What the hell is The Bucket?
November 21, 2012 11:49 AM   Subscribe

Some online mapping services (Apple, Bing, etc.) refer to an area of Northwest Portland as "The Bucket", but as far as I know, The Bucket doesn't exist. Is this an example of a copyright trap?

I first noticed this on Apple's new maps in iOS 6. Bing does it, too: an area of Northwest Portland is referred to as "The Bucket". Searches for "portland 'the bucket'" suggest that in some mapping/real-estate database somewhere, "The Bucket" is a neighborhood in Portland.

I'm a third-generation Portlander, my wife's family has been here even longer, and no one in our family had ever heard this area referred to as "The Bucket". I've asked friends, co-workers, reference librarians, and no one has ever heard of it.

My current theory is that "The Bucket" is a copyright trap. If so, whose trap is it? Does The Bucket exist on any paper maps?

Does anyone know anything about this? Is it a neighborhood name I don't know about? Is it a cartographer's trick?
posted by sportbucket to Technology (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Given the results of the searches linked above, it seems that The Bucket occupies a portion (or all?) of the Pearl. Perhaps it's a pejorative for those who don't like the Pearl? I've often heard it's too snooty or whatever.

Anyway it certainly could also be a copyright trap but I cannot confirm.
posted by brony at 11:52 AM on November 21, 2012

Portlander here; sounds hilarious, but I've never heard of it. I'm totally willing to start using it in casual conversation.

It looks like the area they've called The Bucket is close to replacing the area my partner and I would refer to as Slabtown.
posted by redsparkler at 12:02 PM on November 21, 2012

Willamette Week, a Portland alternative weekly, has an article from 2001 that says the name "the bucket" for the area "...from Northwest 14th to 18th Avenues, from Glisan to Northrup Streets — basically everything under the long shadow of I-405" started as a local jokey nickname for the neighborhood.
posted by RichardP at 12:29 PM on November 21, 2012

Holy crap, you found it. Nice work!
Northwest 16th and Marshall is its very own outpost with its very own sensibility ... but without its very own neighborhood nickname. ... Now, when people ask ... Brodie & Co will say, "We're in The Bucket." He explains: "It just seemed right for being under the highway. Plus we just like saying 'In the heart of The Bucket'."
How in the world did this hyper-local jokey nickname end up on Bing Maps?
posted by sportbucket at 12:46 PM on November 21, 2012

FWIW, I noticed that Apple Maps has some similarly weird and jokey neighborhood names in San Francisco (e.g. "Baja Noe" and "Transmission"). I suspect the map creator software saw an empty space that needed filling, and pulled out whatever name some data source could provide, with nobody "on the ground" involved. Just a guess, though.
posted by xil at 12:55 PM on November 21, 2012

The best version of this in SF is La Lengua — a name made up by a blogger for the tongue-shaped part of the Mission between Bernal and Glen Park, which the boy & I use all the time now.
posted by dame at 1:03 PM on November 21, 2012

How in the world did this hyper-local jokey nickname end up on Bing Maps?

I did a little GIS detective work. I think Urban Mapping is the common source for this neighborhood name. They have a Neighborhood Boundaries database that is "collected and aggregated from a wide variety of primary and secondary sources. We heavily rely on local experts, the hospitality, travel, retail and real estate industries, local media and city and municipality planning administrators." They license this data to third-party developers. For example, city-data.com uses Urban Mapping data, and they have an entry for The Bucket in Portland. Both Apple (for iOS Maps) and Microsoft (for Bing) acknowledge that they currently license Urban Mapping's neighborhood database.
posted by RichardP at 1:26 PM on November 21, 2012 [6 favorites]

I found two mentions of The Bucket in Willamette Week, one from 2001 (already mentioned by RichardP), and another from 2002. The Portland Tribune has another mention from 2004:
'It was quieter here three years ago, but it's still a quiet little nook,' Brodie says. 'The freeway will always be there and give it this distinct feel. We started calling it 'the bucket' around here when nobody knew where it was. We felt it needed a name.'
So it seems it was coined around the turn-of-the-century, but faded from use pretty quickly. It somehow lives on in Urban Mapping's (and thus Apple's, and Bing's, and others') mapping data.
posted by sportbucket at 2:07 PM on November 21, 2012

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