The Big Apple

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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.


This program was written by Shelley Gollust. I'm Barbara Klein. You can find more WORDS AND THEIR STORIES at

Source: You Tube (Thesinatrafans) Key Words: Sinatra new york

New York New York - Frank Sinatra

Start spreading the news, I'm leaving today
I want to be a part of it - New York, New York
These vagabond shoes, (they) are longing to stray
Right through the very heart of it - New York, New York

I want to wake up in a city that doesn't sleep
And find I'm king of the hill - top of the heap

My small town blues, (they) are melting away
I'll make a brand new start of it - in old New York
If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere
It's up to you - New York, New York

New York, New York
I want to wake up in a city that never sleeps
And find that I'm a number one, top of the list
King of the hill, a number one

These little town blues, (they) are (all) melting away
And I'm gonna make a brand new start of it - (back) in old New York
And if I can make it there, I know I'll make it just about anywhere

It's up to you - New York New York

New York

Have you ever been to New York? What's it like?

If not, how do you imagine it? Would you like to go there?


Montse said…
Hi, Graham. I’ve never been in New York and I didn’t use to feel like to know a big city like that but many people have told me some such interesting things about it that I would like to go there very much. Have you ever been there?

See you tomorrow!
Graham said…
I've only been to the US once. I went to New York and Miami during the same holiday. It must have been 15 years ago. I haven't been to a far away place since then.

I loved New York but like you, it didn't really appeal to me before going. My favourite memory was seeing the night skyline from the plane - breathtaking!

I’ve never BEEN TO New York and I didn’t use to feel LIKE GOING TO a big city like that but many people have told me SUCH INTERESTING things about it that I would REALLY LIKE to go there.
Paloma said…
Hello Graham.
I' never been in New York still. I would like to go to know it, but always I find other places that I like more saying them.
I have looked for to Internet the meaning of "apple" like collection of houses. In Spanish is "manzana" and this word can come from "macon", builder or of "maison", house, in French, but it don't come from the fruit.
Have a good saturday evening
Graham said…
Hi Paloma,

I have finally got round to answering you. I haven't given up on the blog - at least, not yet. :-)

I think I remember the conversation about "manzana" or "block" now, which then lead on to the question about New York.

I''VE never BEEN TO New York/ I STILL HAVEN'T BEEN TO NEW YORK. I would like to go to VISIT it, but I ALWAYS FIND other places that I WOULD PREFER TO SEE FIRST.
I have looked ON THE INTERNET FOR THE meaning of "apple", AS IN A collection of houses. In Spanish, IT is "manzana" and this word MIGHT come from "macon", builder or FROM "maison", house, in French, but IT DOESN'T come from the fruit.
Have a good Saturday evening.

Keep on using the blog, and be sure to tell me all the links that you read and exercises that you do.

Have a good weekend!