👀 Read this if you want to sound like a local
Plus: What other ‘Seattleisms’ do you want to know about?
By Grace Madigan
Hey there, it’s hump day.
And today we’re going to help all of you newcomers to the city — and, hey, maybe some old-timers — learn something new.
This city has some specific characteristics. We don’t use umbrellas, we put cream cheese on hot dogs, and taking a ferry isn’t that big of a deal around here. That’s why “Seattleisms” was created, to help you better understand those unique quirks that make our city, well, our city...
What is it? Interstate 5, which runs from the Mexican border to the Canadian border, right through Seattle.
Disruption: The freeway, which was finished in 1969, essentially tore Seattle in half. Construction on Interstate 5 uprooted family homes, tore down old buildings, shuttered small businesses, and divided several neighborhoods, including Chinatown-International District.
Road Rage: Seattle is ranked nationally and internationally for its terrible traffic. Traffic can be so jammed that some commuters driving to and from Everett and Seattle are told to set aside more than an hour and a half to make a 24-mile trip. 😡
Pro Tip: If you call it “the Five,” every born-and-raised Seattleite will know you’re from California.
Usage: “Should I go carless? I was stuck on I-5 for almost two hours yesterday.”
What is it? A streetcar that takes riders from South Lake Union to downtown Seattle.
About that acronym… At first, the streetcar was called a “Trolley.” When city leaders realized what the acronym on their new project spelled — South Lake Union Trolley — they shifted gears. But the damage was already done.
Before the South Lake Union Streetcar (now its official name) took its first trip in December 2007, Seattleites Jerry Johnson and Don Clifton created t-shirts reading “Ride the S.L.U.T. — the South Lake Union Trolley,” which were sold at the now-defunct Kapow! coffee shop. The shirts were a lighthearted protest “designed in fun and also to remind people that their neighborhood’s historic name, Cascade, was rapidly being eclipsed by the broader [re-]branding of the entire South Lake Union/Cascade area,” HistoryLink reports.
Streetcar Fact: Seattle’s first streetcar, which was pulled by horses, opened for service in 1884. Seattle’s first electric trolleys opened in 1889, and by the early 1900s, Seattle was home to nearly 50 miles of electric streetcar tracks.
Usage: “Your cousin is coming to check out Seattle colleges? Make sure he gets to ride the S.L.U.T. to downtown, LOL.”
What is it? A species of giant, burrowing clam native to the Pacific Northwest. The creature’s name comes from the Nisqually and Lushootseed word gʷídəq, or “dig deep.” They live to be more than 150 years old.
Known for… Its slightly crunchy, sweet-tasting flesh and looking rather, um, phallic. 🍆 Eater describes the delectable clam’s looks as “something in between a prehistoric bottom-feeder and Jabba the Hutt’s infant grandchild.”
Fun fact: The geoduck is The Evergreen State College’s school mascot. His name is Speedy.
Usage: “OMG why do you have nudes on your phone?!”
“Dude, chill. That’s just from when I went digging for geoducks.”
What is it? A record label founded in Seattle in 1988. They’re celebrating their 30th birthday on August 11.
Famous for: Signing Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Mudhoney for record deals at the start of the 1990s grunge explosion. The label’s bands are credited with shaping the sound of the Seattle music scene.
Infamous for: Duping The New York Times into publishing a bogus column all about “grunge speak.”
Still Spinning: Sub Pop is home to some of today’s big names in rock and indie, including Iron & Wine, Shabazz Palaces, Beach House, and Flight of the Conchords.
Go check it out: Peruse all of Sub Pop’s awesome music at their online Mega Mart or swing by one of their stores. Grab a record before your next flight at their Seattle-Tacoma International Airport location or visit their new flagship store in South Lake Union.