"London, England" Syndrome

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London, England. Not to be confused with London, Ontario.

There are a great deal of American cities and towns named after places from Europe: mostly British places, but French, German, Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch names crop up across the USA, not to mention numerous variations and simplifications of Native American spellings. This reflects the USA's origins as being colonized by people from across the world. Interestingly enough, lots of major American cities are far bigger than their European counterparts ever were (Cleveland, Boston, Stockton, Rochester and Portland are the most obvious examples, and the only two major exceptions are Birmingham and Manchester).

Unfortunately, this results in some confusion and frustration for many Americans. Since the USA is big and absolutely full of cities, and many of these cities have similar if not identical names (for instance, there are nine states that have a city named "Dallas"), Americans often describe an American location as "City Name", State", and describe a foreign location as "City Name, Country" to parallel that. This works well in the USA, but becomes rather jarring and annoying for foreigners, who find it annoying that after being shown Tower Bridge, the Houses of Parliament, and St Paul's Cathedral all in one shot, they still need to say "London, England."

In France, the tendency is to ram the identifier into the town name itself, so one gets places like Saint-Marie-Sur-Aube and Saint-Marie-Sur-Orne and Saint-Marie-En-Provence, etc. The American equivalent would be if towns were actually named "Springfield-in-Massachusetts" and "Springfield-in-Illinois."[1] Some British towns, such as Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Stratford-upon-Avon and Berwick-upon-Tweed, follow this scheme as well (though in that case the upon- always comes before the name of a river that goes through the city), as well as Frankfurt am Main in Germany (which most people know only as Frankfurt, anyway, as Frankfurt an der Oder isn't nearly as important). The logical equivalent in America for this would be hypothetical city names such as "New-York-Upon-Hudson" and "Washington-Upon-Potomac."

The Japanese equivalent is to rename a town or city that shares its name with a more famous counterpart so that it also includes the name of the ancient province. Nagano City in Osaka had the same name as that other Nagano (the one with all the skiing), so they changed it to Kawachi-Nagano. Happens a lot with similarly-named train stations, too.

A slightly different form is sometimes used: Americans from small towns will usually specify their state simply to give a general idea of what region they're from. If someone says he is from Miamisburg, Ohio, it isn't because there's another Miamisburg out there (there isn't, as far as we know), but because people from other states have no idea where in the world Miamisburg is. The foreign equivalent might be for someone from a small town to give the name of the nearest major city.

Gets used in the Title In a lot. An example of Creator Provincialism. Often mocked, although it's still a popular trope. Named by Bill Bryson. The Other Wiki has a list of the most commonly used city names.

In case you were wondering, there are twelve U.S. states that have a "London." (And one "New London"[2]).

Examples of "London, England" Syndrome include:

Comic Books[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Played with in an early Cable story where Cable goes on a date with Domino:

Cable: Well, it was either this or big macs in Paris.
Domino: I like Paris.
Cable: Paris, Oklahoma?

Film[edit | hide]

Joe: Cairo... that's in Egypt."

    • A similar, but more extreme, parody occurred for years in the Canadian radio series As It Happens - something of a mixture of 60 Minutes and The Daily Show, with a small bit of A Prairie Home Companion thrown in - which, regardless of the context, when discussing locations in the British Isles would always give the name of the location, and its exact distance from Reading.
  • Subverted in the movie Paris Texas. A man is going around with a photograph telling people it is of Paris, even though it is clear that the photo shows a desert landscape.
    • Incidentally, the real Paris, Texas looks nothing like what is shown in the photo. Paris, Texas the movie is shot in the deserts of West Texas, which is all rugged desert, while Paris, Texas the city is in East Texas, which is mostly grass plains and forest.
  • Country-based example from Transformers: "Qatar, The Middle East".
  • Played with in Road Trip, where "Austin, Texas" morphs into "Boston, Massachusetts" and several variations on those. The trailing state doesn't seem to do much to help locate the town in question.
  • In the movie Mississippi Masala, when Demetrius is taking Meena to meet his family this happens. When Meena says she is from India, his great-uncle asks if she means Indianola, Mississippi.
  • A "Cairo, Egypt" label appears in The Mummy Returns. Yes, a series that takes place almost entirely in Egypt still feels the need to specify "Cairo, Egypt."
    • However, possibly because there's no other Hamunaptra and possibly because it's such a pivotal location, no labels tell us that Hamunaptra is in Egypt.
  • Parodied in John Cleese's made-for-TV film The Strange Case of the End of Civilization As We Know It, in which a dim-witted US President (a No Celebrities Were Harmed version of Gerald Ford) orders a secret service agent to catch "the first plane to London, France."
  • Parodied in Orgazmo, where the opening shot is the Hollywood sign followed by the caption "Hollywood, California".
  • Deliberately averted in the title of the movie The Cars That Ate Paris, which is set in Paris, Australia.
  • J.B. travels to Hollywoods all across America before he gets to Hollywood, California.
  • Scotland, PA takes place in modern-day Scotland, PA instead of Macbeth's Scotland.
  • The gays-and-Italians comedy Mambo Italiano plays with this trope as part of its Old World in the New World theme.

Angelo [on the phone to a customer of the travel agency he works for] Yes, I apologize, but... I know your client is in the U.K. But you didn't say Glasgow, you insisted on New Glasgow. That's north of Montreal. So I chartered a bus. I say New Glasgow. You misunderstood. I don't mean to be confrontational, but there is no New Glasgow in Scotland. Well, no, they don't need a new one, they have the old one. It's actually quite simple. You see, many years ago people from Glasgow, Glasconians, left the old Glasgow and they came here. And they built a new Glasgow. And they called it New Glasgow because it was new. According to theoretical physics, eventually we'll be able to fold space so that the new Glasgow will overlap the old Glasgow. But until then, let me assure you that they are quite different places. Did I mention that New Glasgow just got waterslides? Those are fun.

    • His dad explains the naming misconceptions involved in a simple immigration:

Gino: Nobody told us there was two America: the real one, United State, and the fake one, Canada. Then, to make matter even worse, there's two Canada: the real one, Ontario, and the fake one, Quebec.

  • Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear opens on a pan of Washington, D.C., then focuses onto the White House when a helpful "The White House" pops up on screen, followed several seconds later by "Washington, D.C."

Literature[edit | hide]

  • The Bourne Ultimatum: Conklin has to point out he wants Vienna, Virginia instead of Vienna, Austria.
  • The Dan Brown novel Angels & Demons did a similar joke with Geneva.
  • Most of those "solve-the-mystery" books (including Encyclopedia Brown, of course) have at least one where the key to solving the mystery is knowing that there are apparently cities named Athens, Jerusalem, Palestine or Paris in Texas. It's always one of those four, and more importantly, it's always in Texas.
  • In American Gods the main character spends some time in Cairo, Illinois, and meets some beings from the other Cairo.
  • A plot point in one of Agatha Christie's Tommy and Tuppence stories is that there are two towns in England called Maldon; one in Surrey and one in Sussex. The characters know of Maldon, Surrey, so don't bother reading the "Maldon, Su..." address on a telegram properly, Only later does Tuppence realize that the telegraph office only give the county if they need to specify between two places with the same name. (The real town of Maldon is in Essex, however.)
  • In Cordwainer Smith's "Instrumentality" series, one of the most important cities on Earth is "Meeyameefla," obviously meant to be Miami, Fla. - note that FL is the more common abbreviation of Florida since ZIP codes were introduced.
    • But thanks to Lou Reed, to a lot of people it's always going to be "Miami, F-L-A".
  • In James Blish's classic Cities In Flight series, Earth's cities, fitted with antigravity generators and spacedrives, roam the Galaxy looking for work. Nevertheless, they still use names like "Chicago, Illinois" or "Scranton, Pennsylvania". This even becomes a plot point when one character spots the error in a city's name and realizes it's actually an alien battlestation.
  • In Piers Anthony's THE MACROSCOPE, an amateur astrologer, on being told that the subject was born in Philadelphia, feels the need to ask "Pennsylvania or Mississippi?"
  • In the Bunnicula book Return to Howliday Inn, one dog is happy to hear that his owner is in London, probably sipping tea with the Queen and everything. He is then informed that London is a town just over the border of the next state.
  • In the Tom Holt novel Here Comes The Sun, a trainee weather spirit manages to get the Nile to flood Memphis, Tennessee.

Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • When Torchwood (previously set almost exclusively in Cardiff) became a joint production involving the American Starz network as well as BBC Wales, the setting of the fourth series Torchwood: Miracle Day was expanded to span both the UK and US, and the trope was applied to both American and British locations.
  • In an All in The Family' episode, Archie loses his Christmas bonus after he messes up a shipment meant for London, Ontario.
  • In In the Heat of the Night, Sidney Poitier's character Virgil Tibbs is questioned as to where he resides:

Tibbs: Philadelphia.
Police Chief Gillespie: Philadelphia, Mississippi?
Tibbs: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

  • Inverted on One Life to Live, blue-blooded matriarch Vicki (then Davidson) decides she needs to go on a trip to find herself and get her head together. When she calls her family, she tells them she's in Paris. Instead of clarifying, she deliberately lets them think she's in the famous Paris, rather than working as a diner waitress in Paris, Texas.
  • In a 3rd Rock from the Sun episode, the Big Giant Head threatened to send Dick to Mars if he failed at something:

Dick: Oh, well, Mars isn't too bad.
Big Giant Head: Not that Mars!
Dick: Nooo!

  • The mystery show Eerie, Indiana.
  • Heroes is rather bad at this. Not to mention a teleported character being described as "Somewhere in Africa" (which, to be charitable, might have been intended to reflect his own confusion), and another Title In informing us that Peter is in Cork, Ireland, there is a whole subplot set in Odessa, Ukraine - apparently just for the sake of a joke, since Noah is from Odessa, Texas.
  • MST3K mocked this once when a caption said "Illinois, USA". As opposed to Illinois, Mongolia.
  • Played with in Monty Python's Flying Circus in the Cycling Tour episode when any time a city is mentioned it cuts away to Eric Idle in a military uniform standing in front of a map and pointing out the city's distance from 3 unrelated cities around Europe. By the third or fourth time he's eventually told to shut up by the characters in the sketch.
  • Played with in an episode of M* A* S* H where Maj. Winchester is attempting to get a call through to Boston. The Running Gag throughout that episode is that the person he's talking to attempts to clarify his references to Boston with "Boston Massachusetts?", causing him to become progressively more annoyed in his response.

Maj. Winchester: Yes, Massachusetts, you geographic whiz.
Maj. Winchester: (through gritted teeth) No! It's spending the weekend in Florida!

    • Crowned during the episode's denoument, during which he is finally able to send a sober and confessional telegram to his sister, as dictated over the phone to the telegraph operator:

Maj. Winchester: ... to Honoria Winchester, Beacon Hill, Boston. [beat, then with a defeated air] Ye-es, Massachusetts.

  • Averted in Jericho; going on the title alone you'd have no idea it took place in the United States, let alone Kansas.
  • Mentioned in an episode of Full House when Jesse's grandfather suddenly passes away during a visit. His body is being flown back home for the funeral, and Jesse tells the others that he needs to make sure the airline sends him to Athens, Greece, instead of Athens, Georgia.
  • Averted in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., which regularly used scene-setting "Somewhere In (Insert Place Here") captions.
  • Picket Fences had an episode that dealt with The Pope going to Rome. Not Rome in Italy but Rome, Wisconsin (the setting for the show).
  • The 'gives the name of their State as well as their small town name for context' is poked fun at in Harry and Paul with the eccentric American tourist couple Ronald and Pam who always introduce themselves a being from Badiddlyboing, Odawidaho.
  • In one episode of The Lucy Show, Lucy takes the trope even further by specifying that she's taking a trip to "London, England, In Europe."
  • Night Court: Dan's grandfather named the tiny town of Paris, Louisiana where Dan grew up, after the city he was station in during World War I - Paris Illinois, that is.

Music[edit | hide]

  • There's an obscure Halloween song called Redneck Dracula about a vampire from Transylvania, Kentucky.

Newspaper Comics[edit | hide]

  • Subverted in For Better or For Worse when Michael was a student in London, Ontario; since the Patterson family lives in that province, Lynn Johnston deliberately didn't specify it, knowing a lot of readers would think he was studying in England.

Professional Wrestling[edit | hide]

  • Pro wrestling announcers are really terrible about this. Regardless of how long they've been in the company, how often they've played the Evil Foreigner, or how obvious they are about it, the announcer always makes sure to mention they're from "Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada" or "Swansea, Wales, UK." The most frustrating is Ezekiel Jackson, who is announced as being from "Guyana, South America."

Theater[edit | hide]

  • In Hair Claude has a song about "Manchester England England."

Web Original[edit | hide]

  • In this Not Always Right story, a foreigner learns that there's a reason why Americans do this—to his frustration. He just wanted to make fun!
  • Played with subtly in the Homestar Runner flash game "Where's An Egg?". Although most of the details in the game suggest that it takes place in Soviet-era Moscow, the manual states that the protagonist is actually part of the Boise police. That might seem odd, since Boise is the capital of Idaho, but it is actually a sly reference to the city of Moscow, Idaho.

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • The Simpsons parodied this. Apu tells of his vacation plans to see Paris... in fact, several Parises, including Hilton, Texas, and France. They also revel in its avoidance when discussing Springfield and which state it is (or isn't) in. By the way, assuming it were a real American town, it could be any of 28 Springfields in 24 states (Wisconsin has five).
  • In one episode of Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego??, the detectives figure out they need to head to a river that's between Cairo and Memphis. When they arrive at the Nile, they find out they should have gone to the Mississippi.

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • As noted above, the name was coined by Bill Bryson. He discussed it in an essay in which he suggested that the stereotypically lower intelligence of Americans compared to people of other nationalities is not down to some sort of racial defect, but a result of Americans being regularly freed from any need to think, ever. This trope, he argued, is one way in which American newspaper-readers are not required to cognitively exert themselves in the same way that British newspaper-readers are.
  • Miami University is almost universally known as "Miami of Ohio" to distinguish it from the much more famous University of Miami in Florida.
    • Somewhat ironic given that, as students and alumni of the university are often proud to declare, "there was a Miami in Ohio when Florida still belonged to Spain" (Miami University in Oxford, Ohio - itself an example of this trope - was established in 1809, Florida was ceded by Spain to the United States in 1819, the city of Miami was settled in 1825, and the University of Miami was established in 1925). As so many entries on this wiki attest, being the first does not necessarily mean being the most well known, hence the need for clarification.
    • Gregg Easterbrook of ESPN.com loves obscure colleges with goofy names, his two favorites being California of Pennsylvania and Indiana of Pennsylvania.
    • Miami, Oklahoma is pronounced "Mi-am-ah" in the local dialect to avoid confusion with the Florida city. The local Department of Commerce has even set up signs with this pronunciation.
  • Not sure if this entirely counts, but there are several towns throughout the U.S. which run along the lines of "State Name"+City, and then, of course, the state name is read. The most famous of these is New York, New York. There's also Iowa City, Iowa; Oregon City, Oregon, among others. Reading the state name afterwards in the manner of this trope can seem redundant, of course, unless...
    • There's also a Michigan City, Indiana, just 6 miles from the Michigan border (and also located along Lake Michigan). And there's also a Nevada City, California (in Nevada County), but it's much further from the Nevada state line. There's also the famous old silver mining town of Virginia City, Nevada (Virginia is on the other side of the country). Or Colorado City, Arizona, home of some Mormon polygamist sects. Then there's Iowa, Louisiana; Virginia, Minnesota; Oregon, Ohio...
      • There's also Nevada, Missouri...kinda. The name of the city is not pronounced the same way as the state (nuh-VAY-duh for the city; nuh-VAD-uh for the state)
    • Kansas City is the best-known U.S. example, being a fairly large city that straddles the Kansas-Missouri border. There is both a Kansas City, KS and a Kansas City, MO, right next to each other. And the one in Missouri is larger.
      • If you say Kansas City without a modifier, it is almost always assumed that you mean Kansas City, Missouri. Which can be useful if you wish to mislead someone...there's a reason it's called the Kansas City Shuffle, after all.
    • This is not a uniquely American phenomenon. In Japan there are several prefectures that share their names with their capital cities. Osaka, Kyoto and Fukuoka (the last of which is a clue to the location of the Excel Saga anime) to name some. Tokyo used to be like this as well before they merged the Tokyo (city) government with the Tokyo (prefecture) government to form the modern Tokyo Metropolis.
      • Although in Japanese, it's easy to distinguish because the names are given endings to denote location. Cities are [Name]-shi and prefectures are [Name]-ken. Important locations such as Tokyo and Kyoto actually get their own unique suffixes, making it even harder to confuse the areas.
      • In Taiwan, here's also New Taipei City, formerly known as Taipei County, not to be confused with the capital of the Republic of China, Taipei, one of two enclaves of New Taipei.
    • There's also Quebec City, Quebec.
      • Only to English-speakers. Locals simply call it Québec, which is distinguished from the province by the lack of a definite article.
  • Someone in Vancouver, Washington has printed T-shirts reading "Vancouver (not B.C.), Washington (not D.C.), Clark County (not Nevada), next to Portland, Oregon (not Maine)".
    • Vancouver, Washington is just 300 miles from the much larger Vancouver, BC, so it's not uncommon to hear residents of the Pacific Northwest refer to the American town as Vancouver, USA.
    • Speaking of Washington, do you mean the state on the west coast, or the nation's capital in the District of Columbia on the East Coast? For further confusion, before it was made a state, Washington was known as Columbia Territory.
  • When George Bush met Charlotte Church, he allegedly asked her what state Wales is in.
    • Most likely a state of grumpiness.
  • There was a story about an elderly Dutch man and his grandson who somehow ended up on a flight to Sydney...Nova Scotia, instead of the more well-known, oft-visited Sydney, Australia.
    • Then there's the deliberate version around twenty years ago in which a Winnipeg radio station had a contest, the prize being a trip to Miami. This being the middle of a frigid Manitoba winter, there was a massive response. The winners were told to show up at the radio station to board a bus, which they presumably thought would take them to the airport. However, it took them to the small community of Miami, Manitoba. They were not amused.
    • Before computerisation, it was not at all uncommon for luggage, and sometimes passengers, for Melbourne, Florida to wind up in Melbourne, Australia. It still happens, but nowhere near as often.
      • There is also Melbourne, England- it's a small town in Cambridgeshire. There's also the towns of Portugal and America.
  • There is a town of Sault Ste. Marie in Ontario, Canada. It's right on the border with... Sault-Sainte- Marie, Michigan, USA.
    • Likewise Nogales, Sonora, Mexico and Nogales, Arizona, USA. Note, however that as described above Vancouver, Washington is on the Oregon state line, opposite the Canadian border.
    • Lloydminster, Alberta/Saskatchewan, needs a slash - as it's not two cities, but a single municipal entity with the provincial border straight down its middle, founded before either province.
    • There's also Texarkana, Texas and Texarkana, Arkansas. Again, they border each other.
    • Niagara Falls, Ontario is quite well-known; not as well known is Niagara Falls, New York, immediately adjacent to it.
  • Most places in Vermont that appear to be named after places in England, are in fact named after places in Connecticut that were named after places in England.
  • Until late 2007, The Other Wiki was headquartered in St. Petersburg, Florida. There have apparently been cases of stuff intended for them ending up in St. Petersburg, Russia.
  • Not only can London, England be confused with London, Ontario, but Ontario, Canada can often be confused with Ontario, California—perhaps less surprisingly, given that Ontario, California is a small, relatively insignificant city which happens to have LA/Ontario International, a large, significant airport.
  • There is a lot of cities named Warsaw, mostly in the US, but also in Canada, all named after the capital of Poland. Being mostly settled by Polish immigrants might have had something to do with it.
  • Ontario (the province) has, in addition to London, communities named Cambridge, Windsor, Southampton, Ayr, Paris, Elmira, Athens, Delhi (though they pronounce that one "DELL-high"), and probably many more. They used to have a Berlin, but that was changed to Kitchener in 1916 for some reason.
  • There's a Washington, Virginia not far west from the more well known D.C., and signs that lead there say "Washington, Va." The denizens there call it "Little Washington."
    • Justified as according to That Other Wiki, G.W. himself surveyed the area, and the town was incorporated before his death. Also, it's the oldest town of Washington in the U.S.A.
      • Likewise there is the town of Washington, North Carolina. It is also referred to as Little Washington.
      • And of course, they're all named after George Washington, a descendent of William de Wessyngton of the town of Washington just outside Sunderland, England. (Not Washington, West Sussex.)
  • There's half a dozen Californias in England, and there used to be an annual Washington to California cycle race.
  • The tiny island of Kiritimati has a London, a Paris and a Poland.
  • Maine has a lot of cities named after countries, which leads to the famous photograph of a rather surreal road sign.
  • Hamilton, Ontario and Hamilton, New Zealand often have similar cultural events, causing Google confusion.
  • Speaking of New Zealand, it is host to the towns of both Palmerston and Palmerston North, which is much more widely known and much bigger (Palmerston North has a population of roughly 81,000, Palmerston has a population of about 2,000)
  • When Burma-Shave put up joke signs promising "Free! Free! A trip to Mars / For 900 / Empty jars!", they weren't actually expecting someone to take them up on it. When store owner Arliss French shipped in 900 jars he'd gotten customers to donate, the company gave him and his wife a vacation in Moers (pronounced "Mars"), Germany.
  • In Russia and the former Soviet Union, there are several cities that have nearly identical names. A few of these have changed since The Great Politics Mess-Up due to Insert New City Name Here.
    • Novgorod (sometimes called "Velikiy (Great)" Novgorod) and Nizhny Novgorod.
    • Rostov Velikiy and Rostov-na-Donu.
    • Kalinin (Tver') and Kaliningrad.
    • Kirov, Russia, Kirovograd, Ukraine, Kirovakan (Vanadzor), Armenia, and Kirovabad (Ganja), Azerbaijan.
    • Leningrad, Russia (Saint Petersburg), Leningrad, Tajikistan, and Leninakan (Gyumri), Armenia
    • Moskva (Moscow), Russia and Moskva, Tajikistan.
    • Stalingrad (Volgograd), Russia and Stalinabad (Dushanbe), Tajikistan.
  • There is a town in Pennsylvania with the extremely confusing name of London Britain (note the lack of a comma).
  • Austria. For a country smaller than Maine, they sure have a lot of identical names, which they distinguish by adding "at XXX" or "in YYY".
    • Hadersdorf im Kamptal / Hadersdorf-Weidlingau; Neusiedl am See / Neusiedl an der Zaya / Neusiedl bei Güssing
  • Averted with Cambridge, Massachussetts...or at least their university. Deciding that Cambridge University (or variations thereof) may get confusing, they called it Harvard instead.
  • Happens a lot with many Latin American and Spaniard cities, for obvious reasons:
    • There's a Guadalajara in Mexico, another in Spain and another in Colombia (but it's named "Buga" for the locals).
  • West, Texas, is commonly referred to by locals and travelers passing through as West-Comma-Texas to differentiate it from the geographic region. Incidentally, West is in Central Texas (or North Texas- there's some overlap).
    • And on that note, North Texas (centered on the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex) is nowhere near the geographic northernmost part of the state.
  1. There is a Washington-On-The-Brazos in Texas though.
  2. In Connecticut, if you were curious.
  3. The Pentagon is actually located in Arlington County, Virginia--over the Potomac river from D.C.