Where Did NYC’s Nickname ‘Gotham’ Come From?

April 17, 2015

Washington Irving (L) and the cover of Salmagundi (R)

No, the answer isn’t from “Batman.” Creators of the comic book series were originally going to name its location Civic City, Capital City, or Coast City, but then flipped through a New York City phonebook and found Gotham Jewelers, lending inspiration to the now-famous Gotham City. But from where did this jewelry store get its name? The answer dates back to an 1807 issue of Washington Irving‘s satirical periodical Salmagundi which lampooned New York culture and politics.

In medieval England, the term Gotham meant Goat Town in Anglo-Saxon, and a tiny little village in Nottinghamshire (we’re guessing with a lot of goats) was named after it. Mental Floss notes that Washington Irving was inspired by a folk tale called “The Wise Men of Gotham,” in which residents of the English town pretend to be crazy to ward off a visit from the King, as they believe it will turn their quiet village into a zoo. Irving used this reference in the 17th issue of Salmagundi to poke fun at New Yorkers, implying that they all acted a little crazy. The term was embraced, but it’s not known if New York residents felt pride over their “craftily crazy” antics or if they simply didn’t understand the joke. This history was not lost on Batman, though. In Detective Comics #880, the Joker tells Batman that Gotham means “a safe place for goats.”

[Via Mental Floss]

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