Tuesday November 23, 2004

A Depravity Metric

I recently had reason to use the phrase "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" (my sister's fiancé is having a bachelor party), and then a few days later I read an Onion article titled "What Happens At Yucca Mountain Stays At Yucca Mountain".  This got me to thinking that maybe it would be possible to roughly measure the reputation for depravity of a particular location by counting the number of Google hits for the phrase "what happens in PLACENAME stays in PLACENAME".  The results below are an interesting catalog of spring break hotspots, gambling meccas, and other places where you're likely to embarrass yourself.  Use it to plan your next vacation!

Methodology:  I first searched for "what happens in * stays in *" (and also "what happens in * * stays in * *" to catch the two-word place names), which produces an overwhelming number of hits for "vegas", so I filtered this out by searching for "what happens in * stays in *" -vegas. I also tried searching for "whatever...", but there were few hits and so I decided to ignore that variation.  I looked at the top couple of hundred hits, making a list of all the place names mentioned. Then I searched on the pattern for each place name I found, and made of note of the approximate number of Google hits.

Place Name ghits Comment
Vegas 13,000 Vegas, baby!
Dewey 1,720 Dewey Beach, Delaware—I had no idea
Mexico 948 Possibly inflated by the Toby Keith song "Stays in Mexico"
Cancun 467 +1 for "Cancún"
Las Vegas 312
Neverland 208 The ranch, presumably—[shudder]
the Keys 191 The Florida Keys
Michigan 190
Thailand 135
Cabo 115 Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Jamaica 73
Miami 55
TJ 47 Tijuana, Mexico, also listed separately below
Iraq 46
Fallujah 34
Amsterdam 33
Texas 31
Florida 29
Canada 27
Tokyo 21
London 21
Bangkok 20
Europe 20
Chicago 20
Whistler 16 Whistler, British Columbia
Dallas 15
Tijuana 14
Daytona 13
DC 13
New York 13
Madison 12
Milwaukee 12
Reno 11
Korea 11
Louisiana 10
Africa 10
Bear Mountain 10
Havasu 10 Lake Havasu, AZ
Boston 9
Padre 8 South Padre Island, TX
NY 8
Boracay 7 Boracay Island, the Philippines
Paris 7
Spain 7
Detroit 6
Garden Grove 6
Redmond 6
Bristol 6
Colorado 5
Minnesota 5
Seattle 5
Redondo Beach 5
Russia 5
Milan 5
Baghdad 4
Dayton 4
Japan 4
FL 4 Fort Lauderdale or Florida?
Ybor 4 Tampa's Historic District
Cleveland 4
Vancouver 4
Wisconsin 3
Morocco 3
New Hampshire 3
Berlin 3
Jackson 3
Cannes 3
Britain 2
Stockholm 2
Tobago 2 Trinidad: 0.  Take that, Trinidad!
Shinjuku 2
Barcelona 2
Oakland 2 This doesn't bode well for the 2005 LSA meeting
Tribeca 2
Fort Lauderdale 2
Columbus 2
Olowalu 2 Maui
Panama City 2
Camrose 2

In addition to the examples with the real-world geographical names listed above, there were various other occurrences of the target sentence pattern, including ones with common noun phrases like "the class", "our room", "the limo", and also the more entertaining "Church camp" (WWJD?), "Spacecamp" (who knew?), "outbuildings" (eww), "Uranus", "Rumspringa", and "Britney" (heh).

So, based on this, it looks like our next vacation will be in Dewey, Delaware.  Don't worry, you won't have to read a post about what happens there—I know the rule.

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
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Tensor [via Andrea] has an interesting post on holiday locations:I recently had reason to use the phrase "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" (my sister's fiancé is having a bachelor party), and then a few days later I read [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 11, 2004 4:12:18 PM


Delightful. The expression is not particular journalistic, so is it a legit snowclone?

You could also change the preposition. For "at" you get a number of convention names (SF and other), plus "band camp" and the like. For "on", there's the road, the bus, the cruise, the field, the pitch, the ship ... I didn't count them, though.

Posted by: chris waigl at Nov 23, 2004 5:03:01 PM


I'm wondering why it didn't pick up New Orleans (= 88 hits), my personal favorite spot for depraved behaviors. Another thing I thought an "on" instead of "in" search might turn up were islands, traditionally hotbeds of depravity. Instead it seems to mostly pick up things about Mars. I was unaware that anything at all happened on Mars, really.

Sidenote, it makes me kind of sad that Fallujah made the list (and is, in fact, the first hit! Even though it's lowculture, still...).

Posted by: polyglot conspiracy at Nov 24, 2004 9:41:09 AM

I suspect that at the root of all these expressions is the Alcoholics Anonymous saying "What's said in the room stays in the room", which of course is about verbal accounts of depravity rather than depravity itself.

I have even heard this given, absurdly, as a principle for meetings at work! The whole point of having meetings is so that those who are there can report back on "what is said".

Posted by: John Cowan at Jan 29, 2005 8:42:39 AM

Great post! Various synonyms for online/on the net turn up hits.

Plus a Navy guy I know says that what happens at sea stays at sea.

Posted by: Idle Fellow at Feb 15, 2005 6:03:48 PM

In a few cases (such as Detroit) shouldn't it be "What happens in $PLACENAME gets buried in a $PLACENAME empty lot"?

Posted by: Miles at Feb 15, 2005 6:35:51 PM

>Plus a Navy guy I know says that what happens
>at sea stays at sea.

I think I've heard about that. I seem to recall a quotation that mentions rum, the lash...and what was that middle thing again?

Posted by: The Tensor at Feb 15, 2005 7:07:50 PM

The 'middle thing' now prefers white wine, the lash is silken, and anything that happens at sea was probably on a Carnival cruise.

Posted by: aelfheld at Feb 18, 2005 4:36:23 PM

"What happens here, stays here" is the original slogan.


"What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" appears to be an offshoot.

Posted by: willyum at Apr 3, 2006 9:57:14 PM

Why is San Francisco not on this list?

Apparently, what happens in San Francisco eventually goes viral, and pretty soon, they're even doing it in Svalbard fergawdzakes.

Posted by: s9 at Aug 20, 2009 9:30:13 AM

Well as a Delaware native maybe I can shed some light on the Dewey Beach reference and the underlining homophobic discourse that gives meaning to the statement. In Delaware, Dewey Beach has been a popular destination for the gay population in the surroundings area since at least the time i was a kid (25 years). In addition to a famous "gay beach", Dewey has a number of bars and restaurants that are gay friendly and or gay owned. The remark what happens in Dewey stays in Dewey is obviously an allusion to "down low" behavior by supposedly straight men, or men who are straight but enjoy deviating from their normal sexual behavior. Either way the statement further stigmatizes and marginalizes homosexuality and assumes that there is something deviant or deprave in engaging in sexual acts with the same sex. This is not surprising i guess given the homophobic society we live in.

Posted by: Vincent Grady at Aug 20, 2009 11:11:02 AM