Thursday, November 04, 2004

Another word to ponder ...

I can't resist one more post tonight, then I MUST make myself useful to my fellow Homo sapiens in a more concrete way.

Q: Why is New York City nicknamed "Gotham City?" What does Gotham mean, anyway?

A: I'm a fan of Batman from way back. I was always intriqued by the semi-fictional Gotham City of the comic books, and subsequently curious about the origin of the term as it applies to my oft-maligned home, the BIG APPLE.

You might think the term has something to do with BIG-NESS, or the Goths.

Wrong. In fact, it simply means 'The name of a village, proverbial for the folly of its inhabitants.' (Thus sayeth the OED.) I was first alerted to this origin of the term while reading the excellent book Water for Gotham, by Gerard Koeppel.

Washington Irving seems to be the first writer (1811) to refer to New York as "Gotham," (implying foolish New Yorkers), and Koeppel argues that the city earned the nickname for stalling and stalling (in the early 1800s) on fixing a totally inadequate water supply system for so long.

A far cry from Tim Burton's vision of a grim, "gothic" city.

So how foolish are we? Well, not as much as the rest of you numbskulls. We certainly didn't vote for Bush.

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