Referring to a city by its airport code

This thread got me thinking about this. In the six years I have lived in Portland, I have been baffled by why people refer to this city as “PDX,” after the city’s airport. No offense to anyone, but I think it’s retarded.

So, why? “PDX” has more syllables than “Portland.” Or is it to avoid the agony of having to type five extra characters?

Do the people of any other major metro areas do this?

My mother refers to her city as JAX, but we usually only talk about it in the context of my airport arrival.

I think they do it because there’s a lot of "Portland"s in the USA, and the airport codes are unique.
The only other citizens of a city I’ve noticed doing this is Milwaukee. I don’t know why they do it.

Hipsters do it in Columbus. It makes me want to punch them.

Maybe to differentiate it from the other major Portland? I’ve never heard of any city referred to by its airport code. Most major cities have multiple airports anyway.

I don’t know about “major metro area” (population is just over 200,000), but younger Aberdonians - maybe up to 40 y.o. - will typically refer to Aberdeen, UK, as “ABZ”. This is definitely a reference to the airport code. Very common in texts and emails - I’ve never heard it in conversation.

I think it reflects a general tendency to shorten words.

My first thought upon reading that you live in Portland was, “Which one?” Porvidin either the airport code or the state tells me that info.

I don’t know of any other city that does that, however, off the top of my head. Here in Chicago, for example, we’d have at least two to choose from, and plugging “CHI” into most travel websites will search on flights out of both ORD and MDW.

I assume you mean CMH and not CSG, but I don’t know any hipsters in Columbus OH, and perhaps therefore don’t know anyone who even refers to the airport as CMH: it’s “the airport” or “Port Columbus”.

I’ve seen this done for PDX, DFW, HOU, SFO, MIA, and ATL.

I was just noticing that the trend seems to be pronounced in the NBA. Both Suns and Hawks have their airport abbreviation on their floor/uniforms (at least some of the time). Do the Trailblazers?

Come down Gay Street. There’s enough tight black jeans and fixies to make me want to get all stabby.

The X stands for the unknown, or the strange.

I live outside of the vast metropolis that is Portland and I always read PDX as Pretty Damn Strange.

Do people really get confused over the two Portlands? The one in Maine is so small, I’d think that the default city people think of would be the one in Oregon. But maybe I think that because I’ve lived on the West Coast all my life.

Never happens in Fresno.

Bob and Tom (syndicated morning radio show) has a reoccurring character, Kenny Tarmac, who is an obnoxious yuppie salesman type always at the airport. He is constantly talking too loud on his cell, and referring to the cities he visits by their airport code.

For them to do reoccurring comedy bit about the airport code thing, it must be a prevalent enough practice to be found funny /obnoxious in real life.

I do it, but mostly because my major client right now is an airline, and that’s just how everyone speaks. I actually try not to do it when not talking to work people, but sometimes it slips.

Yeah, unfortunate identifier.


I do it because the first message board I was on had lots of people using their city followed by a variant of Cane, and I didn’t want to be MilwaukeeCane. My dad worked for an airline, so I picked up the airport code for Milwaukee for my name. This was back in '02 or so I’d guess. I use MKE just for the shorthand when writing, but never refer to it as “the M K E” or anything like that. For example, I’m taking a road trip in a couple months to see some friends in different cities. When I was sorting out the dates, it was easier to just write the three letters for the cities I’ll be visiting than repeating Milwaukee over and over when I emailed the various parties involved.

There was also a free weekly newspaper here a few years ago called MKE, so that may be why others have picked up on it. I’m not sure why the paper picked that name, though, and it’s now defunct.

I don’t use airport identifiers when I’m talking about a city; but it’s easier to type SMO or SFO instead of Santa Monica or San Francisco when I’m writing an email.

I only do that for Sioux City “SUX,” Iowa.

I can’t recall when people started using PDX for the city. I think it started in the 90s when adding an X to everything made it sound cooler. It is so prevalent here that I don’t think of the airport as PDX, the city is PDX. The airport is the airport in PDX, or Portland International.