Encyclopedia ofChicago
Entries : "Windy City"
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"Windy City"

 

 

 

"Windy City"

"From the Windy City"
Chicago's exposed location between the Great Plains and the Great Lakes—and the wind swirling amidst the city's early skyscrapers—lend credence to the literal application of this famous nickname dating from the late 1800s, but it is a favorite observation of tour guides and reference books that in fact Chicago's climate is not distinctively windy. (The same moniker is shared by Wellington, New Zealand, where it is more precisely meteorological.)

The power of the name lies in the metaphorical use “windy” for “talkative” or “boastful.” Chicago politicians early became famous for long-windedness, and the Midwestern metropolis's central location as a host city for political conventions helped cement the association of Chicago with loquacious politicians, thus underlying the nickname with double meaning.

Perhaps even more important, however, isearly Chicagoans' boosterism, or self-promotion. During the mid-1800s nearly any city could (and did) proclaim itself the ascendant “Metropolis of the West.” Boosters' arguments emphasized the superabundance of their locale's natural advantages and the inevitability of its preeminence, boasting that in fact they had no need to boast. Such was the “windiness” of Chicagoans, as they sought to secure investment, workers, and participation in projects of national scope such as the building of railroads and the provision of Civil War matériel. Early uses of the term appear in Cleveland (1885) and Louisville (1886) newspapers, and the 1885 appearance of the label in a headline suggests the possibility that this was not its initial invocation. It may well have been Chicago's urban rivals who coined a nickname, in derision, which has come to be adopted with pride.