A Tale of Dull and Boring Sister Cities

The World

We’re looking for what could be the newest set of international “sister cities” for our Geo Quiz on Thursday.

Typically “sister cities” reach out to their foreign counterparts as a way to promote cultural or commercial ties. Toledo, Ohio and Toledo, Spain got the ball rolling back in 1931.

Ever since – cities have forged similar partnerships. Ames, Iowa and Koshu, Japan for example, or Galveston, Texas and Cape Town, South Africa.

The latest sister city proposal that’s popped up involves a town in Oregon and a village in Scotland. It’s not clear the two places have much in common.

The Oregonian town has an elite training center for seeing eye dogs, while the Scottish town has especially scenic bogs.

So can you name these twin towns?

The list of sister cities in the world is a long one. According to Sister Cities International, more than 2,000 cities are partnered in more than 100 countries. Did you know Seattle’s hooked up with Tashkent, and Vancouver is linked with Odessa?

Others are more obscure. Louisville, Kentucky has a sister city (Tamale) that’s the capital of a northern region of Ghana. Go figure. Some cities even have multiple partners.

The latest matchup that’s generating some buzz involves a town in Oregon and a village in Scotland. Boring. That’s probably what you’re thinking right? Exactly.

The answer to the Geo Quiz is the interestingly named town of Boring, Oregon and a village in Scotland named Dull.

Emma Burtles is from Dull. She says a friend of hers who was bike touring in Oregon suggested the sister city idea to her in an email and she picked up on the idea:

“So I suggested it to the Dull Women’s Book Club and we all thought it was a fantastic idea and so here we are.”

And here’s Boring, Oregon resident Jim Hart’s reaction: “I think I like the idea because life here is a bit dull so we need something to spice it up a little bit.”

The plan is picking up momentum.

But first Jim Hart wants to set the record straight when it comes to the origin of the name of his Oregonian town: “This area was named Boring because a person named Boring came here in 1856, and homesteaded. So I talked with one of the Borings who’s still living here, Bob Boring, and I asked him a couple of days ago, and he said his father told him Boring is not a condition, it’s a name.”

Fair enough. As for Dull’s story, Emma Burtles says there’s a couple of theories. One is the name comes from an old Scottish word for meadow.

Dull may also refer to the leather straps used to carry a coffin. She says there’s a old story about the dulls snapping during an apparently lengthy funeral procession to an island cemetery.

“His body was being taken to Holy Island and the dulls as they were called, the straps that hold a a coffin up when you’re carrying it, broke here in Dull and his bearers decided that was a sign to bury him here and to create a monastery. Personally I think they were probably a bit tired and didn’t really want to walk all the way to Holy Island,” she says.

Lazy might have been another option, but they went with Dull.

Now with a sister city partnership in the offing, Boring’s Jim Hart says he looks forward to hosting some Dull visitors, and the 84 residents of Dull agree hospitality is surely part of the equation.

“We’d love to have some Boring visitors, we’d be most delighted to have you,” he says.

One local did come up with an interesting idea for the exchange saying: “We could probably send them some strawberries, and they could send us some good Scotch.” That deal will be on the table in June when the Dull and Boring community planning organizations convene.

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