A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from April 03, 2005
Big Smoke (summary)
"The Big Smoke" (or, "the Great Smoke") is London, England -- a city known for its fog. "The Big Smoke" dates earlier than "the Big Apple," but London's nickname is used informally and much less often.


(Oxford English Dictionary)
the (big, great) smoke, a colloquial name for London. Also, any large city or town (chiefly Austral.).

1848 H. W. HAYGARTH Recoll. Bush Life in Australia 6 As he gradually leaves behind him the 'big smoke' (as the aborigines picturesquely call the town), the accommodations become more and more scanty. 1864 Slang Dict. 237 Country-people when going to the Metropolis say they are on their way to the Smoke. 1893 J. A. BARRY Steve Brown's Bunyip 21 You want to get away amongst the spielers and forties of the big smoke? 1897 F. T. BULLEN Cruise 'Cachalot' xxv. (1901) 330, I desired to know what brought him so far from the 'big smoke'. 1903 FARMER & HENLEY Slang VI. 270 The Smoke = any large city: spec. London: also The Great Smoke. 1971 Sunday Australian 8 Aug. 5/3 The unhappy pilgrimage from bush to big smoke.

1917 E. MILLER Diary 24 Apr. in Camps, Tramps & Trenches (1939) x. 61 My first day in 'the Big Smoke'. 1968 Tel. (Brisbane) 14 Aug. 54/1 He falls for a beautiful blonde who wants him to stay in the Big Smoke but city life has no appeal.


4 July 2003, Mirror (London), "We will slay the smoking Goliath" by Christopher Hitchens, pg. 5:
WHEN I was a lad - older readers may want to moan with nostalgia here - London was known as "the Big Smoke".

It was a nickname as tenacious as the Big Apple but much more intelligible.

In those days, especially in the winter months, fog and smog blanketed the place.

Dickens described it best at the opening of Bleak House. His cabmen used to refer to especially choking and enveloping versions as "a London particular".

A bit of smoke and a bit of fog was part of London pride. It was duplicated in the delightful blue haze, sometimes admittedly a bit yellow at the edges, which greeted the visitor to a pub or saloon.

Posted by Barry Popik
Nicknames of Other PlacesBig Smoke (London, England nickname) • (0) Comments • Sunday, April 03, 2005 • Permalink