September 20, 2014 17:58 UTC

Nicknames for New York City

One language expert describes why New York City might be called "The Big Apple."

The Statue of Liberty stands in New York Harbor.
The Statue of Liberty stands in New York Harbor.

Multimedia

Play or download an MP3 of this story

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 1970s, 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 website. He says John Fitz Gerald, a writer for a New York newspaper, used the name the Big Apple to mean New York in the 1920s. Mr. 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 1934. It also was the name of a popular dance and a hit song in the 1930s.


But it is not the only nickname for America’s largest city. Barry Popik’s website lists almost 100 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.
 

This program was written by Shelley Gollust. I'm Barbara Klein.

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

Learn with The News

  • Former French hostage Francis Collomp (C) is welcomed by relatives and officials including Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault (R) on the tarmac upon his arrival at Villacoublay military airport, near Paris, November 18, 2013. Collomp, a French engineer who

    Audio West Trades Accusations Over Hostage Ransoms

    Western countries have differing policies over making ransom payments to win the release of hostages. In the past month, the Islamic State group has killed two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money to hostage-takers. More

  • Farmers hold signs during a protest to protect their paddy fields from being part of a land grab to make way for the construction of a luxury Ecopark resort in Van Giang district, in Vietnam's northern Hung Yen province, outside Hanoi April 20, 2012. Land

    Audio Vietnam Rejects Reports of Police Abuse

    Human Rights Watch has found an increase in the number of reports of torture and death of individuals detained by police. But Vietnam has rejected the report that accuses Vietnamese police of abusing detainees. More

  • Audio Scientists Discover Secrets of Coffee

    Researchers have mapped the genes of a coffee plant. They may be able to use the information to create a plant without caffeine, improving the taste of the drink for people who now drink the decaffeinated version, which some say does not taste as good. | As It Is More

  • An armed jihadist stands next to the wreckage of a Syrian government forces aircraft which was shot down by militants of the Islamic State (IS) group over the Syrian town of Raqa on September 16, 2014. The plane crashed into a house in the Euphrates Valle

    Audio How Do Islamic State Militants Finance Their Operations?

    The Islamic State militant group gets money to finance its fighters and operations in a number of ways. Observers say some of the money comes from kidnapping and human trafficking. | In The News More

  • Indonesian president-elect Joko Widodo speaks to the media at a press briefing in the garden of his home in Jakarta August 21, 2014.

    Audio Bill Could Harm Indonesia's Democratic Gains

    Many Indonesians are talking about a bill under consideration in parliament. If approved, the measure would end direct elections for local mayors and governors in the country More

Featured Stories

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner BlogConfessions of an English Learner Blog

Tell us About Our Programs