Indianapolis Life and Lore

Learn the resident lingo and layout to blend in with the locals.

By: Susan McKee

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  1. Midwest Cities


Photo by: Geoff Burke

Geoff Burke

Who’s Your Daddy? And Your Granddaddy? 

It’s hard to be a newcomer in Indianapolis, an insular city where many families have lived for generations. The membership rolls of country clubs such as Woodstock, Broadmoor, Meridian Hills and the Country Club of Indianapolis are full of clans who have multigenerational memberships. Locals know to be circumspect when talking about others: mention someone's name to anyone, and you'll probably find the two are connected by blood or business.

City or County? 

The old city limits exercise a hold on Indy that's hard to fathom, especially since the city has been combined with Marion County for more than a quarter-century. UniGov, begun in 1970 when U.S. senator Richard Lugar was the mayor of Indianapolis, started the process of combining the functions of city and county government. But decades later, the consolidation still isn't complete. Although the police department and the sheriff's office have recently combined, fire departments and school districts still are township-based. Changing that metric is an ongoing political struggle.

Sports, Man! 

In the 1980s, former mayor William H. Hudnut spent more than $1 billion to develop Indianapolis into a mecca for amateur sports. Indy built a world-class natatorium, tennis complex, track and field stadium and velodrome as part of a successful economic development plan to draw sporting events to Indianapolis. Then there's the Indy 500, the Brickyard 400 and the NBA's Indiana Pacers. The city has lured the 2012 Super Bowl with the opening the gigantic Lucas Oil Stadium, the retractable-roofed home of the NFL's Indy Colts.


The nickname for Indianapolis.


In the early 1900s, locals called the city Naptown because it was such a boring little burg; nightlife was nonexistent. On weekends and after 5:30 on weekdays, businesses shut down, leaving the city looking like it was dead asleep. Jazzmen adopted the nickname in the 1920s, putting it into the lyrics of songs. Rappers resumed this tradition in the 1990s, even though downtown Indianapolis is a whole lot livelier now.


A native or resident of Indiana. The term originated in the 1830s, and no one is certain how it came about or what it means.

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