September 04, 2015 03:58 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

  • Audio Countries Compete for Oil in the Arctic

    Russia, the United States and other countries are hurrying to control Earth’s northernmost territory: the Arctic. Environmentalists have denounced U.S. oil company projects in the Arctic. A former Shell Oil Company official says new kinds of energy can be developed without harming nature. More

  • Audio Weaker Chinese Economy Sends Shockwaves Worldwide

    As markets show weakness, U.S. and Japanese officials have called for talks on China’s economy at the G-20 meeting in Turkey. The U.S. government is urging China to be more open in discussing its policy plans. More

  • Audio Pro-Kurdish Party Could Decide Turkish Election Results

    Turkey will hold its second parliamentary elections this year on November 1. Political observers believe that the pro-Kurdish party HDP could sway the elections. The party won enough votes in June elections to enter parliament for the first time. More

  • Audio In Hungary, Migrants Seeking to Go West Clash with Police

    Also, China says it will reduce its military by more than 10 percent; South Korea, China and Japan agree to talks; Iran’s Supreme leader says parliament should decide on the nuclear deal with Western Powers, and the U.N. says 13 million children are out of school in the Middle East and N. Africa. More

  • Audio Pope Allows Priests to Forgive 'Sin of Abortion'

    Pope Francis is calling his priests to forgive women of the “sin of abortion” during the upcoming “Holy Year of Mercy.” He released a letter Tuesday saying many women have told him of the pain when ending a pregnancy. He wrote women agonized and told him “that they [had] no other option." More

Featured Stories

  • Audio Tanglewood Music Center Celebrates 75th Anniversary

    The world famous Boston Symphony Orchestra normally performs at Symphony Hall in Boston, Massachusetts. But its summer home is the Tanglewood Music Center in western Massachusetts. The Boston Symphony Orchestra also has a summer program at Tanglewood for young singers and musicians. More

  • Audio Are You Too Smart for Your Own Good?

    If you think being smart is always a good thing, think again. Smart has many meanings. Read on to find out what they are and the surprising origin of the term Smart Aleck. More

  • Audio Everyday Grammar: Fun with Future Tenses

    English has several ways to talk about the future. It's one of the most flexible tenses in English. We visit some popular songs for examples of the future forms. Read and listen as the Everyday Grammar team shows you six ways to express an event in the future. You will not regret it! More

  • Video A Horseman in the Sky by Ambrose Bierce

    Carter Druse lived in Virginia, a southern state during the American Civil War. He had a tough decision to make - should he join the Confederate Army or the Union Army? Read this classic American Story to find out what decision he makes, and what it means to his father and fellow soldiers. More

  • Audio Betty Azar, 'Rock Star' of English Grammar

    It all started with a question from a student. The year was 1965. Betty Azar was teaching her first English as a Second Language class at the University of Iowa. A student from the Middle East asked Ms. Azar, “Why can’t I put a in front of water?’ As in ‘I drank a water.’” More

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner
Confessions of an English Learner blog

Tell us About Our Programs