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How your favourite US cities got their nicknames

USA flag

Have you ever stopped to think about why the heck your grandma calls you Poopsie? There are some nicknames that just can’t be explained, but thankfully our grandmas weren’t responsible for giving city nicknames in the US-of-A.

Some are pretty straightforward, while others we wouldn’t have guessed in a million years. See if you can crack the code before reading the true origin story:

I shall call you squishy

Chicago – aka “The Windy City”

Chicago isn’t actually the windiest city in America – it’s pretty standard as far as cities go. It does have a nice cool lake breeze and some windier moments thanks to its famous skyscrapers, but this nickname is often attributed to the long-standing joke that Chicagoans and their politicians are full of wind and like to talk a lot.

US cities - Con Air gif

NYC – aka “The Big Apple”

There are a lot of theories on this one – that it’s a reference to the Big Apple dance, that it has something to do with the many racing courses around NYC in the early 20th century, that it was named after apple vendors in the city, or even after a famous city prostitute named Eve. It could also be due to the fact that apples are delicious and as far as cities go, NYC is seen as the biggest and juiciest of the bunch. Regardless, apples are great and so is NYC.

Boston – aka “Beantown”

Baked beans are a big thing in Boston. It wouldn’t be our choice for a regional dish, but hey, enjoy your fibre Beantown.

US cities - Mr Bean gif

LA – aka “Tinseltown/ City of Angels”

Tinsel is a shiny decorative material, Hollywood is a shiny artificial-seeming town – you get the picture.

The city of Los Angeles was claimed as a part of both Spain and Mexico in the past, and for those of you who’ve only ever called it LA, Los Angeles literally translated into Spanish means “the angels”, thus the City of Angels has a nice ring to it. Los Angeles is actually the shortened version of the original city name, “El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora de los Angeles di Porciúncula”.

Honolulu – aka “The Big Pineapple”

Honolulu is the biggest city in Hawaii – some would even say it’s the Big Apple of Hawaii (get where we’re going with this?). Pineapples are a huge export for Hawaii – apples, not so much.

US cities - dancing Pineapple gif

Detroit – aka “Motor City”

Detroit is the historic hub of the automotive industry in America, and home to the infamous Ford factory, which in-turn was home to the first assembly line in car production. Automotive production is largely responsible for the industrial vibe Detroit carries with it to this day.

Las Vegas – aka “Sin City/ Meadow City”

Las Vegas has become increasingly family friendly over the past few years, but back in the day it was much more of an adult-exclusive playground. Gambling, drinking, strip clubs, mobsters and the like are solely responsible for its sinful nickname.

As for Meadow City, Las Vegas literally translates to “the meadows”. The only meadow we know about in this gigantic desert oasis is in the Bellagio atrium, but who are we to judge?

US cities - Las Vegas, gambling

New Orleans – aka “The Big Easy”

This is another one with a few theories rollin’ around, but all of them have to do with NOLA being a pretty easy place to be. Between the relatively low cost of living, relaxed views on alcohol consumption, access to great food and the plethora of music clubs and gigs available to aspiring musicians, it’s just a laid back and easy going place. And, it’s big. Case closed.

Miami – aka “Magic City”

Unfortunately Miami isn’t the headquarters of America’s own School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The development of the 305 from its swampy state into a big tourist and residential hotspot sort of happened overnight, and by that we mean in a few years, so the city that sprung up like magic naturally became the Magic City.

US cities - Will Smith Miami gif

Memphis – aka “Bluff City”

Memphis was built on the Chickasaw Bluff.  Whether or not Memphians are really good at playing poker is, unfortunately, undocumented, but that would have been a cooler story. It seems like the creative juices weren’t really flowing when they named this one.

Philadelphia – aka “The City of Brotherly Love”

Don’t waste too many brain cells on this one. Philadelphia means “brotherly love” in Greek – phileo means “love” and adelphos means “brother”, and was named so by its founder William Penn.

US cities - Stepbrothers gif

Seattle – aka “The Emerald City”

Don’t bother looking for munchkins or winged monkeys; Seattle gets its Oz-ish nickname for its surrounding trees and lush greenery. If you’re really into gardening this may be an ideal place to relocate to – lotsa rain and consistent mild-ish temps = prime growing conditions.

San Francisco – aka “Shaky Town”

Earthquakes! Earthquakes make things shake. Pretty straightforward, but sweet nickname nonetheless.

US cities - san francisco earthquake gif

Denver – aka “The Mile High City”

Denver sits at a high elevation. How high exactly? If you guessed about a mile, you’re correct. Gold stars and A+’s all round.

Houston – aka “Space City”

“Houston, we have a problem”. If that doesn’t ring any bells, you must not be into all things intergalactic, and if you aren’t, you should be. Space travel is awesome, and Houston is the home of NASA Mission Control – the hub for America’s space program.

My bad

Portland – aka “The City of Roses”

Fun fact: apparently Portland’s climate is ideal for growing roses. Who knew? Roses are kind of their thing, and they have an annual Rose Festival in June including a parade, milk carton boat races, sing-offs and other strange rose and un-rose-related activities.

What’s your favourite city nickname? Let us know in the comments!