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Most of the world's great cities have nicknames, some complimentary, others derisive. We lucky people living in Sydney, Australia (The Harbour City, The Emerald City, and (until Black Saturday) Home of the Rugby World Cup) unkindly refer to our rival city of Melbourne as Bleak City.

Here are details of the colourful nicknames of some of the great cities in the United States, with citations showing they're still in vogue today:

NEW YORK is known variously as the Big Apple, Gotham, the Melting Pot, the Empire City or The Capital of the World.

The first recorded usage [of the term Big Apple] was by Edward S. Martin in his 1909 book The Wayfarer in New York, who wrote (regarding New York) that the rest of the United States "inclines to think the big apple gets a disproportionate share of the national sap."

Used in the title of a column in the New York Morning Telegraph, "Around the Big Apple with John J. Fitz Gerald," which first appeared in 1924.

The term lost popularity in the 1950s, but was brought back into wide use a 1970s promotional campaign by the New York Convention and Visitor's Bureau.
- From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

There are some who say it is size that matters. Others go for position. In New York, it seems, it's both. We speak of buildings, obviously. Or, more specifically, of residential towers, and of the battle under way over who has Manhattan's best.
- Gotham agog as plutocrats stage battle of the towers; Caroline Overington; Sydney Morning Herald, November 29, 2003.

GOTHAM. At one time the term was applied to a parish of Nottingham, England [Robin Hood territory]. The people here were famed for their stupidity and simplicity, which obtained for them the satirical appellation of the "wise men of Gotham." Many nations have designated some particular locality as the paradise of fools; for example, Phrygia was the fools' home in Asia, Abdera of the Thracians, Boetia of the Greeks, Swabia of the Germans, etc. To Americans it is chiefly significant as a colloquial term for the city of New York.
- From Sacklunch

Gotham City, Knee-Deep in Paper. New York is a city of space-starved apartment dwellers who complain constantly about cramped conditions. A woman I know inherited some space when her daughter left for college, but was forced to use the room as a storage bin for old magazines and newspapers. Such recyclable paper has been piling up in tiny apartments all over town since New York changed the recycling schedule this summer.
- Brent Staples, New York Times, Oct. 11, 2003.

BOSTON, Massachusetts has many nicknames, including Beantown, Puritan City, Cradle of Liberty, Athens of America, and City of Kind Hearts. Take your pick.

Boston: City in Massachusetts. By some authorities the name is said to have been given in honor of John Cotton, vicar of St. Bodolph's church in Boston, Lincolnshire, England, and one of the first clergymen in the American Boston. Others say it was named before the arrival of John Cotton, for three prominent colonists from Boston, England. The tracing for the word Boston elicits that in the Seventh Century a pious monk known as St. Botolph or bot-hopl (boat-help) founded a church in what is now Lincolnshire, in England.
- From Sacklunch

BOSTON -- The battle in Beantown on Tuesday night featured nine of the Democratic candidates squaring off in another debate -- the CNN-sponsored "Rock The Vote". Over 300 young voters attended what was called an unscripted, uncensored town hall meeting.
- 'Rock The Vote' Debate Rattles Beantown; WPTZ-5, The Champlain Channel, Nov. 4, 2003.

C'mon, Boston. You're the home of Harvard and MIT, of Longfellow, Thoreau and Sargent, you're the intellectual center of the country, the Athens of America. Enough with the cowboy hats and bandanas. You look like a bunch of little kids waiting for their ice cream and cake at a birthday party.
- Welcome to the Terrordome; Jim Caple; ESPN Sports, Oct. 14, 2003.

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania is the City of Brotherly Love or Rebel Capital.

From two Greek words meaning "loved or friendly" and "brother," applied as "brotherly love." The Indian name of the locality was Coaquannok, "grove of tall pine trees."
- From Sacklunch

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - It was as if two Philadelphias went to the polls Tuesday, one black and one white. Just as he did four years ago, Mayor John Street, a black Democrat, romped in black neighborhoods, while white Republican businessman Sam Katz put up commanding leads in white sections of the city. The numbers followed a pattern that has existed for decades in the City of Brotherly Love.
- Race Divided Philly in Mayoral Election; David B. Caruso; The Guardian (London), Nov. 5, 2003.

CHICAGO, Illinois, is sometimes called Hog Butcher for the World. It has also been called Big Town, Phoenix City, Second City and Windy City.

Chicago: City and river in Illinois, The origin of the word is from the Indian, being a derivation by elision and French annotation from the word Chickaugong.
- From Sacklunch

"We've got to capitalize on Chicago's assets and exceptional characteristics," he [Mayor Daley] emphasizes. "We're very lucky to have really great diversity... In a century, we've matured from a city known as hog butcher and steelmaker to the world to one that Moody's ranks No. 1 in economic balance, scoring 95.1 out of 100 points. It's a real strength."
- Way to Boost Chicago Business; Ted Pincus, Chicago Sun-Times, Oct 7, 2003.

"Chicago is a city located on the northeastern edge of Illinois. For long time it was the second city in the USA, but in 80's Los Angeles took over. Important dates to this city include the Great Fire of 1871, which killed 300 and left 90 000 homeless... Chicago is called 'Windy City.'"
- From Chicago Gallery

DENVER, Colorado, is sometimes called Mile High City.

Denver was named in honor of James W. Denver, ex-Governor of Kansas,. in 1860, when the towns of St. Charles and Aurora were consolidated.
- From Sacklunch

"Gov. Bill Owens today placed a brass marker on the 13th step of the Capitol and declared it the precise spot that is 5,280 feet above sea level, and not the 15th or 18th steps, which were designated as mile-high marks in previous years... For the last 94 years generations of smiling tourists have stood in the wrong spot at the Capitol - from half a meter to 1 meter too high - thinking they were exactly a mile above sea level."
- 13 Steps to Mile High; Dave Curtin, staff writer, Denver Post (Colorado), Sep 29, 2003.

"Steelers coach Bill Cowher wasn't driving through Mount Washington last week, looking for a vacant field on which to practice in preparation for the game today against the Broncos in Denver, the Mile High City. The Steelers' problems may be stacked a mile high, but Cowher doesn't believe the altitude in Denver... will have any effect on his team when the game begins at 4:15 p.m. 'Breathe deeper,' he said."
- Denver Presents Hostile Environment; Jerry DiPaola, Tribune Review, Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania), Oct 12, 2003.

CLEVELAND, Ohio, is sometimes unkindly called Mistake on the Lake (as are several other American towns).

Cleveland was named in honor of General Moses Cleaveland of Connecticut, who, as general agent for the Connecticut Land Company, was responsible for surveying the region. The Ohio Historical Society website says that Cleaveland served under General George Washington for several years during the American Revolution and rose to the rank of brigadier general in the Connecticut militia. In 1781, Cleaveland, a lawyer in Canterbury, Connecticut, was a member of the Connecticut state convention that ratified the United States Constitution in 1788. He headed a survey party of 50 men and two women, who mapped out a town along the eastern bank of the Cuyahoga River and named it Cleaveland. Because of a spelling error on the original map, the town of Cleaveland was spelled as Cleveland, and that's the way it's been ever since.

"When a welder's spark ignited an oil slick on the Cuyahoga River in 1969, it was Cleveland's reputation that went up in flames. This once-mighty industrial powerhouse, former home to major iron and steel foundries, John D. Rockefeller and a half-dozen automobile companies, had become a national joke The Burning River City... In 1978, Cleveland, 'the Mistake on the Lake,' became the first city to default on its municipal debt since the Great Depression. Well, a whole lot has changed since then. Not just a new municipal nickname ('A New American City'), but tangible stuff too. The economy is booming, downtown is alive at night and our baseball team made it to the World Series.
- About Our City;

America's most underrated city and long reviled as "The Mistake on the Lake," Cleveland is today the nation's premier turnaround town--"The New American City"... Though its name is still the punch line of too many bad jokes, the Cleveland of the '90s boasts a glossy, polished downtown and a restored Lake Erie/Cuyahoga River waterfront, all set in a ring of historic homes and buildings and surrounded by a 60-mile-long string of parks and treed greenbelts known as "The Emerald Necklace."
- Cleveland OH; Doug Rennie, Runner's World (Emmaus, Pennsylvania).

LAS VEGAS, Nevada, is often (and rightly) called Sin City.

Las Vegas is Spanish for "the plains," or "meadows." Although most people these days think of Vegas as being a modern city surrounded by desert country, historians say the town once stood in the midst of a fertile meadow.

That transformation reflects a basic shift here in Glitter Gulch as Las Vegas steps away from the family-oriented entertainment it sought to promote in the 1990s. The nation's favorite Sin City is going back to basics, with a renewed focus on sequins, sex and seven-card stud to revive a tourist industry that has slumped along with the national economy.
- It's Back to the Future in 'Sin City' : Las Vegas Returns To Adult Fare Bid for Family Trade; T. R. Reid, Staff Writer, Washington Post, Oct 5, 2003.

Las Vegas has become the nation's premier party town -- no question about it. Tourists are flocking to Sin City to live out their vices because they know, as the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is fond of telling them in national television ads, "what happens here stays here."
- Las Vegas Paying for Sin City Reputation; Jeff German, The Las Vegas Sun (Nevada), Sep 23, 2003.

HOLLYWOOD, California, is known worldwide as Tinseltown. Last August, an Irish researcher discovered that a party of cider-makers who had worked on the Hollywood House estate in Ireland had migrated to California and were indirectly responsible for their new settlement being named Hollywood. You can read this fascinating story in the Limerick Leader.

The publishers of Tinseltown bibles Variety and Hollywood Reporter are embroiled in a legal battle over their Los Angeles-based research businesses, it emerged yesterday.
- Biblical Battle in Tinseltown; Dan Milmo, The Guardian (London, UK), Oct 15, 2003.

If you think Ralph Peduto looks familiar, then you've probably seen him in one of his many film or TV roles. Central Coast resident Peduto has worked with some of the biggest names in the business, including Francis Ford Coppola, Robin Williams and Ted Danson. You might also remember him as the Midas Muffler Man. Now you have an opportunity to see him in the flesh (no pun intended) in 'Butt-Naked in Tinseltown' ... Peduto uses diverse vivid images to describe how he feels about acting. Hollywood is the flame to which the actor moth is attracted.
- Peduto's 'Butt-Naked in Tinseltown' is engaging look at life of the actor; Joyce D. Mann, Register-Pajaronian (Watsonville, California), Oct 10 2003



Copyright 2003

Eric Shackle

Story first posted December 2003

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