Trivia

Hard

The New York City Nickname “Gotham” Was Coined By?

Charlie Chaplin
Washington Irving
Bob Kane
Mark Twain
An 1809 oil painting of Washington Irving by John Wesley Jarvis.
Public Domain/Wikimedia

Answer: Washington Irving

Most people know the phrase “Gotham City” thanks to Batman and the crime-ridden NYC-like mega-metropolis he protects. As such, it would be very easy to assume that the nickname for New York City, Gotham, was coined by the creators of Batman (like early Batman co-writer Bob Kane).

The roots of the nickname, curiously, reach much farther back than Batman’s late 1930s appearance in the comic universe (and in fact, Batman’s city is not referred to as “Gotham City” until Batman #4 in December 1940).

The term Gotham actually dates all the way back to 1807 when it was coined by the 19th-century author Washington Irving. During the early part of his career as an author and essayist, Irving collaborated on a satirical New York-culture critiquing publication called Salmagundi (which, to compare it to modern culture, was similar to MAD Magazine). In November of 1807, in the seventeenth issue of the publication, Irving referred to New York City as “Gotham”, an Anglo-Saxon word which translates to “Goat’s Town”.

The nickname stuck and not only does it live on in the lore of the DC Universe thanks to the widespread popularity of Batman, but it also crops up in the name of NYC-centered publications like Gotham magazine, the Gotham Gazette, and the blog Gothamist.

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