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A Deep Examination of Fort Worth’s New Slogan

It now calls itself "The unexpected city."
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With this post I intend no disrespect to Fort Worth. I want to make that clear. This isn’t one of those snarky “Fort Worth versus Dallas” deals. We in Dallas long ago forgave Amon Carter for always bringing a sack lunch to town. And every time I go to Fort Worth, I enjoy myself. In some ways, Fort Worth has its act more together than does Dallas (see: Trinity River). This post is about marketing and sloganeering and wordsmithery.

It came to my attention that Fort Worth is no longer “Where the West Begins.” It is now “The Unexpected City.” The switch happened in February. I apologize for being five months behind the curve. I was occupied with trying to get an invitation to Bluesky. Then Threads happened. Anyway.

Here’s a video created by Visit Fort Worth to introduce the “unexpected” theme. I don’t know how they got Jimmy Stewart to do the voiceover. It’s pretty slick.

But let’s focus on the slogan itself: “The Unexpected City.” For me, the rhythm of these three words feels like Charles Barkley playing golf. “Unexpected” is an awkward Latinate. If this slogan were a TikTok, it would start with “oh no,” and at the end Alfonso Ribeiro would show up with a $10,000 check.

Then there’s the meaning of those words. If you really think about it (and clearly I’ve done that too much), the slogan suggests that people don’t anticipate that they’ll encounter anything in Fort Worth, but then they do find stuff, and so it’s unexpected. Or, even more literally, it means that people don’t even know Fort Worth exists, but then they drive west from Dallas on I-30 and—holy crap there’s a city!

But back to Amon Carter. He’s the guy who gave Fort Worth its previous official slogan, “Where the West Begins.” The rhythm of those four words feels like Beyoncé fly-fishing. Sorry, I don’t have a link for that. If those four words sound to you like poetry, that’s because they are.

Carter borrowed his slogan from the poem “Out Where the West Begins,” written by Arthur Chapman in 1917. The poem is more about a state of mind than it is geography. He wrote: “Out where the handclasp’s a little stronger/Out where the smile dwells a little longer/That’s where the West begins … Out where the skies are a trifle bluer/Out where the friendship’s a little truer/That’s where the West begins.”

I learned about the origin of the old slogan from this article in Fort Worth magazine. The story was published in 2021. It ends with this sentence: “It won’t show up on maps, but through warmth and generosity, Fort Worth will forever be ‘Where the West Begins.’”

Oops.

UPDATE (12:30 p.m.) After I tweeted a link to this post and tagged Bud Kennedy from the Star-Telegram, he pointed me to a story he wrote in January about the origins of the city’s old slogan, which his paper has born on its masthead for almost exactly 100 years. Ever heard of the town of Munday? Worth your time.

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Tim Rogers

Tim Rogers

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Tim is the editor of D Magazine, where he has worked since 2001. He won a National Magazine Award in…

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