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Nicknames for Los Angeles

LA, Los Angeles, Palm Trees

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  • L.A. or "El Lay" - Abbreviation of Los Angeles. We searched for the earliest occurances of "L.A." we could find as an abbreviation for Los Angeles. In the 1860s, "L.A." was used as part L.A. & S.P. Railroad - an abbreviation for the Los Angeles and Southern Pacific Railroad Company. Apart from the railroad company abbreviation, the earliest occurance found of "L.A." was in the Jan. 29, 1875, edition of the Los Angeles Herald newspaper (page 3). By the 1880s, "L.A." appeared to come into common use. It appeared in the 1883-1884 edition of the Los Angeles City Directory. We also found an early reference to "L.A. County" in the June 9, 1882, edition of the Los Angeles Times.
  • City of Angels - Abbreviated English translation of the original Spanish name of Los Angeles. The earliest reference we found was in a letter to the editor of the Feb. 22, 1855, edition of the Los Angeles Star newspaper.
  • Double Dubuque - A put-down on Los Angeles used since the 1920s, but most popularly used after World War II into the 1960s. The phrase was attributed to the large presence of midwesterners in Los Angeles. Some attribute the orgin of the term to movie publicist Rufus Blair.
  • El Pueblo - Spanish for "The Town." This was one of the early abbreviated names of the city during the Spanish/Mexican period (1781-1849).
  • Forty Suburbs in Search of a City - Referring to L.A.'s urban sprawl. Used at least as early as the 1970s.
  • La-La Land - Used long before the motion picture of the same name. A phrase describing "a dreamlike mental state detached from reality" and used for the Los Angeles movie industry since the late 1970s. It also was used for L.A. in general. In 1987, L.A. Times columist Jack Smith sought to track down the orgins of the L.A. nickname (L.A. Times, Mar. 10, 1987). He surmissed that the likely origin were "the snobs up north" - or San Franciscans who looked down on L.A. as "cuckooland."
  • Lotusland or Lotusville - Term from the land of lotus eaters in The Odyssey, where "people ate lotus flowers that made them forget everything they ever knew; where they were from, where they were going, everything." May have been used for Los Angeles as early as the 1920s.
  • Nowhere City - From the title of a novel about Los Angeles, written by Alison Lurie in 1965.
  • Shakey Town - Said to have been used by truckers to refer to Los Angeles.
  • Smogville - Used in the L.A. Times as early as 1946. Attributed to the blanketing smog that inflicted Los Angeles through the 1970s.
  • Southland - Commonly used by Los Angeles radio and television reporters when referring to their broadcast market (Los Angeles and Orange Counties and portions of Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura Counties). The term had also been commonly used in local newspapers, when referring to Southern California, since the first decade of the 1900s.
  • The Big Orange - A name to contrast with New York City's "The Big Apple," named for Southern California's most famous agricultural products. Used mostly from the late 1970s through the 1990s and even used as title of a book by L.A. Times Columnist Jack Smith (1976). Never really caught on.
  • Tinseltown - Refers to the "shiny, bright, and unreal" nature of the film industry in Los Angeles, especially Hollywood.

Sources: Almanac research and Labels for Locals by Paul Dickson, 1997, Merriam Webster

Also see:
-- Where Did the Name Los Angeles Come From?
-- Pronouncing "Los Angeles"