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Since When is Los Angeles 'The Big Orange'?

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Photo by ExperienceLA via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr

Photo by ExperienceLA via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr
With one Los Angeles Times article, suddenly we're talking apples and oranges here in Los Angeles. Specifically, L.A. being nicknamed "The Big Orange."For years New York City has been referred to colloquially as "The Big Apple," as millions of visitors and residents have sought to take their own bite out of the major metropolis. The origins of the moniker stem from the early 20th century, and a sportswriter who peppered his horse racing stories with popular slang, and seemed to employ "The Big Apple" as a term for any major city. In fact, in 1920, he even used it to describe Los Angeles, points out Wikipedia.

One website about Orange County calls itself "The BIG Orange," and on the other side of the country, the University of Tennessee's sports teams are called "The Big Orange." Want to call a city "The Big Orange"? How about Tel Aviv, Israel, who started using the nickname around 1989. If you'd like to see a real "Big Orange," head to Australia, where the citrus is one of several in a series of loosely related tourist-trapping "big things."

So just when the heck did people start calling Los Angeles "The Big Orange"?

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It's not completely absent from our history, but it sure isn't something that caught on. There are a few references to Los Angeles as "The Big Orange," in the press from the late 1970s to the early 1990s. "What is Los Angeles? The Big Apple it isn't. And to understand Los Angeles, you have to know that it doesn't want to be the Big Apple, and never did. It only wants to be the Big Orange," wrote Jack Smith in 1976. True, there is a blog about places in L.A. that's called Big Orange Landmarks, too.

Other uses in NY-area press use the nickname for Miami, Orange County New Jersey, and, yes, Los Angeles, at least once, in a 1991 article making reference to the Dodgers' move out West. But Google "The Big Orange," and these won't be prominent results. "The Big Orange" is not a nickname for Los Angeles that is in common usage--and definitely not so much so as the Apple is to NYC to prompt the city's tourism board to adopt its use as a motif and slogan, as they did in the 1970s.

One person's compilation of city nicknames hails Los Angeles as The City of Flowers and Sunshine, and the more familiar City of Angels and La La Land, and, yes, The Big Orange. The media love to group L.A. and its surrounding communities as "The Southland," too. Of course, Los Angeles does have a nickname so oft used and obvious that we might even forget it's a nickname at all: L.A.

"What's in a name?" asks Shakespeare's Juliet about her lover's family heritage. And here we ask something similar: Is Los Angeles "The Big Orange"? Is there any other name as, forgive the pun, as sweet? Or is it just a nickname that's doomed, like Romeo, to never ripen?