The City Formerly Known As Turns out change can be a good thing. In this quiz, contestants guess a U.S. city's current name, given the name it used to go by.

The City Formerly Known As

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JONATHAN COULTON: From NPR and WNYC, coming to you from the Bell House in beautiful Brooklyn, N.Y., it's NPR's hour of puzzles, word games and trivia, ASK ME ANOTHER. I'm Jonathan Coulton. Now here's your host, Ophira Eisenberg.



Hey, everybody. Welcome to the show. Great to see you.


EISENBERG: Yeah. It's after New Year's.


EISENBERG: Yeah, 2020. I'm trying to downsize.

COULTON: You're getting rid of some stuff?

EISENBERG: I'm getting rid of stuff, too. Are you getting rid of stuff?

COULTON: Yeah. It's usually my wife's stuff that I want to get rid of.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) Do you tell her that you're getting rid of it?

COULTON: Yeah, most of the time.


COULTON: No, I don't tell - most of the time, what I say is, do we need this thing? - I say in a very high-pitched...

EISENBERG: Yes. And does she look at it and go, wait a second. What are you doing with that?

COULTON: Yeah. Yeah. No, that's precious. We need that. I'm going to fix that, she says.

EISENBERG: I'm going to fix that. Oh, no. It's broken.

COULTON: Do we need this broken thing? No, I'm going to fix that.

EISENBERG: Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Yeah. And then just slowly, you...

COULTON: I just move it further and further out of the room until it's in the basement. And then once everybody's forgotten about it, it goes in the garbage.


COULTON: I'm just trying to get rid of stuff in my inbox, frankly (laughter). I am trying to unsubscribe from every store. And yes, you're nodding your head because you have too many emails. Can we agree that it's easier to get a divorce than to unsubscribe from a mailing list?

Oh, my God. Why is that so hard? I bought a bath mat from you once. You know, we're not in a real relationship, OK? But every time, you're, like, I've got to get out of here, there's an exit interview - super desperate. Why are you leaving? Why are you leaving? Too many messages? Is my content irrelevant? Do you not recall signing up? Oh, I recall. I recall.


EISENBERG: Our special guest is singer, actor, model Luke James.


EISENBERG: Yeah. Luke James opened for Beyonce. And technically, I'm opening for him. So technically, I've opened for Beyonce.


EISENBERG: And you guys by third degree have seen Beyonce in a bar in Brooklyn. So...


EISENBERG: Well done, everybody. Luke James is very impressive, but I think the most impressive thing about him is that he looks fantastic in a bucket hat.


EISENBERG: You can't do that. Not everyone can do that. If I put on a bucket hat, I look like a combo of Blossom and a sad fisherman, all right?


EISENBERG: They should call bucket hats what they are - good for the really, really young or very, very old. People have described Luke James' music as the perfect music to make out to. You know what I like hearing when I make out? Applause.


EISENBERG: Just a slow, sarcastic clap.


EISENBERG: That's it. I'm ready to French, people.


COULTON: Is that what you say during make-outs?

EISENBERG: That's what I say.

COULTON: OK, I'm ready to French.

EISENBERG: Yeah, again. And I say people because I usually have a few different...


EISENBERG: ...Possibilities...


EISENBERG: ...Lined up just in case.

COULTON: You don't want to cut off any options.

EISENBERG: Who knows? Sometimes, things just change.

COULTON: You never know.

EISENBERG: So we have four brilliant contestants. They're backstage right now determining how many self-help books one needs to read before they can consider themselves helped.


EISENBERG: And one of them will be our big winner, and the other three can buy another book. So let's play some games, everybody.


EISENBERG: Our first two contestants will play a game about cities' original names. I call it Where in the World is Carmen San Miguel? First up, Sarah Sandkuhler. You're a lab technician at the Columbia University Medical Center.


EISENBERG: All right. And your - you recently moved your lab from Rochester...


EISENBERG: ...To Columbia.

SANDKUHLER: That's right.

EISENBERG: So - and you were saying you were finding really weird things people left behind.

SANDKUHLER: I was. So we're moving into - we moved into temporary lab space, which people apparently sort of took as an excuse to just abandon all the stuff they didn't want, which included refrigerator doors filled with human eyes.


EISENBERG: Human eyes.


EISENBERG: So what do you do with leftover eyes?

SANDKUHLER: Call the biohazardous waste disposal people (laughter).

EISENBERG: Yeah. And they show up, and they take them away?

SANDKUHLER: Yes, thankfully (laughter).


COULTON: It's a good job.

EISENBERG: Where are they now?

COULTON: I don't know.

EISENBERG: All right. Sarah, when you ring in, we'll hear this.


EISENBERG: Your opponent is Paul Alexander from Toronto, Ontario, where you are a criminal defense lawyer.

PAUL ALEXANDER: That is true.

EISENBERG: Paul, you are in "The Guinness Book Of World Records."



ALEXANDER: So I'm in a band, and our band somehow got involved in what is now in "The Guinness Book Of World Records" as the longest-ever concert by multiple artists.

EISENBERG: OK. So wait a second. So what did you have to fulfill?

ALEXANDER: Well, there were 18 and a quarter days of continuous music. Each band had a one-hour set. There could be no more than five minutes between bands and I think no more than 30 seconds between songs in a band's set.


ALEXANDER: And you had to go a certain number of songs before there could be a repeat.

EISENBERG: What time did your band play?

ALEXANDER: We got the 6 p.m. slot on the last day.

EISENBERG: Oh, that's the best (laughter).


EISENBERG: And were there people in the audience?

ALEXANDER: Yeah, it was crammed.

EISENBERG: Yeah, of course.

ALEXANDER: I mean, the pub was the size of this stage, so it was going to be crammed even if...

SANDKUHLER: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: Regardless - with just the members of the band.


EISENBERG: That sounds really fun. Paul, when you ring in, we'll hear this.


EISENBERG: Sarah and Paul, whoever has more points after two games will go to our final round. This trivia game is called The City Formerly Known As. In this game, we're going to imagine what would happen if American cities stuck with their earlier names or the names of the settlements they grew from. Just ring in and identify the city. It's the city so nice, they named it after a place in the Netherlands. You know what they say - anything can happen in a New Amsterdam minute.




EISENBERG: Yeah, New York City. That's right.


COULTON: Want to avoid the Vegas crowds? Come to the biggest little city in the world and the setting for the comedy series "Lake's Crossing 911!"




COULTON: Reno, Nev. That's right.


EISENBERG: Yo, Adrian (ph). When I'm done running up the steps of the Shackamaxon art museum, let's go to Pat's and grab a Shackamaxon steak sandwich wit' (ph) onions.



ALEXANDER: Philadelphia.

EISENBERG: Philadelphia's correct. Yeah.


COULTON: Step up your mail-order meat game by unpacking a box of Cutler's Park steaks while watching an episode of "Mutual Of Cutler's Park's Wild Kingdom" in the city Warren Buffett calls home.




COULTON: Omaha, Neb. - you got it.


EISENBERG: I'm still mad that HBO only gave one season to the show "John From Losantiville." Now all I have is my VHS recordings of "WKRP In Losantiville."



ALEXANDER: Cincinnati.

EISENBERG: Cincinnati's correct.


EISENBERG: Yeah. According to The New York Times, Cincinnati was settled opposite of the mouth of the Licking River. It's a good name - the Licking River.

COULTON: Licking River.

EISENBERG: The original name, Losantiville, comes from the letter L for the Licking River plus O-S, which is Greek for mouth, plus anti, meaning opposite (laughter). According to legend, this name was changed because the governor thought it was awful.


COULTON: It was for Licking opposite mouth is what the...

EISENBERG: Licking opposite mouth.


EISENBERG: Yeah. And the governor was, like, uh-uh. We're going to change that.

COULTON: And the one guy was, like, no.


EISENBERG: It's my favorite.

COULTON: (Laughter). You could be your weird self in The Clearing, Oregon's biggest city and the setting of Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen's "The Clearing-ia" (ph).



SANDKUHLER: "Portlandia." Portland (laughter).

COULTON: Portland, Ore., is correct.


EISENBERG: Here's your last clue. Too bad ABBA never performed their song "Waterloo" at a Waterloo City Limits concert in this Texas state capital.




EISENBERG: Austin, Texas - that's right.


EISENBERG: Turns out Paul did great in that game about American cities, and he is in the lead.


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