Does a Map Based on Urban Dictionary Entries Point to our Future?

Petaluma is on the map. At least it’s on a map created by comic cartographer Sasha Trubetskoy who turned to crowd-sourced online slang repository UrbanDictionary.com when crafting his map of “The Bay Area According to urban Dictionary.”

Instead of landmarks, Trubetskoy worked with the posted “definitions” of Urban Dictionary users to mark territories. Petaluma, a.k.a., “The Real P-Town,” faired relatively well in the satire boasting such user-generated plaudits as “pretty chill people.” “hip lately,” and “becoming a tourist spot.” Though Petaluma is indeed populated by pretty chill people, the last two bits read more ominous than praiseworthy. Hipness, socio-economically-speaking, is often the precursor to higher housing costs, not to mention pretentious coffee and rampant beards. “Tourist spot” is likewise troublesome since the schemes to exploit travelers often end up exploiting the locals as well (how much did your pretentious coffee cost you this morning? Just say’n).

That said, the worst the map attributes to Petaluma was a phrase on the east side of town near the base of Sonoma Mountain: “Absolutely nothing happens here.” And that’s totally true if you’ve yet to turn 30. After that, nothing continues to happen but you no longer have the will to care about it.

The nickname, however, has generated controversy online as to Petaluma’s legitimacy as The Real P-Town.

“There seems to be quite the Urban Dictionary debate surrounding who is, in fact, the legit P-Town,” Trubetskoy recently wrote in a thread on Internet clearinghouse Reddit, under the category “Map Porn.” Pleasanton, for example, which is ascribed the nickname “P-Town” without “The Real,” seems resigned to it’s illegitimacy.

“I laughed at P-Town and The Real P-Town being as I’m from the non-real P-Town,” writes a user named Azmanz.

A user from Massachusetts contends that Provincetown is the Real P-Town by dint of its age since it was founded in 1727 (Petaluma wouldn’t incorporate until 131 years later). Portland, which some contend suffers from Bay Area-envy is also a candidate.

Overall, Petaluma managed to avoid being pilloried Urban Dictionary users, where definitions can often be quite cutting. Our southernly neighbor Novato, for example, was intentionally mislabeled as “Nevada” and precedes the Real P-Town on Highway 101 with “seven exits of nothing” and “high teens.” Another area of Marin County is described as having “more hybrid cars than black people.”

Naturally, looming large over all of Sonoma County is the legend “Sonoma Aroma” (a reference to the persistent smell of cow poop those who live here can no longer smell) and abuts the city of Sonoma, which garnered simply “old people sampling wine” in a large font. If the “tourist spot” notion sticks, perhaps someday we’ll have our own old people sampling wine (but that’s what hipsters grow into, right?).

Daedalus Howell is the author of Quantum Deadline, a darkly comic sci-fi crime novel, set in Lumaville. Also, you’ll never believe the strange goings-on at DaedalusHowell.com.