Toronto insider: a beginner’s guide

Ever been to Toronto, Canada? Whether you know the city or not, there is always something new to be discovered. Our new resident Toronto columnist, Donna Paris, will tell you everything you need to know about the city before your arrival in October for the FIPP World Congress.

Call it what you will – Hogtown, the 6 or the Big Smoke. But if you say Toronto, lose the second t.

So you’re coming to the FIPP Congress! And when people ask you where it’s at, you tell them straight: It’s in the city of Toronto. In the province of Ontario. In Canada.

Stop right there. Just so you know, you’ll want to tell them it’s in Toronno. Skip the second T. Why? Apparently, it’s a phenomenon called ‘intervocalic flapping’.

Uncomfortable with that? No worries, you can call Toronto lots of names. 

Like Muddy York. When Lt. Governor John Graves Simcoe founded Toronto in 1793, he wanted to lure more Brits over and so he picked a more familiar name, York, after the Duke of York, Frederick Augustus, the second son of King George III. People did come and, because the town couldn’t keep up with the drainage of so many unpaved streets, they turned into muddy messes after a rainfall.

Then people started calling the town Little York. Cute, like New York’s little sibling. 

Finally, the inhabitants cried “Enough York!” And this town reverted back to original name of Toronto in 1834. 

Don’t worry, though, still lots of Yorks here: chichi Yorkville, and North York and East York, located exactly where you’d expect them to be, they’re suburbs still referred to as such, even though they were amalgamated into Toronto’s megacity in 1998.

Do you like history? Check out the Canadian government’s take on the naming of Toronto.

Oh, we’re also known as Hogtown because of the large meat-packing district in Toronto, especially pork producers, with the William Davies Company producing a lot of bacon (mmm, I like bacon!). But other towns in Ontario started calling Toronto Hogtown, because well, it was bigger than them and got more attention. Still, as far as insults go, it could have been worse. 

And in fact, a local craft brewery in Toronto, Hogtown Brewers, which features a pig in its logo, has this to say: 

“As for our name, at the turn of the 20th century, Toronto earned the moniker Hogtown for its role in the processing of livestock, particularly the processing and packaging of pork. Toronto has come a long way since then and is now one of the most vibrant global cities, a cultural melting pot with unbelievable tolerance of race, creed and sexual orientation. What Toronto should not continue to tolerate is limited, indistinguishable beer choices from massive foreign-owned breweries.”

Go, Hogtown! (Brewers, that is).

How about this? Toronto the Good, which came from its history as a strong supporter of Victorian morality in the 19th century. It dates back to Mayor William Howland of Toronto, who was dedicated to helping the poor and disadvantaged. At the time, Toronto had just over 100,000 people and about 800 saloons. Blame it on all those working-class Irish Catholics, Italians, Poles and other immigrants, which was fine, except that public drunken fights often erupted in the streets, giving Toronto a bad image. Soooo, Conservative politicians voted for Prohibition, and fun fact: The Junction, a West Toronto neighbourhood, was actually dry until 1997. And look at it now, a hotspot of boozy bars, where beers flows from the taps.

Other nicknames

Since the 1970s, Toronto and Vancouver share Hollywood North, which refers to the film industry and locations in Canada. (It’s north of Hollywood, California, the seminal home of the entertainment industry and especially movies in North America). 

T.O., (pronounced tee oh) is simply an abbreviation of Toronto, Ont., which led to a further abbreviation, T-dot, with rappers popularising this one. Also referred to as the 416, Toronto’s original telephone code, now expanded to 647 code along with others. Actually Drake, who released a (surprise!) new album called “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late.” on iTunes this morning, may still be releasing a previously announced album, “Views from the 6.” Get it?

Oh, The Centre of the Universe: this one is a little sarcasty and derogatory, used mostly by people who don’t live here. ’Nuff said.

And finally, The Big Smoke, apparently a popular nickname for London, now used to refer to different cities around the world. According to Wikipedia, air pollution in London regularly gave rise to pea soup fogs, most notably the Great Smog of 1952, and a nickname that persists to this day.

Toronto smells good whatever you call it – but maybe that’s the aroma of Smoke’s Poutinerie spilling out onto the sidewalk. Mmmm, poutine. More about where to get some next time.

Toronto sign (Creative Commons Ontario Toronto)

The sign says Welcome to Toronto but don’t say it like that. Say it like this: Toronno. And don’t worry, the snow will be gone when you’re here.

If you haven’t yet booked your place at the FIPP World Congress, which takes place on 13-15 October 2015 in Toronto, find out how to do so here.

Any questions?

Get in touch with FIPP’s events manager, Claire Jones.

Image: Creative Commons Ontario Toronto

Your first step to joining FIPP's global community of media leaders

Sign up to FIPP World x