New Orleans: City of Nicknames


Source: Wikimedia

New Orleans is a colorful city, so it’s not surprising that it has many nicknames. “Talking New Orleans: Episode #4 – New Orleans Nicknames History” aired on WRBH Reading Radio in February 2016. “11 New Orleans nicknames: the good, the bad, the silly” by Melinda Morris was printed in The Times-Picayune in October 2017. Every nickname tells a story, and there’s a much bigger story to tell.

Here are 36 nicknames, in alphabetical order:

  1. America’s Most Interesting City

Several cities were called “America’s most interesting city” in the early 1990s. The Convention and Tourist Bureau of the New Orleans Association of Commerce promoted the “America’s Most Interesting City” slogan for New Orleans starting in July 1922.

If the “Most Interesting Man in the World” came to “America’s Most Interesting City,” he probably wouldn’t ask for a Dos Equis.

  1. Baghdad-on-the-Bayou

The short story writer O. Henry (1862-1910) called New York City “Baghdad-on-the-Subway.” San Francisco columnist Herb Caen (1916-1997) dubbed his city “Baghdad-by-the-Bay.”

After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, several writers referred to the destroyed city as “Baghdad-on-the-Bayou,” after the war-torn Iraqi city.

  1. Big Crescent

“Big Crescent” is a combination of two of New Orleans’ most popular nicknames — “Big Easy” (or simply “big city”) and “Crescent City.” “Big Crescent” has been used infrequently since at least the 1960s.

  1. Big Easy

The origin of the nickname is often misattributed. You can read our full discussion of this here.

  1. Big Greasy

“Big Greasy” is an infrequently used “Big Easy” variation. Since at least the 1990s, “Big Greasy” has referred to cooking oil and greasy foods, such as Popeye’s fried chicken. However, after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in April 2010, “Big Greasy” was also used for that as well.

  1. Big Sleazy

“Big Sleazy” is another “Big Easy” variation. “Big Sleazy” was frequently used in the Dave Robicheaux series of novels (published in the 1990s and 2000s) by American author James Lee Burke.

  1. Birthplace of Jazz

New Orleans is justly famous as the birthplace of jazz. “New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz” was printed in The Times-Picayune on May 11, 1919. This jazz nickname has been used to advertise music festivals.

  1. Chocolate City

“Chocolate City” was used in the early 1970s to describe Washington, DC–a “chocolate city” with “vanilla suburbs.” New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin told Congress in November 2005 (after Hurricane Katrina): “New Orleans is a chocolate city, but most African-Americans don’t participate economically in any meaningful way.”

  1. Chopper City

“Chopper City” (1996) was the first rap album from American rapper B.G. “Chopper” is slang for an AK-47 rifle. In 2001, B.G. formed Chopper City Records.

  1. City of a Million Dreams

“City of a Million Dreams” is a song by New Orleans native Raymond Burke (1904-1986) that was copyrighted on April 1, 1958:

“Dreamin’ in the evening

Down in happy New Orleans,

Nearest thing to heaven,

A city of a million dreams.”

  1. City That Care Forgot

“The City That Care Forgot” is a nickname that the St. Charles Hotel used during Mardi Gras. The meaning is that visitors should come to New Orleans and have a carefree time, temporarily forgetting their daily troubles. “The City Care Forgot”–minus “that”–was coined by Alfred S. Amer (1866-1959), manager of the St. Charles Hotel (demolished in 1974), according to The Daily Picayune on September 13, 1910.

  1. City That Forgot To Care

“The City That Forgot To Care” is an unfortunate flip side to the nickname “The City That Care Forgot.” This nickname has been cited since at least November 1917.

  1. Convention City

New Orleans became a major convention city by at least the early 1900s. “New Orleans: The Convention City and Gateway to Panama” (1914) was published by the Convention and Tourist Bureau of the New Orleans Association of Commerce.

  1. Crawfish Town

New Orleans has good crawfish in its restaurants–and in its streets. The Daily Picayune stated on August 17, 1902: “Some residents of the upper part of the city are wont to refer to that section below Canal street as ‘crawfish town,’ because, once is a while, the street gamins catch crawfish in the open gutters, and now and then you hear of one catching a young alligator.”

  1. Creole City

New Orleans has been called “Creole City” since at least 1837. “The Creole City of New Orleans” (1930) was a book written by Nathaniel Cortlandt Curtis.

  1. Crescent City

“Crescent City” has long been the most popular New Orleans nickname. French explorers noticed that the Mississippi River takes a crescent shape at New Orleans, but did not use the term as a nickname. Joseph Holt Ingraham (1809-1860) wrote in his book “The Southwest” (1835): “I have termed New Orleans the crescent city in one of my letters, from its being built around the segment of a circle formed by the graceful curve of the river at this place.”

  1. Gateway of the Mississippi Valley

“Gateway of the Mississippi Valley” has been cited in print since at least 1883. In the 1910s, “Gateway to the Mississippi Valley” was frequently used.

  1. Gumbo City

“Gumbo City” describes a city where gumbo can be eaten, but it also describes a “gumbo” or “melting pot” of people. “Gumbo City” has been cited in print since at least the 1930s and 1940s.

  1. Hollywood South

Louisiana has often urged filmmakers to choose its state. (The movie “The Big Easy” in the 1980s is a notable success of that effort.) “Hollywood South” was cited in print in 1977 and in 1987.

  1. Jump City

Saxophone great Jerry Jumonville and his Jump City Band recorded the song “Jump City” in 1986, Singer-songwriter Willy DeVille (1950-2009) recorded his song “Jump City” in 1992: “Said I’m goin’ to New Orleans on Mardi Gras day, child (hey jump city).”

  1. Land of Dixie

It’s often stated that Louisiana banks issued “DIX” (French for “ten”) notes, and that these were called “dixies” and that New Orleans was the “Land of Dixie” before the Civil War. However, a thorough check of digitized databases does not show that these financial notes were called “dixies,” or that the expression “land of Dixie” was used in New Orleans at this time. In fact, an 1860 New Orleans newspaper explained that “Dixey” was derived from the name of a landowner in New York. It’s known that “Dixie” was used in a children’s street game in New York City in 1844, and the Daniel Decatur Emmett song “Dixie’s Land” was performed at Bryant’s Minstrels in New York City in 1859. Although many Civil War monuments are no longer displayed in New Orleans, a plaque to “Dixie”–entirely unsupported by any historical evidence–still stands.

  1. Mardi Gras City

“Mardi Gras City” is one of the most obvious of New Orleans nicknames, but it often gets forgotten. “New Orleans, the great Mardi Gras city of old day” was printed in 1875. “Mardi Gras City” was frequently used by the 1890s.

  1. Metropolis of the South

“This city [New Orleans] may be called the metropolis of the south” was printed in an 1826 newspaper. The nickname was very popular in the 1800s but was infrequently used in the 1900s (when other southern cities had population gains).

  1. N’awlins

“N’Awlins is plenty good enough for me” was cited in print in 1899. New Orleans TV personality Frank Davis, who died in 2013, is remembered for his tag line “Naturally N’Awlins.”

  1. Nerlins

“Nerlins” or “N’erlins” is from a Ryan Gosling monologue sketch on the television comedy show Saturday Night Live on September 20, 2017. The term immediately went viral.

  1. No Orleans

“No Orleans” became a popular term after the city’s devastation from Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

  1. NOLA

“NOLA” stands for “New Orleans, Louisiana” or “N.O., L.A.” “Nola Realty Company, Ltd.” was printed in The Daily Picayune on May 16, 1905. Nola Records was founded in the mid-1960s. “NOLA.com” (a website of The Times-Picayune newspaper) was trademarked with a date of first use on December 21, 2000, and the nickname has been extremely popular since this time, especially on Twitter.

  1. Northernmost Banana Republic

American journalist A. J. Liebling called the state of Louisiana “the northernmost of the Banana Republics” in his book “The Earl of Louisiana” (1961) about Earl Long (1895-1960). “Banana republic” originated as a derogatory term for the unstable governments in Latin America (where bananas are grown). The “northernmost banana republic” term has been associated with New Orleans since at least the 1970s.

  1. Northernmost Caribbean City

“New Orleans’ unofficial status as the northernmost Caribbean city” was printed in The Times-Picayune on July 22, 1988. Many French Creoles have Haitian ancestries.

  1. Old Swampy

On the American animated sitcom “The Simpsons” on May 11, 1997, a spin-off show titled “Chief Wiggum P.I.” had Wiggum say: “Ah, New Orleans. The Big Easy. Sweet Lady Gumbo. Old…Swampy.”

  1. Paris of America

Many cities have been compared with Paris, France. (Historically, that has been a compliment.). “Paris of America” was printed in The Daily Picayune on March 26, 1937. A booklet titled “Souvenir of New Orleans, ‘The Paris of America'” was published by the St. Charles Hotel in 1920.

  1. Queen City

Many American cities, such as Cincinnati, Ohio, and Charlotte, North Carolina, have been called the “Queen City.” New Orleans has been called the “Queen City of the South” since at least 1837.

  1. Saint City

The New Orleans NFL team is called the Saints, and a popular song is “When the Saints Go Marching In.” “Saint City” has been cited in print since at least 2008.

  1. Silicon Bayou

‘Silicon Bayou”–a variant of the popular term “Silicon Valley”—was originally used by Lafayette, Lousiana in 1984.  “Silicon Bayou” became popular in New Orleans since at least 2010. “Silicon Swamp” is a similar name.

  1. Silicon Swamp

A 1996 Associated Press story about a New Orleans CD-ROM developer used the term “Silicon Swamp.” “‘Silicon Swamp’ Is Latest Tag,” The Times-Picayune declared on August 10, 1997. However, the nickname “Silicon Bayou” is usually used instead.

  1. Sweet Lady Gumbo

On the American animated sitcom “The Simpsons” on May 11, 1997, a spin-off show titled “Chief Wiggum P.I.” had Wiggum say: “Ah, New Orleans. The Big Easy. Sweet Lady Gumbo. Old…Swampy.”

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