Tatyana Deryugina (Twitter: @TDeryugina)

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The Windy City

Posted 28 Oct 09 by Tatyana

In case you’re wondering why Chicago’s making an appearance all of a sudden, it’s because I’m visiting the University for the semester.

I’m sure everyone’s heard that Chicago is known as the "Windy City” and heard people talk about how windy it is here. A few years ago, someone told me that this is not actually because of the wind, but because of Chicago politics (i.e. politicians bragging and being full of empty talk in general). Since I love "You know, that’s not actually true” moments, I remembered that. This weekend, the tour guide on the architecture tour said the same thing and added that the name originated before the 1893 World Fair when the boasting related to getting the World Fair bid became outrageous.

You know, neither story is actually true. I looked up the windiest US city this morning. There’s some debate as to what the windiest actually is, depending on whether you exclude Alaska (the weather service did when they published their list), but it most definitely isn’t Chicago. It isn’t even in the top 10 (Boston ranks number 9 if you exclude Alaska). You can find this and lots of other "weather lists” here.

As far as the politics, a historian in American slang wrote that he found references to Chicago being called the "Windy City” in 1885, way before the World Fair bid (he also found a reference to it being called "The Garden City”). He couldn’t find the reason for this nickname, however. This USA Today Q&A archive has this and more.

It does feel very windy here though. My own (unverified) hypothesis is that Chicago might have a high variance in wind speeds relative to other places. If there are a lot of windless days in Chicago and a few REALLY windy days, it might feel windier than a city that has steady winds with the same average.

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