New Orleans, LA

How New Orleans Got the Nickname "Big Easy"

Moon Walker

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New Orleans

New Orleans is a vibrant city that go by many names — NOLA, Crescent city, N’Awlins and popularly as The Big Easy. Today, we are going to look at the origin of the famous nickname “The Big Easy”. The origins of the nickname "The Big Easy" is quite as colorful as the city itself.

To better understand the origin of this name, we are going to go back in history and look at some theories surrounding its origin.

The Dance hall called The Big Easy

The first theory goes back to a dance hall in Gretna that was called The Big Easy. At the beginning of the 20th century, New Orleans was buzzing with jazz music and many young and upcoming musicians started there. As a result of the growing music scene, a lot of clubs and dance halls could be found everywhere in New Orleans. The Big Easy was one such dance hall where famous cornet players such as Buddy Bolden used to play. To this day, New Orleans remains the easiest place for budding musicians to get a gig.

The Times-Picayune columnist

The second theory points back to around 1960 when late Times-Picayune gossip columnist, Betty Guillaud, used the term to refer to New Orleans. She referred to New Orleans as The Big Easy to contrast the easy-going laid-back lifestyle as opposed to The Big Apple which is New York. Till today, New Orleans is still having a relaxed lifestyle compared to the constant rush in New York.

The 1970 Novel and Movie

The third theory goes to the 1970s, when American author James Conway published a crime novel based in New Orleans called The Big Easy. When asked about the choice for the novel’s name, he said he once overheard two African American talking about The Big Easy. Since then the name stuck with him until two years later when he chose the name for his novel. A movie was made out of the novel and became very successful, which only helped to make the nickname even more popular.

Alcohol prohibition era

The fourth theory about the origin of the nickname refers to the general laid back lifestyle of New Orleans. The national banning of alcohol in the 1920s never quite made it to New Orleans. Due to the city’s very active nightlife and many hotspots, law enforcement found it very hard to prohibit alcohol consumption during this time. Till today, New Orleans is pretty much the place in America where one can grab a drive-through daiquiri and carry an alcoholic drink in the streets with you as long as it’s in a go-cup.

Whatever theory seems to hold the most truth to it doesn’t matter. The Big Easy is not just a name, but a reflection of the overall vibe of the city. It's a reflection of the laid-back, easy-going attitude of the people who truly believe in letting the good times roll!

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Jack is a freelance writer and editor who loves to inspire others with his words and also share interesting stories to the world.

New York City, NY
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