Sunday, June 20, 2010

Georgia cities

I'm sure it's a coincidence, but Georgia has more cities that share names with other well-known cities than anywhere else I've been. There are Athens, Rome, and Sparta; Vienna, Milan, and Dublin; Albany, Boston, and Columbus; Dallas, Duluth, Decatur, Gainesville, Macon, Roswell, and Augusta. When in Georgia, you have to be careful to specify which of the above cities you are talking about. Actually, this is easy for some of them, because Georgians have their own special pronunciations: Vienna is vye-ENN-uh, Milan is MY-len, and the town of Lafayette is la-FAY-et.

Sure, every state has some towns that share names with cities in other states, but most of them are tiny towns of no importance. Augusta, Columbus, Athens, Macon, Roswell, and Albany are all among Georgia's top 10 largest cities, and Gainesville, Rome, and Dublin are among the state's top 20 metropolitan areas. Albany and Macon hold the dubious distinction of being among the country's 10 poorest cities. Duluth and Decatur are important Atlanta suburbs. Imagine my surprise when I first heard that a large Pokemon tournament that my kids wanted to play in would take place in Duluth.

Many of these towns were named after their more famous predecessors (Athens, Rome, Sparta, and Albany, for instance); others were named after the same person, such as Columbus and Decatur. Macon was named after a person of that name, not the city in France, and my home county of Houston (pronounced HOW-ston) was named after a governor of Georgia, not the famous Sam Houston who pronounces his name funny.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Georgia on my mind

Georgia is a lovely place to live. Apart from being hotter than Hell for 4-5 months out of the year, that is. But even the heat has its advantages: it's a wonderful place to go swimming, because between May and September you never need to worry whether the water is too cold.

Georgia is sort of the prototypical state of the Deep South in popular culture. You hear more about it in songs, I think, than Alabama or Mississippi (probably not than Tennessee, though): of course "The Devil went Down to Georgia," but also "Good Directions," "Meet in the Middle," "Toes," and many others. ("Georgia on My Mind" is also one of the most beautiful state songs.) It has even given rise to an expression, "Hell's broke loose in Georgia," that is widely used. (However, I have no idea where this expression comes from, and I would love to hear about if any knows.)

Georgia's iconic status was cemented, in a very bad way, by the movie "Deliverance." I avoided this movie for years because I thought I would hate it, but I finally gave in -- since I live in Georgia, I figured I ought to see it. I was right, I hated it. Actually, it was a very good movie apart from the one awful scene that everyone knows about, but that scene was really, really bad. One of my colleagues from South Carolina met James Dickey while he was teaching at the University of South Carolina, and asked him why he would write such a thing that portrayed Southerners in such a negative light. "Well," he said, "the money was good. Besides, it takes place on the other side of the river" (i.e., in Georgia rather than South Carolina). I was interested to learn recently that James Dickey was a pathological liar. Not that it makes any difference to the story (it is fiction, after all), but it was interesting to learn.