(please click to enlarge photos)
Published in The Seattle Times online on March 30, 2023
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on April 2, 2023
‘Meet me at the Pig’: A newcomer’s guide to Seattle’s quirky codes
By Jean Sherrard
Forty years ago, on our honeymoon, my girlfriend and I — oops, “wife” was still a new and foreign concept — stopped in Salisbury, England. Hiking ancient Roman roads, we encountered a friendly gent.
“Are you a local?” we asked.
“Oh no,” he confided, “I was born four miles from here.”
Today, to help relative newcomers navigate potential April Fool’s foibles, our crack “Now & Then” team shares some quirky codes and stubborn semaphores from “Then” days that persist in the “Now.” Of course, only a small subset of Seattleites can truly claim lifelong residence. For the rest, here’s a helpful cheat sheet.
Grammar and pronunciation
Telltale tyro signs include adding definite articles to freeway names. It’s never “the 5” or “the 405.” Plain I-5 and 405 suffice. And “just Puget Sound,” says writer Adam Woog. He also recommends learning to pronounce a few place names. Puyallup (rhymes with “you gallop”), Sequim (“Skwim”) and Duwamish (“Doo-WOMM-ish”) for starters. Try not to giggle when old-timers occasionally still say, “Warshington.”
Though we are surrounded by mountains, “the mountain” refers only to Rainier. Historian Robin Walz suggests a handy conversation starter: “The mountain is out today.”
(Column partner Clay Eals notes that when he was young and the mountain was “out,” as in the above photo, and when his mother, Virginia, would drive him and his brothers across the Mercer Island floating bridge, she would point south and exclaim, “Get out your ice-cream spoons!”)
Former Port of Seattle commissioner Peter Steinbrueck observes that while many other large cities have more rainfall than Seattle, we have more words for it, including “mist, sprinkles, showers, drizzle, sleet, snowy mix and downpour.”
On the road
“We don’t know how to drive,” insists column founder Paul Dorpat’s friend Pam Heath, “particularly at four-way stops.” But she and photo archivist Ron Edge agree on jaywalking. “Just don’t walk,” demands Edge. Heath adds, “I’ve seen folks at crosswalks waiting for the light to change at 2 a.m. Did I mention it was pouring rain? And they didn’t have umbrellas.”
Don’t need ’em. Stalwarts revel in “liquid sunshine.” Wags jest, “It’s a dry rain.”
Carol Wilkensen (Seattle-born on April 1) suggests arrivistes seek out YouTube clips of J.P. Patches or Stan Boreson, two bright stars of local children’s TV. Boreson’s home-spun ditties include the apropos: “Zero dacus, mucho cracus / hallaballu-za bub. / That’s the secret password that we use down at the club.”
Places we visit — or don’t
“The Market” (never “Pike’s Market”) where we meet “under the clock” or “by the pig,” suggests Vanya Sandberg. Visits to the top of “The Needle” are rare.
All preceding suggestions need be taken with a shaker of salt. And it’s time to fess up: I’m not a Seattle native. This April Fool was born miles away — in Renton!
No locals wait in line at the Market Starbucks–what’s more, it’s a mystery why anyone would!
Below we also add a few more helpful suggestions from our locavore correspondents. Please feel free to send in a few of your own!
There are a few words that are at least west coast local when I grew up.
Ever notice on TV or in movies, Seattle is the place furthest from anywhere else. Like a family member lives in Seattle, or moves to Seattle. Frasier came to Seattle because it was as far away from anywhere else which could still be considered civilized. This has faded out, perhaps, thanks to the tech worker influx.
Aurora and 99 are used interchangeably, which may confuse some non-natives. In the South Country is Pacific Highway S also ID’d as 99?
There’s definitely a passive-aggressive thing about driving the speed limit in the inside lane. “I’m doing the speed limit, why should I move over?” I don’t see that elsewhere.
Pedestrians are NOT the lowest form of life.
The Needle is used at least as often as the Space Needle. The Center, not Seattle Center. The Regrade, not Denny Regrade or the Denny Regrade.
The King County Airport is still Boeing Field.
The Mountain, not Mount Rainier.
ROB & CAROL WILKINSON
- “Zero dacus, mucho cracus / hallaballu-za bub / that’s the secret password that we use down at the club/ Zero-dacus, mucho-cracus / hallaballu-za fan / means now you are a member of KING’s TV club with Stan.” And No Motion Shun” This was our go-to TV program in the fifties and sixties. Stan played the accordion – He inspired my first expression of musical interest and within minutes my parents bought me one. They said I would be popular at parties. I was. But theirs not mine. By the way No Motion Shun was the name given to Stan’s lethargic dog named after the Slow Motion IV, the hydroplane that set a speed record. No one outside of locals have ever heard of Stan or No Motion Shun. Speaking of hydroplanes…
- Miss Thriftway, Miss Bardahl, Miss Wahoo, Miss Hawaii Ki, Miss Pay n Pak, Miss Budweiser etc. were all household names for the hydros we worshiped as kids. If you were to mention Bill Munice or Miro Slovak to anyone outside of Seattle, they would have no idea who you were talking about. Still on Hydros…
- Thunder Boats. This was the name all hydros were given for the deafening sound they made from unmuffled Alison and Rolls Merlin 3000 hp engines. It was wonderful! If you said to an outsider “let’s meet at the Pits” they would immediately know what you were talking about. It’s now the Stan Sayres Memorial Park. We watched the hydros from:
- The Floating bridge (the name before the 520 bridge was built but lasted for a long time). After 520 was as built it remained The Floating Bridge for “natives” and 520 was “the toll bridge” ($.35 tolls. No one took it because it was too expensive).
- Pill hill was, of course, the name given to the hospitals on Capitol Hill.
- For those with money they might going to the Golden Lion for dinner. It was in the Olympic Hotel and featured décor (highly inappropriate at any time in history), of the British Colonialization of India. The waiters even wore turbans. Back to kids TV programs…
- Wunda Wunda is my name.oh boys and girls, I’m glad you came. We’ll have fun and we’ll play games. Won’t you play with me?
- If you owned a boat in Seattle in the olden days, Doc Freeman’s was your place to buy gear for your boat. It seemed like everyone owned a boat. “Boating Capitol of the World” we were called. Sadly, this landmark went the way of Hardwicks, Jensen Motorboat Company and many others, but long before.
- Kalakala was the go-to ferry to Vashion Island as I remember. An awesome ride with its classic rattle and Art Deco streamline design. Outside of Seattle few would know about the Kalakala.
- If someone today asks me where Lowe’s Store is located I tell them it’s down where Sick’s Stadium used to be, until I realize they are either too young or not from around here.
- Let’s meet at Dag’s. Dag’s was the favorite before Dick’s and Burgermaster for a cheap burger, fried and a shake. It’s long gone but those of us of a certain age remember it well.
- The Aqua theater at Green Lake
- Chubby and Tubby where we bought cheap Xmas trees, shoes and jeans. It was a favorite place to go for discounted everything.
- Boo-boo and Fifi, Duh..
(Jean comments: Rob and Carol are recalling Bobo, our local–and beloved–gorilla. Not to be confused with Yogi Bear’s adenoidal sidekick Booboo)
- Maynard hospital named after David Maynard, Seattle pioneer. Where Carol was born.
- Armory now MOHAI.
(Jean comments: Of course, R&C are referring to the Naval Reserve Armory.)
- RH Thompson expressway. Few outside of Seattle would remember this transportation mistake, but if you lived around here this was a big deal in the 1960’s.
- Mossback was often how my parents described what it was like living in the rainy, cold (mossy) Pacific Northwest. Of course, it’s also what conservative, curmudgeons are called as well but I believe we defined it differently back then. Although, I’ve definitely developed some curmudgeonly qualities as time marches on – to go along with the moss!
Hmmm giving some thought to this, I can easily identify non-Seattle natives by a number of traits, behaviors such as those impersonal footwalkers who never look at you, let alone give a friendly “hello” as they pass by and are the same people who like to complain about the so-called “Seattle Freeze,” which we real natives know as a unusual cold wind that blew in from somewhere else!
Another dead giveaway is “Pike’s Market,” which of course is confused with “Pike’s Peak,” and has nothing to do with the Pike Place Market.
And our neighbor state to the south of Washington is mis-pronounced “Ore-gone.”
People not from here are under another big delusion that it rains alot in Seattle. In fact, many other large cities such as New York City, Boston and Washington DC receive more rainfall than Seattle does, which just have more names for than most other places, including “sprinkles, showers, drizzle, sleet, snowy mix, and downpour.” People from the east and other cold places usually like to wear scarves, heavy wool button down overcoats in winter, which are unnecessary, impractical for drizzle, and can make you too hot in our mild climate even in winter.
Then there’s the Seattle hipsters, so into the “lumberjack metro“ look, beards and all, particularly popular among high income techies who can afford $350 flannel shirts from Filson’s, once the working man’s Alaskan outfitter established in Seattle in 1897 during the pioneering days of the Klondike Gold Rush.
I come from somewhere else. In fact, several somewhere-elses.
But I have lived in Seattle for 50 + years among many friends and family who were born and raised in Seattle. I’ve heard tell of it all. Wunda Wunda, JP, Stan, thunderboats, Sick’s, Dick’s, Dag’s, Beth’s, the Market and more.
This question often comes into my head when I’m navigating to destinations on those two streets. And I laugh.
Which reminds me of a pervasive and useful sentence for getting around the downtown core, “Jesus Christ Made Seattle Under Pressure”.
Translated it refers to the correct sequence of proper-named streets, two by two, south to north: James, Cherry, Columbia, Marion, Madison, Spring , Seneca, University, Union, Pike and Pine.
This trick saw me through my delivery days when I worked at the venerable sign shop, Balliet Screen Graphics.