Dear Urban Decoder: Toronto is often described as la ville reine (the Queen City) by newscasters on Radio-Canada. Where does the expression come from, and why don’t we use it ourselves?—Jacques Marcil, The Beach
During Queen Victoria’s reign, Toronto transformed itself from a backwater into an Upper Canadian rival to Lower Canada’s chief city, Montreal. Naturally, the Loyalists, royalists, Tories and Orangemen who fuelled the boom were bonkers for old Vickie and the Empire, as indicated by the era’s one-note place names: Queen Street, Queen’s Park and Victoria College. (They also came up with the idea for a national Victoria Day in 1853.) No big surprise, then, that by the end of the 19th century Toronto had begun to call itself the Queen City. Common for a few decades, the noble handle gradually fell out of use as the British Empire crumbled and Toronto began to see itself as a multicultural metropolis. But in places like Montreal, the nickname still reigns. All in all, it’s better than la ville des cochons.