March 05, 2015 00:24 UTC

Words and Their Stories

Words and Their Stories: Nicknames for New York City

Taking a bite out of the Big Apple. <em>Transcript of radio broadcast:</em>

Now the VOA Special English program WORDS AND THEIR STORIES.

A nickname is a shortened form of a person's name. A nickname also can be a descriptive name for a person, place or thing. Many American cities have nicknames. These can help establish an identity, spread pride among citizens and build unity.

A few years ago, some marketing and advertising experts were asked to name the best nickname for an American city. The winner was the nation’s largest city, New York. The top nickname was The Big Apple.

You might wonder how New York got this nickname.In the early nineteen seventies, the city had many problems. The number of visitors was falling.So a campaign was launched to give the city a new image. The head of the New York Conventions and Visitors Bureau decided to call the city, The Big Apple.

There are several explanations for where this name came from. Language expert Barry Popik studied the question and wrote about it on his Web site. He says John Fitz Gerald, a writer for a New York newspaper, used the name the Big Apple to mean New York in the nineteen twenties. Mister Fitz Gerald wrote about horse races. He heard the name used by men who worked at a racetrack in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Mister Fitz Gerald wrote: “The Big Apple. The dream of every lad that ever threw a leg over a thoroughbred and the goal of all horsemen. There’s only one Big Apple. That’s New York.” 

In horse racing, the expression meant “the big time,” the place where large amounts of money could be won. The Big Apple became the name of a night club in the Harlem area of New York City in nineteen thirty-four. It also was the name of a popular dance and a hit song in the nineteen thirties.

But it is not the only nickname for America’s largest city. Barry Popik’s web site lists almost one hundred nicknames that describe New York. The best known are the Capital of the World. Empire City. Gotham. The City So Nice They Named it Twice. And the City That Never Sleeps. You can hear about the city in the song, “New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra.

(MUSIC)

This program was written by Shelley Gollust. I'm Barbara Klein. You can find more WORDS AND THEIR STORIES at voaspecialenglish.com.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Learn with The News

  • Miners arrive to help with the rescue effort in Zasyadko coal mine in Donetsk March 4, 2015. A blast at the coal mine in the eastern Ukrainian rebel stronghold of Donetsk killed more than 30 people, a local official said on Wednesday, with dozens more min

    Audio At Least 33 Dead in Ukraine Mine Explosion

    A coal mine exploded early Wednesday in the rebel-held city of Donetsk. Also in the news, the US Justice Department released its Ferguson police department report; China has announced it will increase its military spending by 10 percent; and Mexico captured a Zetas drug leader. More

  • Video UK Group Brings Eyeglasses to Rwanda

    Most people in developed countries do not have a problem getting prescription eyeglasses. They go to an ophthalmologist -- a trained specialist who treats problems and diseases of the eye. But in poor countries like Rwanda, it may take a lot more time, effort and money. More

  • FILE -  People sit by a tent at a makeshift camp in Calais, northern France, Sept. 7, 2014.

    Audio Paris Tent Camp a Sign of Troubles Facing Asylum Seekers

    France has Europe’s second largest number of asylum seekers. Rights activists have criticized the France's treatment of asylum seekers. The most recent criticism came from the Council of Europe, Europe’s top rights group. Now, French lawmakers are considering a plan to improve the asylum process. More

  • FILE - A construction crew works on a site where a new hospital is planned, in Navua, Fiji.

    Audio China's Aid to South Pacific Rises

    A new report says China alone has provided $1.4 billion in foreign aid to the South Pacific region. The researchers say China is likely to become the region's third-biggest donor after Australia and the United States. It says the aid might help ease tensions between China and countries in the area. More

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks before a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 3, 2015.

    Audio Israeli PM: Iran Nuclear Talks Are a ‘Very Bad Deal’

    Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to US lawmakers Tuesday. Also in the news, Sec. of State Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif meet for a second day to discuss Iran's nuclear program; Russia blocks European leaders from Nemtsov funeral; and North Korea says joint military exercises could spark war More

Featured Stories

  • FILE - An embryologist works on a petri dish at a London fertility clinic.

    Audio 'Three-Person Babies' Debate Goes Beyond Science and Religion

    Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy uses the genetic material from three people to create babies. The stated purpose of the therapy is to help mothers avoid passing genetic mutations to their babies. Some say MRT will lead to 'designer babies.' Others say it is dangerous, immoral or just wrong. More

  • Steam and smoke is seen over the coal burning power plant in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009. Coal power plants are among the biggest producer of CO2, that is supposed to be responsible for climate change.

    Audio Capturing CO2 Is Costly and Difficult

    Most scientists agree that increasing amounts of carbon-dioxide gas in the atmosphere is partly to blame for climate change. Climate change can have a big effect on weather conditions around the world. Scientists are looking for the best and least costly methods for capturing the gas. More

  • Kerry and Declan Reichs (Courtesy Photo)

    Video Choosing to Be a Single Mother

    U.S. officials say birth rates for unmarried women over age 40 have been rising in recent years. In fact, the rate in 2012 was almost 30 percent higher than just five years earlier. There are single mothers by choice. They are generally older, successful, well-educated, and financially secure. More

  • Audio Young Writer’s Plays Explore Race, Identity in America

    Branden Jacobs-Jenkins' latest play 'An Octoroon,' is showing at a theater in New York City. It is based on a 19th Century work by Dion Boucicault. It tells about a white man who falls in love with a woman who is part black. At the time, mixed race marriage was banned in southern US states. More

  • Audio Understanding the Misunderstood Teenage Brain

    A common battle cry of teenagers to adults is, "You just don't understand me!" Well, they might be right. A brain scientist (neuroscientist) and mother to two teenagers says the teenage brain is quite different from the adult brain. She "debunks," or clears up three common myths about teenagers. More

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner blog
Confessions of an English Learner blog

 

 

 

Tell us About Our Programs