WouldBurlington have become the coolest place on earth if it were namedBummerton? Maybenot. So isan unfortunate handle what's been holding back Rutland?
Thelack of a university and a scenic lake probably accounts more forRutland's rep than does a name with at least a couple ofnegative connotations. But if a do-over could be arranged, brandingspecialists would surely recommend calling the city, the town and thecounty something other than Land of Rut.
As ananonymous chatter pointed out in an online forum in 2010, the namesuggests "someplace people are stuck in and can't get out of.Either that, or horned animals having sex in the streets."
There'salso the Rutles.
FormerMonty Python member Eric Idle created this Beatles parody band forBBC television in the 1970s. He named the group for England'ssmallest county — a landlocked, nondescript placed viewed by hipLondoners as a sad-arse backwater. Yes, the Rutles came from Rutland.
Jokesabout mental depression, badly maintained roads and moose in heat are cracked only by those who "want to see it in a negative way,"objects Mike Coppinger, director of the Downtown Rutland Partnership."I've lived in Rutland all my life, and I've never perceived itlike that."
JimSabataso, editor of the weekly Rutland Reader, agrees that thelabel lends itself to "lazy jokes," but he acknowledgesthat "there's been a history of not loving the name."Residents have occasionally suggested at community meetings that arebranding might help improve the city's image, Sabataso reports.
A namechange isn't likely, however, so some local boosters have adopted thelemon/lemonade strategy of sweetening that which is sour. Rutlandmusician Rick Redington is generally credited, Sabataso says, withcoining the bumper-sticker declaration, "It isn't a rut. It's adeep groove."
Andwhat about RutVegas? Where did that nickname come from?
Coppingerand Sabataso both suggest it's based on the Route 7 strip of gasstations, car lots and fast-food drive-throughs. While it may not matchthe Las Vegas strip in glitter and glamour, RutVegas does inspire more than its fair share of irony.
Couldanother sort of strip — frequently performed in Las Vegas — be an inspiration as well? Sabataso notes thata topless club did do business in downtown Rutland at one point inthe '90s.
Warningto Burlington snobs: While it's OK for homies to refer to their ’hood as RutVegas, outsiders will court trouble if they're heard using theterm, Coppinger and Sabataso advised in separate interviews.
Unlikeother places examined in this series, there's no mystery or disputeregarding the origins of Rutland's official name. Jim Davidson, acurator for the Rutland Historical Society, explains that it'sderived from Rutland, Mass., the hometown of John Murray, who thefirst of the proprietors listed on a colonial charter given in 1761.
Murraywas no Ethan Allen, by the way. "He was a Tory," Davidsonpoints out. "He was on the wrong side of the AmericanRevolution."
Rutland may have a lot to live down,but things have been looking up for the city that advertisesitself as "Vermont's Hometown." With $2.5 million havingbeen invested downtown in the past two years, 90 percent of thefirst-floor retail space is now occupied, Coppinger reports. Plus,Rutland is developing a regional reputation for fine dining, he says.
Footnote: When my kids were little andwe lived in Orwell, they referred to the nearby city asRutty-tut-tut. Something for Rutlanders to consider if they ever decide to change the name of their fair burg.