What's in a Name?
Emily Badger profiles Chris Reade's inventive website - metropho.rs - that captures the (mostly odd, but occasionally inightful) ways in which people attempt to communicate the character of one place by referencing another with "that ubiquitous formula, 'X is the Y of Z.'"
"Reade built the site using a Yahoo! tool called Placemaker, which is able to identify and geographically index place names in a block of text. He uses it to troll Twitter for metaphors in a format like 'Paris is the… of' or 'is the Paris of…' Once Paris is compared to Detroit, Detroit gets sucked into the search, too. In that way, the tool is constantly expanding and now searches for about 1,200 place names all over the world."
"As a sociological exercise, there's something to be said for the way Reade's whimsical site reflects how we think about the meaning of place," observes Badger. "'Compton' quickly becomes the shortest way to say that somewhere is dangerous, or 'Portland' that it’s got bikes and vegetarians and wheat-grass bars. The most frequently cited places essentially have the strongest identities. And that makes them more difficult to analogize themselves."