As you can probably guess, working at the Houston Press, a writer can get a little tired of typing "Houston" over and over again. It's a fine city name, but it becomes repetitive. Well, recently I learned that our city actually has way more nicknames than I'd ever known. Let's look at a few.
10. H-Town Probably the most used nickname is H-Town...which only shortens your typing by one character so it's not all that much of a time saver. The nickname apparently came into national play in the 1990s. That's when Kevin and Solomon Conner and their friend Darryl Jackson formed an R&B group of the same name and the Arena Theatre was referred to as the H'Town Arena. It had been an established nickname in the city for years before then, used mainly by the rising rap movement.
9. Magnolia City Houston was known nationally as the Magnolia City all the way back to the turn of the last century. Usage of the term dates back to the 1870s and referenced the natural magnolia groves that flourished in east Houston. These were all plowed under by the 1930s in the name of urban development, though the term remained in use sometimes to refer to the prominent Magnolia Brewery. Interestingly enough, while we were known as the Magnolia City, Galveston was called the Oleander City for the same reason.
8. The Energy Capital of the World This our "come build your stuff here and provide jobs" name for ourselves, but it actually is largely true. There are more energy firms based in Houston than there are people in Manvel. We do everything from exploration to R&D to exporting (From the largest foreign tonnage port in the country naturally) of oil and natural gas. We also host the largest energy industry trade show in the world, the Offshore Technology Conference. So while it may sound like a brag it is hard to argue with. Speaking of the energy industry...
7. The Golden Buckle of the Sunbelt Or sometimes just the Capital of the Sunbelt if you've got no drama in your soul. We picked up this moniker in the 1970s. Back then the Arab Oil Embargo had skyrocketed gas prices and Texas was doing it's best to fulfill the need for oil. People came from all across the country to try and jump on the speeding train that was the Houston economy, particularly from the struggling factories of in the Rust Belt. Then in 1982 the price of oil fell like sick duck and, well, let's just say I grew up around that time in Jacinto City and the golden buckle got hawked to pay the rent.
6. Bayou City Currently this is our "official" nickname, though I prefer the Baghdad on the Bayou variation myself. It may also be the oldest nickname for the city. There was a steam ferry called Bayou City working the routes between Houston and Galveston prior to the Civil War, suggesting the name was already in use. No one can argue that it's an appropriate title. The Greater Houston area is home to ten different major waterways and the war for Texas independence was won on Buffalo Bayou's banks.
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5. Screwston Our unique rap community has been responsible for two of our best nicknames. The first is Screwston, named after the chopped and screwed style pioneered by DJ Screw. You're not likely to find it on many tourists guides, nor will you hear...
4. City of Syrup Arm and arm with screwed was the concoction known as "purple drank," codeine-laced cough syrup favored by many of the rappers who specialized in screwed. Big Moe even called his 2000 album City of Syrup. Though it became nationalized by rappers in the '90s it was invented in the 1960s when blues musicians mixed Robitussin with beer or wine coolers. Sadly, it was also responsible for the deaths of Screw and Big Moe from overdoses of the drink, and contributed to the sleep apnea that also killed Pimp C.
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3. Clutch City In 1994 the Houston Rockets were in the playoffs against the Phoenix Suns when they lost two consecutive games in a row despite going into the fourth quarter with big leads. The Houston Chronicle heralded the demise of the Rockets with a headline that read "Choke City". At the time no Houston team from a major league sport had ever won a championship, and the hope that the Rockets could change that soured.
But coach Rudy Tomjanovich and Hakeen Olajuwon rallied and led us not only to our first NBA Championship, but a back to back championship the following year. Since then Clutch City has become a rallying cry for Houston sports teams. The Astros revived it in 2005 when they made it to the World Series for the first time, as have the Dynamos and the Aeros.
2. Space City From the 1960s until the turn of the century Houston was known for its contributions to the space exploration industry. "Houston" was the first word ever spoken on the moon, and we remain home to the Johnson Space Center. Two of our sports teams are named after space terms, as well as our Astrodome. The term's fallen out of branding in the last couple of decades as memories of the space race fade and tight budgets keep hampering our path to the stars. Still, it's a time and a term that shouldn't be forgotten.
1. Big Heart It's corny and cheesy and frankly it kinds of reeks of an ad executive's cologne, but I always liked that we became best known for a while for helping other people. When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005 a huge number of Louisiana residents ended up sheltered and taken care of in the disused Astrodome, where apparently some began to refer to us as the Big Heart for all kindness our refuge offered. 150,000 people came to us from the devastation to get help, and help they got. They also got a bunch of racist urban legends told about them, but for the most part Houston stepped up to earn a truly lovable title.