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Why is Chicago called the Windy City?


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2014-12-11 17:09:41
2014-12-11 17:09:41

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:

  • Supposedly when Chicago hosted the world fair, the then mayor boasted about it so much that it became known as the Windy City.
  • Chicago is the Windy City because of the Chicago Tribune. The editor of the Chicago Tribune was trying to promote the city as a summer resort and used the lakes breeze as one of its attractions.
  • Chicago was in competition with New York City for the World's Fair (the one Frank Lloyd Wright debuted in), and the NYC papers called the Chicago pols "windy" in their presentations to win the exhibition. (Chicago won.)
  • I forget the exact name of the writer who coined the phrase, but it stems from all the politicians in Chicago. The writer quipped that all the politicians talking was like a big wind blowing through the cities.
  • The name stems from political bantering that took place between Chicago and New York over who would host the World's Fair.

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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