What is indianapolis city nickname?

Two of the city's nicknames reflect its historic links to transportation: Crossroads of America and Railroad City. Indy is the best nickname for a city in the world. Why else is Indy such a good nickname? If Indy were an animal, it would be a small kitten that fits in your pocket. According to a story I invented, Indianapolis stems from the love of its founders for the name Annapolis.

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”. Although Indianapolis developed a rather dubious reputation as the headquarters of the Indiana Ku Klux Klan during the 1920s, there are no known nicknames or titles attributed to the city because of that connection. Indianapolis was the center of several railroad lines and the intersection of several major highways, making it coincidentally known as “the crossroads of the United States.” The Indianapolis Times didn't start using the term until the 1940s, and even then, it was rare and was often spelled in quotation marks to ensure it was seen as a nickname.

Simins described how the Evansville Argus, also a black newspaper, also began to use “Naptown” interchangeably with “Indianapolis”. In the 1920s, African-American artists and musicians began referring to Indy as “Naptown”. According to the article, it was seen as an informal conversation that emphasized the fourth syllable, the most prominent, of the name Indianapolis. The first use in the Argus was in reference to esteemed Indianapolis lawyer and political leader Henry Richarson.

Humorist Will Rogers reportedly described Indianapolis as “the only farm I've ever seen with a monument in the center. Indianapolis has the nickname “Naptown” because throughout its history many people have seen the city as a rather slow and not so exciting place. For the 1970s and 1980s, city leaders sought to improve the city's image by adopting an urban renewal initiative that would turn Indianapolis into a major sports center. But its roots in the rich history of Indianapolis's black culture reveal how misunderstood “Naptown” is, both in nickname and character.

Rickie Koning
Rickie Koning

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