portland. As you might expect, the Ducks and Beavers are rivals. Portlanders seem to identify one or the other.
Honored Citizen – Portland’s name for a senior citizen, 65 years and older. You’ll see those words on all public transit. Honored Citizens pay only $2.50 for an all-day transit pass. Other adults pay $5.00.
Keep Portland Weird – Of course, we would like to proclaim this as uniquely Portland, but according to Wikipedia, “the slogan was created with the intention of supporting local businesses and small business owners. It was based on the Keep Austin Weird organization and slogan in Austin, Texas, and was brought to Portland in 2003 by Music Millennium owner Terry Currier after he learned of the movement in Austin. The term has since evolved into an all-encompassing slogan that secondarily promotes individuality, expressionism, local art, as well as atypical lifestyle choices and leisure activities. The slogan frequently inspires articles and debate that attempt to quantify the exact level to which Portland is considered weird, unusual or eccentric.” To learn more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keep_Portland_Weird
ODOT – Oregon Department of Transportation
OBP – Oregon Public Broadcasting, the name of NPR-affiliate radio stations
Oregonian – local Portland daily newspaper
PDX – it’s used everywhere in business names and locations. Yes, it is the designation for the airport (Portland International Airport), but just means “Portland” when applied elsewhere.
Portlandia – nickname for Portland from the TV show of the same name.
Rose City – In 1888, the Episcopal Church held a convention where attendees referred to Portland as “the City of Roses.” This caught on when, in 1905, the mayor (Harry Lane) came up with the idea of an ongoing festival dedicated to roses while attending the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition. The city’s International Rose Test Garden, with 6,000 different varieties, is a visual wonder and should be high on your list of what to see.
Slabtown – the name of the city’s Northwest District where, in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, slices or slabs of trees leftover from lumber mills were sold to local residents for their fireplaces and piled high at the curb.
Timbers – professional men’s soccer team. Short for Portland Timbers
Thorns – professional women’s soccer team. Short for Portland Thorns.
Voodoo Doughnut – a donut shop, 22 SW 3rd Ave (original location) known for its wild and crazy donuts. It’s not unusual to see visitors carrying pink boxes of them through the airport — or sitting in some city square with a group of friends or family, devouring the virtual riot of colors, toppings and shapes. Learn more: https://www.voodoodoughnut.com/the-voodoo-doughnut-story/
Willamette – the name of the river that splits Portland between east and west. Also, our wine country (Willamette Valley). Pronounced Will-am-it.
Geographically speaking, the city is divided into quarters: Northeast and Southeast on the east side of the Willamette River. The Northwest and Southwest (downtown area) are on the west side of the river. Burnside is one the city’s major streets AND the dividing line between north and south. Thus, the Willamette River and Burnside Street are the dividing lines. That should help with all the NW, SW, NE and NW designations.