The origins of the term "Windy City" have been misreported (again) | Bleader

Friday, November 21, 2008

The origins of the term "Windy City" have been misreported (again)

Posted By on 11.21.08 at 03:19 PM

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

"If you had always assumed that Chicago earned its nickname as the Windy City from the chilly gusts coming off Lake Michigan, you would be wrong. The city is windy, according to most local legends, because of the hot air bellowing from politicians."

Actually, you'd be right, but you'd be fighting an uphill battle against the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Historical Society, and the Chicago Public Library. The above quote comes from the November 20 New York Times, in which Jeff Zeleny writes about the national attention currently focused on Chicago, the home base of our next president. And just as Zeleny erroneously believes Chicago's famous nickname originated with windbag politicians in the late 19th century -- New York Sun editor Charles Dana wrote about "the nonsensical claims of that windy city" as Chicago pols loudly wooed the organizers of the 1893 world's fair -- he uses "bellowing" instead of "billowing" to describe the wind that blew toward New York from the mouths of the city's former leaders.

Truth be told, though even the city's library system (that's 79 branches of pure intimidation) won't acknowledge the findings of New York City administrative law judge and Straight Dope reader Barry Popik, the May 9, 1876, Cincinnati Enquirer featured the following headline: "THAT WINDY CITY. Some of the Freaks of the Last Chicago Tornado." That's at least 13 years before Charles Dana told Chicago politicians to put a sock in it. And in January 1886 the Louisville Courier-Journal used the nickname to refer to the wind from Lake Michigan that blankets the city every winter.

So it's settled, right? No, probably not, unless Obama can be persuaded to set things straight in his inaugural address.

Tags: , , , , ,

Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

More by Robert Cass

  • Pure Fiction

    Pure Fiction

    Our 2009 fiction issue, featuring stories by Benjamin Kumming, Stephen Markley, Natalie Edwards, Will Fletcher, and Robert Cass
    • Dec 24, 2009
  • Fiction Issue 2009: Cruising

    Fiction Issue 2009: Cruising

    "I used to be pregnant."
    • Dec 24, 2009
  • Second City casts breaking in new Blago bits

    Second City casts breaking in new Blago bits

    Second City's mainstage and E.T.C. casts work overtime to incorporate the Blagojevich scandal into new shows.
    • Dec 11, 2008
  • More »

Agenda Teaser

Music
Cheick Hamala Diabate Szold Hall, Old Town School of Folk Music
August 17

Tabbed Event Search

The Bleader Archive

Popular Stories