May 25, 2015 20:06 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 Tensions Rise in Hong Kong Before Tiananmen Anniversary

    Every year people in Hong Kong gather to remember the June 4 anniversary of the Chinese government crackdown at Tiananmen Square. Usually they also give thanks for their freedoms. But this year, some say people in Hong Kong themselves are feeling increasing pressure from the Chinese government. More

  • This helicopter view shows how close the Statue of Liberty is to Ellis Island. Arriving immigrants would sail past "Lady Liberty" on their way to Ellis Island.

    Video Exploring America’s Immigration Story

    For years, the first stop for millions of immigrants to the United States was the Ellis Island immigration center in New York Harbor. A new museum exhibit tells about the people who entered the country before and after the center closed. | As It Is More

  • FILE - A solar water heater, left, and a solar panel, right, are seen at Entech Hanoi, an international trade fair on energy efficiency and the environment, at the Giang Vo Exhibition Center in Hanoi, Vietnam.

    Audio Vietnam Slow To Start Up Renewable Energy

    Vietnam might have the right setting for renewable energy. However, government price controls and regulations make it difficult to develop “clean energy” there. People working in the power market have suggested other ways to support renewables, including reducing taxes for energy related training. More

  • Audio Memorial Day: Arlington National Cemetery

    Arlington National Cemetery is “A living tribute to our nation’s past” and the final resting place for 400,000 women and men who gave service to the United States. Slaves, government officials, Supreme Court justices, astronauts, explorers and two presidents are buried there. | As It Is More

  • Video America’s Famous Front Lawn Gets Overhaul

    Thousands walk the National Mall every day. The green space has taken a bad beating as a result. Now, a project is taking place to repair and renew the grassy area lined with famous museums so people can continue to enjoy it for years to come. More

Featured Stories

  • Video New Tool Maps Buildings' Energy Efficiency

    Architects, engineers and building supervisors will soon be able to quickly collect information that once took weeks to measure and process. Scientists have developed a device to gather information about building interiors – the design and exact measurements of a building. More

  • Audio Guide to 2016 Campaign: Money and Super PAC

    Raising money is an important part of any election in America. Candidates for the 2016 race for the White House and Congress are busy lining up dollars to fund their elections. VOA Learning English helps explain how the campaign finance systems work in the U.S. More

  • Audio Hold Your Horses!

    Horses are part of the history and romance of the Old American West. These days, they are popular for sport and entertainment. So, it is easy to understand why we Americans use so many horse expressions. Learn some of the most common and try to answer our horse riddle! More

  • Audio Everyday Grammar - Introducing Conditionals

    In everyday conversation, English speakers often talk about things that are not true. Or, they talk about things that only happen if something else happens. Learn how to correctly use these conditional forms in English. If you write to us, we will let you know if it is correct. More

  • Discover Debate

    Audio Successful Debate for New Learners and Large Classes

    Many students of English engage in debate as part of their training. In Part Two of our Successful Debate series, we learn the kinds of debate topics that work well for English learners. An expert shares tips for organizing a debate in a large class and for answering arguments. More

Practice Your Writing

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

 

 

 

Tell us About Our Programs