September 16, 2014 13:27 UTC

Words and Their Stories

Words and Their Stories: Nicknames for New York City

The Statue of Liberty is one of the most popular places to visit in the Big Apple
The Statue of Liberty is one of the most popular places to visit in the Big Apple

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 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 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 nineteen twenties. 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 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 website 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

  • Hong Kong Occupy Central Black Cloth March-6

    Audio Hong Kong's Democracy Movement Gets Attention in Taiwan

    Taiwan's government called on China to respect Hong Kong's wishes to elect some of their leaders. The Taiwanese are watching what happens in Hong Kong to see if a “one country, two systems” relationship works. More

  • China citizenship

    Audio China Targets Chinese with Dual Citizenship

    China's Ministry of Public Security published rules for reporting Chinese who have foreign citizenship but keep their Chinese identity cards and benefits. The new policy is directed at so called “naked” officials. More

  • Someone calling themself @_UmmWaqqas posted this photo on Twitter of what they say are her friends @UmmLayth_, Umm Haritha and Umm Ubaydiah.

    Audio Women Use Twitter to Support Jihad

    The Umm network and what some call the Islamic State use Twitter to urge both men and women to serve the jihad movement. They also use it to send Islamic State pictures, videos and messages. More

  • France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (C) attends the International Conference on Peace and Security in Iraq, at the Quai d'Orsay in Paris September 15, 2014. French President called on Monday for a global response to counter Islamic State militants du

    Audio 30 Nations Pledge to Fight Islamic State Group

    Delegates from about 30 countries, as well as UN, EU and Arab League meet in Paris and agree to lend support. Hundreds of migrants feared dead in Mediterranean Sea. The Philippines may permit the United States to base some of its navy forces on the island. | In the News More

  • Labour party MP Jim Murphy addresses a crowd during his "100 streets in 100 days" tour to promote the case for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom, in Edinburgh, Scotland, Sept. 2, 2014.

    Audio Scotland's Independence Vote Is Too Close to Call

    The upcoming vote on independence could end the 300-year union of Scotland and Britain. However, two major banks say they will move their headquarters if the vote is "Yes." More

Featured Stories

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner BlogConfessions of an English Learner Blog

Tell us About Our Programs