Chicago was nicknamed the Windy City not for the wind but for the politicians and city boosters who were full of "hot air."
The specifics of this are somewhat in contention. Here are a few versions:
Here is a more extended explanation:
Popular myth has it that this nickname for the Chicago was coined by Charles Dana, the editor of the New York Sun, in 1893. Chicago was competing with New York to host the 1893 Columbian Exposition, and Dana allegedly coined the name as a derogatory moniker. Supposedly the term is not a reference to the winds off Lake Michigan as one might suppose but rather refers to the Chicagoan habit of rabid boosterism and shameless boasting. To a New Yorker like Dana, Chicago was full of hot air.
The story simply isn't true. The name dates to at least 1885 and clearly refers to the breezes off the lake. 1885 references include "city of winds" as well as "Windy City." This isn't new information, either. Mathew's Dictionary of Americanisms, published some 50 years ago, includes an 1887 quotation about the Windy City, but the myth persists--largely due to newspaper reporters and editors who repeat the tale without checking the facts.
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