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Washington v. The District


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I don't know where to put this...so I'm sticking it here until it gets moved ;-)

This is something that has been gnawing at the back of my brain for a while, and reading the City Paper's Young & Hungry blog posting about Drew Trautman's soon-to-be-open District Kitchen has reminded me of it again.

Over the past year or so (maybe 1-3 years) I have noticed the increased use of the term "District" as well as the use of the DC flag (three stars and two strips), and colors of red, black and white (The DC flag colors are white and red), especially by bars, restaurants, tattoo shops, boutiques, other small retail shops. This of course has coincided with the development along H Street NE, 14th Street, U Street, and other areas that are now the hip cool places to hang out.

It's as if the recent influx of younger people into DC are embracing the concept of the "District" over "Washington."

Now I've been in DC since 1995, and back then I never really got a sense that people identified themselves as residents of the "District." In fact, I can't really recall much use of that term at all. People were more likely to say D.C. or Washington, DC, or perhaps someone would say I live in the District, but that's about it. And I certainly don't recall any use of the District flag or colors.

Is this a dawning of a culture that is embracing the "District" as a place to live...as opposed to official "Washington" as just a place that people come to for several years to work for the federal government and then leave. Or is the "District" just clever hipster branding?

I'm curious to hear from people that have lived in DC since the 60s/70s or were born and raised here as to how they would describe DC culture and community and how it has changed over the years.

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I'm curious to hear from people that have lived in DC since the 60s/70s or were born and raised here as to how they would describe DC culture and community and how it has changed over the years.

This will probably end up in News and Media, but I have to run, so, a quick thought:

My impression, never ever having thought about this before, would be that "The District" means within the city boundaries (*), whereas "Washington," at this point, might mean the Washington, DC area, or DMV (forgive me throwing in that term). I often tell people from afar that I live in Washington even though I live in Arlington (which sometimes, needless to say, gets followed by, "Washington state or Washington, DC?"

(*) i.e., Hipstrumbia

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I moved here in 1973 and almost immediately started to the use the term "The District," to differentiate from the VA and MD surrounding suburbs. This is nothing new, but is mostly confined to the cognoscenti around these parts--not to the folks further afield.

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Yes, I feel like around these parts that the term "The District" is (and has been) commonly used to differentiate where you live from VA and MD...but what I'm getting at is in recent years it seems to me that the term "The District" has taken on a greater sense of place.

Perhaps akin to saying you are from New York City but then you have New Yorkers who clearly identify that they are from Brooklyn, and that is different from being from Manhattan or the Bronx or Queens.

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When I moved to the area in 1983, the graduate advisor in my program at UMD offered advice about buses/transportation by referring to "The District." I've always thought of it that way. (He lived in Fauquier County.)

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Yes, I feel like around these parts that the term "The District" is (and has been) commonly used to differentiate where you live from VA and MD...but what I'm getting at is in recent years it seems to me that the term "The District" has taken on a greater sense of place.

I'm guessing that it is the influx of people attracted to the gentrifying areas which have become "hip" in recent years, like the Atlas District. it was never called that until very recently. Just like NoMa. It only takes about half a minute of living here to realize that "The District" occupies a different plane on the planet than the "Washington" people rail against, meaning Congress and K Street.

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I'm 40 so I don't know if I fit under young or old (at least I don't FEEL old) .... but I agree with the others.... while when you're out of the area, you may say you're from DC to indicate somewhere in the DC metro area.... when talking with locals, the District is within the city boundaries. When living in Logan Circle until about 18 months ago - I think there's definitely a greater allure to living in the District these days... but I don't know if there's the attitude that's like Manhattan and the other boroughs.

I never hear anyone say District government though.... it's always DC government.

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I never hear anyone say District government though.... it's always DC government.

Hmmmnm. Maybe it's because they operate out of the District Building (otherwise known as the John A. Wilson Building)? As an aside, I actually knew John Wilson, except for his history of depression. I was one of the countless people here who thought that if Sharon Pratt Dixon Kelly Pratt didn't work out, then we would have John Wilson step up to the plate. Except, as it turned out, we didn't. Those of you too young or too recent to this area have no idea what a loss that was.

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Hmmmnm. Maybe it's because they operate out of the District Building (otherwise known as the John A. Wilson Building)? As an aside, I actually knew John Wilson, except for his history of depression. I was one of the countless people here who thought that if Sharon Pratt Dixon Kelly Pratt didn't work out, then we would have John Wilson step up to the plate. Except, as it turned out, we didn't. Those of you too young or too recent to this area have no idea what a loss that was.

I remember.

I remember racing out of my car to run in to the house to tell my boyfriend when it happened. It was like a bolt out of nowhere.

Since home rule, Ward 2 has only had two council members--John Wilson and Jack Evans.

-------

When I came to the area in 1988 to go to AU, I thought of it as Washington. I still think of myself as working in Washington but I work on the Hill. When I lived in a neighborhood from 1993-2003 that bordered pre-trendy H Street NE, Hechinger Mall and was too far away to be called Capitol Hill except by the most reaching of landlords, I said I lived in the District.

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It's just dawned on me that there are probably a lot of folk on this website who don't know what happened. So, John Wilson was the first Council Member to represent Ward 2, which initially stretched from the Capitol to the edge of Georgetown. After the 1980 Census, Ward 2 encapsulated most of Georgetown. I asked him how he felt about gaining all those wealthy people and told me, "It's easy. All they want is a park. Poor people want jobs, housing, and all that other hard stuff. I have no problem representing Georgetown.": He was actually very astute and, surprisingly, never managed to earn a college degree (unlike Marion Barry, who was working on a doctorate). That didn't stop him from getting some sort of appointment to HARVARD to teach about urban issues. A smart, smart man who was liked by almost everybody--think the poor man's Barney Frank. After Barry's arrest, Sharon Pratt Dixon was elected Mayor and Wilson was elected City Council Chairman (replacing Pratt's ex-husband, who turned out to be rather incompetent, to say the least). Then, in 1993, he killed himself. To say this was a bolt out of the blue is an understatement.

His name was slapped on the District Building and those of us in the know, have spent the remaining years wondering, "What If?"

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As a true native, born at Columbia Hospital for Women (now a set of REALLY fancy condos) in 1976, I can say that I have always referred to the city just as "the City." In contrast that is to the suburbs. I grew up in Arlington, went to high school in the city and lived for a time in NW before moving back to Arlington. I consider myself from Washington and a Washingtonian. It has never occurred to me to refer to the city proper as "the District." Though the posts above indicate that it has been in use for years, I suspect that the rise in usage can be attributed not to us small band of locals, but to the ever present new arrivals--especially the younger, hipper ones. Either way, the embrace of the flag and slogans has been a good thing, I think, and I have always felt a tremendous amount of pride for where I am from as do most of the locals I know. To me, DC Brau takes the cake with "Fermentation without Representation." I'm so jealous of that tag line, it kills me.

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As a long-time resident, I think that "The District" (or "Dee Cee") has been been pretty common conversationally for decades, as a way to talk about the place people live within the damaged square, as opposed to "official" or "greater" Washington. What's changed now is that the District has become a much cooler brand at about the same time that a lot of cooler businesses are opening, and is thus finding its way into a lot of business names. There have always been a ton of "Districts" around -- just as there were are "Embassies" and "Senates" and "Diplomats" appended onto hardware, liquor and corner grocery stores.

(My daughter, also born at Columbia, hates when she stumbles across people at her college (VCU) who claim to be from Washington but are really from Herndon or some other half-civilized outpost.)

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I feel like the term "The District" has been in common usage for years, but usually as a general term..."I live in the District" "I work in the District" "The District Government"

What I have noticed over the past couple of years is the embracing of the word "District" as a specific term, primarily by bars, restaurants, and alternative stores (tattoo palors, etc.), as well as an increased use of the DC flag (three stars, two stripes), the color red (from the DC flag) and even the DC geographical shape of a diamond. I even see more people sporting DC flag tattoos...I don't think many people would have got a tattoo of the DC flag 10 years ago.

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I wonder why it's not just Washington, Columbia? Never caught on, I guess. Columbian District?

No one ever says Rockville, SM (State of Maryland) or Alexandria, CV (Commonwealth of Virginia). Just Rockville, Maryland or Alexandria, Virginia

I guess if DC got statehood, District would be promoted to equal status with a State or Commonwealth. We would probably not refer to the State of the District of Columbia.

That said, I would rather see DC on the Nationals' cap than that curly W!

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I used to think that "The District" or "DC" were more an African American thing than Washington, which seemed the preferred term among Caucasians, especially west of the Park. Less of a usage difference now, perhaps due to the growing overlap between white and black DC and the effect of urban/hip-hop culture on hipster culture.

While it's undeniable that there's been a tattoo explosion (three-quarters of my family have flags inked on various body parts), and the flag has been adapted for everything from the Wilson High School Rowing Team (oars where the stripes are) to Duffy's Tavern (shamrocks instead of stars) I'm not sure that the commercial use of "District" is a particularly new phenomenon. I've been going to District Hardware on 17th Street since the late 70s, District Liquor was my go-to on 11th street back when that neighborhood was pre-gentrified, and The District Chophouse has been here more than a decade (I think). Even The Garden District dates back to 1999 or so.

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It had been my impression lately that some people seem to like to use "The District" to emphasize the fact that DC is not a state.

But even though I'm not originally from here, and still do not live within the District proper, I love the pride I see from people who live there! Despite its flaws, I love my home state of Virginia (and the fact that I'm really originally from West Virginia, which I don't really care 'bout no mo'). But I also love living so close to the District.

(And when people ask me where I live, I tend to say DC reflexively, as it's often when I'm out somewhere for work, but I make it a point to amend it to say "actually, just outside of it in Arlington", which did use to be part of DC back in ye olde days.)

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Is this a dawning of a culture that is embracing the "District" as a place to live...as opposed to official "Washington" as just a place that people come to for several years to work for the federal government and then leave. Or is the "District" just clever hipster branding?

I'm curious to hear from people that have lived in DC since the 60s/70s or were born and raised here as to how they would describe DC culture and community and how it has changed over the years.

OK, I've only been here since 1983. But once I got off campus, I started meeting a lot of people who differentiated between Washington and DC. Most of them were black, and most of them were either natives or long long long time residents.

DC = the local city.

Washington = Governmentland on the Potomac.

Oh, and look at the punkers of the 80s - the DC flag was a BIG symbol of local pride for the HarDCore folks.

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I'm surprised nobody has mentioned "Warshington" ...is that old school? I could never understand why people say that, or where it originated. And it always bothers me.

I work "downtown" and I've lived "just outside DC" since I was 4. That was some 46 yrs ago, as of next week. B) And that's what I recall as always saying--downtown, or downtown DC, if I'm speaking with someone when I'm outside of the area.

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I'm surprised nobody has mentioned "Warshington" ...is that old school? I could never understand why people say that, or where it originated. And it always bothers me.

Some Missouri accents add that 'r' (I grew up with a lot of people who warshed their hair) but I have no idea where it originated around here!

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Some Missouri accents add that 'r' (I grew up with a lot of people who warshed their hair) but I have no idea where it originated around here!

I don't know the origin, but it seems most common among native white Washingtonians (e.g., Pat Buchanan).

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I'm surprised nobody has mentioned "Warshington" ...is that old school? I could never understand why people say that, or where it originated. And it always bothers me.

I work "downtown" and I've lived "just outside DC" since I was 4. That was some 46 yrs ago, as of next week. B) And that's what I recall as always saying--downtown, or downtown DC, if I'm speaking with someone when I'm outside of the area.

"Warshington" is a largely blue-collar, Maryland-based pronunciation that is fading as that demographic disappears and the mass media makes us all sound the same. Anybody who says "Warshington" probably knows where a good crab shack is, thinks the Redskins were never better than when Sonny Jurgenson was quarterbacking, and is likely to call you "hun."

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When I go away on vacation and somebody asks me where I am from and I say Washington, DC, it never fails that somebody reacts as if I am a neighbor to the Commander in Chief.

Pleasant until now local yokel: "When you get home, tell that president of yours to .....". And then a litany of complaints! All of a sudden, he's MY president, not his. When did that happen?

Is there a tattoo on my forehead that reads "Lodge your rant here" ?

What do YOU say in return? "Glad you brought that up! You're in luck! The leader of the free world and I are close neighbors and it just so happens we get together to hear hillbilly records and play Crazy 8s on Thursdays! I will pass along your suggestions when I see him."

Inside the Beltway here is just as far away from the halls of power as Honolulu.

The nation is clueless about Washington, D.C.

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When I go away on vacation and somebody asks me where I am from and I say Washington, DC, it never fails that somebody reacts as if I am a neighbor to the Commander in Chief.

Pleasant until now local yokel: "When you get home, tell that president of yours to .....". And then a litany of complaints! All of a sudden, he's MY president, not his. When did that happen?

Is there a tattoo on my forehead that reads "Lodge your rant here" ?

What do YOU say in return? "Glad you brought that up! You're in luck! The leader of the free world and I are close neighbors and it just so happens we get together to hear hillbilly records and play Crazy 8s on Thursdays! I will pass along your suggestions when I see him."

Inside the Beltway here is just as far away from the halls of power as Honolulu.

The nation is clueless about Washington, D.C.

I've got stories to tell about this! However, I once worked for non-voting DC Delegate Walter Fauntroy as a constituent case worker. Yes, I admit it. What I learned there allowed me to pull some rabbits out of some hats for some folks in El Paso--including my parents (who decided that maybe it wan't such a bad thing that I lived in the middle of the city). It's just amazing to me that most people don't know that all Congressvarmints have local staff to handle whatever problems arise and you don't need some special permission to ask them for help. I was even able to get help for my cousin in Georgia--and her Congressvarmint is a wingnut! You wouldn't believe how many people think I have a direct line to the powers-that-be. It's quite comical.

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I moved to DC in 1984, and lived there for about 15 years before moving to the Virginia burbs (but still inside the Beltway). Among my fellow DC residents, at least those I associated with, the distinction was pretty clear - "Washington" referred to the nation's capital - the federal government and those who interact with it on a daily basis. Particularly those parts of it that are more transient and temporary. "The District" referred to the city that the rest of us lived in. Steakhouses were Washington, Ethiopian restaurants the District. The Kennedy Center was Washington, Woolly Mammoth was the District. If you worked at a national non-profit that helped the homeless, that was Washington; if you volunteered at a homeless shelter, that was the District. Interns came to Washington, 4th-generation residents lived in the District. Home Rule was a big issue for the District, never for Washington.

That was never as clear outside the city limits, and since I no longer live in DC I don't know if meanings have changed.

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I moved to DC in 1984, and lived there for about 15 years before moving to the Virginia burbs (but still inside the Beltway). Among my fellow DC residents, at least those I associated with, the distinction was pretty clear - "Washington" referred to the nation's capital - the federal government and those who interact with it on a daily basis. Particularly those parts of it that are more transient and temporary. "The District" referred to the city that the rest of us lived in. Steakhouses were Washington, Ethiopian restaurants the District. The Kennedy Center was Washington, Woolly Mammoth was the District. If you worked at a national non-profit that helped the homeless, that was Washington; if you volunteered at a homeless shelter, that was the District. Interns came to Washington, 4th-generation residents lived in the District. Home Rule was a big issue for the District, never for Washington.

That was never as clear outside the city limits, and since I no longer live in DC I don't know if meanings have changed.

No, nothing's changed. You've pretty much nailed it.

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"Warshington" is a largely blue-collar, Maryland-based pronunciation that is fading as that demographic disappears and the mass media makes us all sound the same. Anybody who says "Warshington" probably knows where a good crab shack is, thinks the Redskins were never better than when Sonny Jurgenson was quarterbacking, and is likely to call you "hun."

Diane Rehm says "Warshington."

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But we will continue to call natives Washingtonians -- because Columbians does not work like Virginians. Nobody seems to have ever embraced this Columbia part of the name they stuck the city with. DCists won't work either.

So true about the Columbians moniker being discarded. Perhaps it has something to do with the crisp and unique sound of "District".

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So true about the Columbians moniker being discarded. Perhaps it has something to do with the crisp and unique sound of "District".

But we will continue to call natives Washingtonians -- because Columbians does not work like Virginians. Nobody seems to have ever embraced this Columbia part of the name they stuck the city with. DCists won't work either.

Or the fact that aurally one can't distinguish between "Columbians" and "Colombians"?

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