The Fascinating History of Indianapolis' Nickname

Two of the city's nicknames reflect its historic links to transportation: Crossroads of America and Railroad City. But the most popular nickname for Indianapolis is Indy. This nickname has a fascinating history that dates back to the city's founding. According to a story, Indianapolis was named after the love of its founders for the name Annapolis.

To avoid brand problems, they decided to give their newborn city a different name, hence the longer name Indianapolis and the obvious need for a nice nickname. The meaning of Indy is simple: it means city in Indiana. Friends were already calling their adopted land Annapolis, so the founders of Indy decided to give their newborn city a different name to avoid brand problems, hence the longer name Indianapolis and the obvious need for a nice nickname. Unlike the meaning of life, the meaning of Indy is simple.

According to some people who may or may not have simply Googled it, Indianapolis means city in Indiana. Which, thankfully, was condensed into one word (with the same number of syllables, unfortunately), and then shortened back to Indy. Why should you remember Indianapolis's minor nickname, Naptown, when the name itself suggests that you shut up, close your eyes, and try not to drool? After the excitement of the Super Bowl, there's no reason to use such a sleepy name. And Indy is not Chi-Town.

Those who call Chicago home don't appreciate you pronouncing the Chi part of Chi-Town as the Chi part of Chicago. By the mid-1980s, Indianapolis had experienced something of a renaissance, and much of the American public viewed it in an increasingly positive light. The first reference to “Naptown in the Hoosier State Chronicles”, a free database of Indiana newspapers housed in the Indiana State Library, comes from a 1927 Indianapolis Recorder article on jazz musicians. National media described Indianapolis with praise as the “Star of the Snow Belt”, the “Cinderella of the Rust Belt”, a “City of the Corn Belt” with a Sizzle Sun Belt and a “Diamond in the Rust”.

Humorist Will Rogers reportedly described Indianapolis as “the only farm I've ever seen with a monument in the center”. In the 1920s, African-American artists and musicians began referring to Indy as “Naptown”. According to an article, it was seen as an informal conversation that emphasized the fourth syllable, the most prominent, of the name Indianapolis. The first use in an Evansville Argus newspaper was in reference to esteemed Indianapolis lawyer and political leader Henry Richarson.

Indianapolis has had its share of nicknames over time but none more popular than Indy. The nickname has its roots in its founding and its meaning is simple: city in Indiana. It also has an interesting minor nickname: Naptown. This nickname has its roots in black culture and reveals how misunderstood “Naptown” is both in nickname and character.

Rickie Koning
Rickie Koning

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