Portland History Question
June 2, 2009 3:29 PM   Subscribe

Why is portland called PDX? (aside from it being the airport code)
posted by Nellebee to Society & Culture (14 answers total)
I think the airport code is reason. Why not? It's short and easy to say.

The airport codes used to be two letters:
To ease the transition, existing airports placed an X after the weather station code. The Los Angeles tag became LAX, Portland became PDX, Phoenix became PHX and so on.
posted by exogenous at 3:34 PM on June 2, 2009 [3 favorites]

Are you asking why the airport code is PDX, or why the city is referred to by it's airport code? But yeah, there's no easy way to shorten Portland so the airport code is a good one.
posted by ALongDecember at 3:35 PM on June 2, 2009

Lots of cities are called informally by their airport codes. Plenty of people refer to Los Angeles as LAX and San Francisco as SFO.
posted by pombe at 3:44 PM on June 2, 2009

I refuse to believe anybody refers to LA as LAX or SF as SFO unless they're talking about the airports- it's an extra letter. Saying PDX is stupid too because it's an extra syllable than Portland, but I guess it's "street" or something.
posted by ryaninoakland at 3:56 PM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

People who live in San Francisco pretty much never call it "SFO". Nor have I ever heard anyone who lives in LA call where they live "LAX". SFO has a very specific meaning for me - the airport. I am always confused by people who say they are "in SFO" and mean something other than at the airport.

Why some places have been colloquially labeled with their airport code and other places haven't may depend (wild-ass hypothesis ahead) on whether there's already an abbreviation available for use (e.g. SF) or not.

Also, PDX is shorter than Stumptown.
posted by gingerbeer at 4:02 PM on June 2, 2009

We do this for Des Moines, too. There isn't really a good abbreviation. Sure, there's DM, but who knows what that means? At least when we use DSM some people that don't live there will know exactly what we are talking about.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 4:03 PM on June 2, 2009

It also distinguishes Portland, Oregon from Portland, Maine. Meanwhile LAX is not the only airport you can use to fly into/ out of LA.
posted by furiousthought at 4:04 PM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Actually, I think I just stumbled on something there. If you just say "Portland", which one are you talking about? When you use "PDX", there is exactly one city that can be referred to in that way.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 4:04 PM on June 2, 2009

I've never heard SFO or LAX, especially since you can use SF and LA without much problem (sorry, Louisiana).

The other airport code/commonly used abbrevation pairs I can think of are PHX, ATL, DFW and STL. But in all those cases the airport codes align with a logical abbreviation of the actual city name. PDX seems somewhat unique, but I've definitely heard/seen it used plenty.
posted by mullacc at 4:24 PM on June 2, 2009

Yeah, there's no other abbreviation for Portland (other than stupid things like p-town, which is vague enough to be near meaningless). In (informal) emails or texts I'll use PDX because people know what it is and it's shorter than 'Portland.' I think there's also a slight 'cool factor' - you know enough about the city to know it's airport designation and know it's in use (slightly recursive).
posted by devilsbrigade at 5:08 PM on June 2, 2009

As someone who has lived in both Portlands, let me assure those hypothesizing above that a large part of the abbreviation's appeal definitely lies in its usefulness in distinguishing between the two. It's incredibly helpful in conversation, so much so that I've found myself referring to the other Portland as PWM on occasion, though only with people who know both airport codes.
posted by dizziest at 5:23 PM on June 2, 2009

FWIW, Buckminster Fuller created the original airport code system.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:39 PM on June 2, 2009

People rarely say "PDX"; it's a written abbreviation. It's mostly just said when reading the abbreviation once it's been written down. The older abbreviation is "Ptld."
posted by Casuistry at 8:48 AM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Casuistry: "People rarely say "PDX"; it's a written abbreviation. It's mostly just said when reading the abbreviation once it's been written down. The older abbreviation is "Ptld.""

posted by radioamy at 11:54 AM on June 3, 2009

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