Dr. Know: Whence the Weird?

One of the main reasons I stayed in Portland is because of the quirky, one-of-a-kind sensibility summed up by our civic slogan, "Keep Portland Weird." But recently I heard that our quirky, one-of-a-kind slogan was ripped off from Austin. Say it ain't so, (Dr.) Know! —Joss Albatross

You'll be pleased to hear that "Keep Portland Weird" is all ours. Except for the "keep." And, you know, the "weird." But look on the bright side: all our other civic slogans—"Gateway to Despair," "Home of the Eight-Month November" and "Even Our Black People Are Pasty-Looking"—are 100 percent original.

"Austin was first," acknowledges Terry Currier, owner of Music Millennium. He's the man who brought weird-keeping to Portland in 2003, when the first K.P.W. stickers rolled off the press.

But lest you decide Currier is a skanky rip-off artist, be aware that the original "Keep Austin Weird" was never intended to be a unique, city-defining statement. Rather, it was part of a campaign by the Austin Independent Business Alliance that enjoined residents to spend their money at homegrown establishments. Essentially, it was a catchier way to say "buy local."

"I was following that issue…and my friend who owns Waterloo Records [in Austin] said, 'You have such an interest in it, why don't you do it up there?' So I did." Currier recalls he saw the lift not as biting Austin's style but as opening a second front in the war on soulless chain stores.

If it's any consolation, Joss, Portland isn't the only non-Austin city to adopt the "Keep ____ Weird" mantra. At least a dozen other towns have taken up the banner, including such zany, free-spirit burgs as Louisville, Indianapolis and Tampa. You know what they say: When one person copies you, it's plagiarism; when 50 people copy you, it's a movement.