Dr. Know: Oyster Crackers, Roads to Nowhere, and Mysterious Slings


After enjoying some chili, my young son was curious about the origin of oyster crackers. We checked Wikipedia, and amazingly, right near the top it says: “In the Cincinnati area, they are frequently served with the city’s distinctive chili.” Wow. Why does Wikipedia give Cincinnati such prominence in oyster crackers? —CRACKER CURIOUS

Illustration by Lars Leetaru


Dear Cracker:
First, let us at least briefly applaud this rare moment of Truth In Internet. The reference to Cincinnati in this context, while flattering, does seem to upstage other locales that are more deserving of first mention. We are listed ahead of New England oyster stews, for God’s sake, and various chowders associated with the East Coast for centuries. How did this happen?

Jedi-level Wikipedia editors assisted the Doctor in tracking down a Mr. Dale Arnett, himself an active participant in the Wiki world. It was he who added the local reference to the oyster cracker page, on July 28, 2005. He says he did so simply because it is true.

In 2006, another editor listed Vermont as a fan of the crackers in chowders. In 2007, someone else added the words “lick my ****s,” which was quickly deleted, apparently being off-topic. The next several years of edits to the page resemble a digital Mideast conflict waged by middle-schoolers. When the smoke cleared in 2013, our Cincinnati reference had moved a bit down the page to a new category, In Cuisine, which is where you found it. The Wiki War has been relatively quiet since then. Keep calm and chili on.

I was using Google Maps in satellite view, zooming in to the end of West Fourth Street. On Ft. Washington Way, right where it curves up approaching the Brent Spence Bridge, I see an orphan exit ramp that just dead-ends onto a patch of grass. It goes absolutely nowhere. What’s that about? —EXIT RUMP

Dear Rump:
The Doctor shall assume that you were not using Google Maps while driving, and are not responsible for the accident/backup that caused him to miss his recent flight.

When Ft. Washington Way was demolished and rebuilt in the 1990s (imagine this past summer’s Brent Spence nightmare to the 10th power), one of its finishing touches was a future Third Street entrance to I-75 North, named “Ramp EE.” The city spent $1.5 million on it, expecting the Ohio Department of Transportation to approve the idea. It did not. The ramp, according to ODOT, was too dangerously close to the existing one coming from Fourth Street. Not only that, but—and don’t read this while sipping your coffee—the area might be needed for rerouting traffic during “the proposed Brent Spence Bridge makeover.” That was more than 15 years ago.

From the air, the tangled west end of Ft. Washington Way already looks like an Olive Garden Never-Ending Pasta Bowl, so just think of the Ramp To Nowhere as but an extra breadstick, adding only $1.5 million to your check.

Can you find out anything about the “Cincinnati sling?” I’ve been told that this is an old nickname for some kind of strap or fastening device used by professional movers. I don’t know any professional movers who could confirm this, and online searches haven’t helped. Is this true or not? —IS THE SLING A THING

Dear Thing:
Warning to readers: Should you take it upon yourself to do a search that includes the word “sling,” make sure your parental controls are robust. The Doctor reels.

Several telephone calls to local movers resulted in variations of, “I’ve never heard of that, but I’ll ask around.” Moving is a young man’s game, so perhaps institutional memory is hard to come by. The only references to a “Cincinnati sling” to be found online (family-friendly settings enabled) are about devices used in rescuing trapped victims of vehicle crashes. However, these only appear in places like Australia and the UK. The Doctor contacted Cincinnati police, fire, and emergency services to see if the expression might be familiar in those professions and a little closer to home. Once again, the shrugs were unanimous.

At this time, we must admit failure. But the expression had to have originated somewhere, and it’s hard to imagine that it wasn’t here. We shall press on, and will report any future revelations. Our city’s got to be famous for something more than just oyster crackers.

Dr. Know is Jay Gilbert, weekday afternoon deejay on 92.5 FM The Fox. Submit your questions about the city’s peculiarities at drknow@cincinnatimagazine.com.

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