Love or loathe it, city’s nickname is accurate for summer

Published 6/16/2008

Mike Bettes has lived in metro Atlanta 4 1/2 years. That’s long enough for him to wince when he goes out of town, tells people where he’s from and hears back, inevitably, “Oh, Hotlanta.”

“You roll your eyes a little bit [and say], ‘Yes ... Hotlanta,’ " Bettes said.

Ready for some irony?

Bettes, you may know, is a Weather Channel meteorologist. Particularly on steamy days like those that have plagued us of late, what do you think he calls our fair, if sweat-drenched, city?

(Hint: It’s not Terminus.)

“I guess we have nobody to blame but ourselves,” Bettes said with a laugh. “If there’s any one place that overuses that word, it’s the Weather Channel. I’m guilty as charged.”

Brace yourselves for a Hotlanta barrage. Bettes is calling for --- surprise! --- a hot summer.

Said Bettes, “So get ready for it, Hotlanta.”

(The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has itself hardly refrained from using Hotlanta, with hundreds of references over the years.)

Some people like it, some don’t care and some are like Dante Stephensen, owner of Dante’s Down the Hatch restaurant in Buckhead.

“I cringe,” he said. “I don’t like it.”

The term’s origin is unclear. The Allman Brothers Band produced a song titled “Hot ‘Lanta” in 1971. Bill Howard, a spokesman for the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau, said he remembers hearing the term in the 1960s.

Steve Wise, who during that time was on staff with the Great Speckled Bird, an underground Atlanta newspaper, guessed it was coined in the late ’60s. He figures it might have been the creation of a radio DJ.

“I think it’s a play on [words],” he said. “Atlanta gets pretty hot in the summertime and also it was just a way to promote the rock ‘n’ roll scene here, basically.”

Its meaning now depends on whom you ask.

“We take it that it’s nice, that Atlanta’s a happening place and there’s stuff to do,” said Matt Mashburn, a native Atlantan.

Bettes disagrees, of course.

“Being a meteorologist, I never equated it to nightlife or anything like that, which I guess was its original intention,” he said. “I always equated summer heat with Hotlanta. That was the only use of it I ever knew.”

What certainly appears true is that it gets more use outside Atlanta, in a similar vein to how no true Bostonian would ever refer to home as “Beantown.”

That may be the cause of the aggravation.

When Mashburn hears someone use Hotlanta, he doesn’t mind, but says it’s akin to when someone calls and asks for him using his first name, Thomas, instead of Matt, which is his middle name and preference.

“You know they’re not a close friend,” said Mashburn. “If someone says ‘Hotlanta,’ you know that they didn’t grow up in Atlanta. It’s not good or bad, it’s somebody trying to be familiar with you that’s not.”

Not everyone would agree.

Lunching at the Perimeter Mall food court earlier this week, Ann Carreker and Shannon Henry, both raised in Atlanta, said they use the term.

Carreker, of Atlanta, said she uses it when talking to gentleman friends who live out of town.

“I say, ‘You know you want to come here to Hotlanta,’ " she said.

Said Henry, of Decatur, “I’ve used ‘the ATL’ more than Hotlanta, but Hotlanta sounds better.”

To them, Hotlanta represents the culture and nightlife, as well as the weather.

Bo Spalding, co-principal of the public relations firm Jackson Spalding and a fourth-generation Atlantan, said he uses it “all the time,” albeit mostly with people who don’t live here.

“I actually like the term, because it speaks to Atlanta being a vibrant town where things are happening,” he said.

The ACVB, Atlanta’s tourism arm, has never used it as an official marketing theme, although it’s considered it, said Howard.

Even still, he said, “It’s something that’s stuck with us.”

Now there’s a slogan.

THE SUMMER FORECAST

Would you believe that the summer might actually be a little cooler than usual?

Of course, that’s a little like calling a $3.50 gallon of gas cheaper than usual. Regardless, Mike Griesinger, meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said there’s a 40 percent chance that temperatures this summer will be below normal, with about 30 percent chance each for normal and above normal. He defined normal as highs in the high 80s, low 90s. But, he said, “In the end, we’ll probably end up pretty close to normal.” (As for the drought breaking, he said, “The only thing that will do that is if we get a tropical system.”)

--- Ken Sugiura

DON’T MESS WITH ‘ATLANTA’

For a professional opinion on Atlanta’s nicknames, we went to Robin Yates, an Atlanta expert. Atlanta, Texas, that is. Yates is the manager of the Atlanta (Texas) Area Chamber of Commerce.

Hotlanta: “I have never heard that before. I don’t like it. I don’t know, it just doesn’t sound very nice.”

A-Town: “That’s pretty good. I like that one. It just sounds a lot better than Hotlanta.”

The ATL: “I like that. Our school (Atlanta High School) uses that a lot. It has a lot of school spirit to it.”

The Big Peach: “That’s what Atlanta’s known for. ... It has a nice ring to it.”

As for what people call Atlanta, Texas, a city of about 5,000 roughly 150 miles east of Dallas: “We just call it Atlanta.”

--- Ken Sugiura

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