April 18, 2014 23:19 UTC

Words and Their Stories: Nicknames for Cleveland and Detroit

Cleveland is sometimes called the Best Location in the Nation | WORDS AND THEIR STORIES

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Now, the VOA Special English program WORDS AND THEIR STORIES.

Many American cities have interesting nicknames. Nicknames can help establish the identity of a city. They can also spread pride among its citizens. But nicknames sometimes can make fun of something.

Cleveland, Ohio is a city in America’s Midwest. One of its earliest nicknames was Forest City. No one knows for sure who gave it this name in the eighteen thirties. But Cleveland probably had a lot of trees. This nickname became popular among local businesses in the eighteen fifties. Today, some businesses in the Cleveland area still use Forest City in their names.

A view of Lake Erie with the Cleveland skyline in the background at Edgewater Beach in Cleveland
A view of Lake Erie with the Cleveland skyline in the background at Edgewater Beach in Cleveland

Cleveland sits next to Lake Erie, one of North America’s Great Lakes. It was once a major manufacturing city. Ships used the lake for transporting goods. In the nineteen fifties, businesses called Cleveland, the Best Location in the Nation.

However, many factories closed or moved away. Cleveland had severe financial problems in the nineteen sixties and seventies. In nineteen sixty-nine, the city became famous, but not in a good way. Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River caught on fire because of industrial wastes on the surface of the river. So in the nineteen seventies, the national media began calling the city The Mistake on the Lake.

Since then, Cleveland has sought to improve its image. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum opened in Cleveland in nineteen ninety-five. So the city is proud of its latest nickname, The Rock and Roll Capital of the World.

Another city in the Midwest is Detroit, Michigan. Henry Ford started the Ford Motor Company in Detroit in nineteen hundred three. Five years later, he made the first “Model T” automobile. Within ten years, Detroit was being called The Motor City. It is still the center of the automobile industry in America.

Another popular nickname for Detroit is Motown. Berry Gordy, Junior started the Motown Record Corporation in Detroit in nineteen fifty-nine. African-American singers recording for the company were extremely popular in the nineteen sixties and nineteen seventies. Their records were so successful that Detroit was also called Hitsville, USA.

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