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“Hizzoner” is a nickname used by journalists to refer to big city mayors, especially in New York City.

Hizzoner is a contraction of “his honor,” the mayor’s formal title.

Origin of “Hizzoner”

The term was first used in 1882. William Safire has said that the term was first popularized during the mayoralty of Fiorello LaGuardia; LaGuardia, as Safire says, was definitely not a formal figure, so a nickname which played with his office’s formal title sat well with him.

In 2019, when New York mayor Bill DeBlasio was running for the presidency, CBS created a feature called “Where’s Hizzoner?” The regular segment tracked DeBlasio’s movements and was a response to criticism that the mayor was spending too much time on the campaign trail and not enough governing the city.

New York’s tabloids aren’t generally known for their subtlety. Headlines about the mayor include items like “Hizzoner, the humongous hypocrite for sale,” which ran in the Daily News in 2018 and read, in part, 

“Here’s what Bill de Blasio, campaign-finance-reform champion and world-class hypocrite, said to the guy breaking the law and those systems to get bribe money to him: “Listen, I don’t know, I don’t want to know. Just do whatever you got to do.”

When Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire co-founder of Bloomberg MP, was running for mayor of New York, his own media had to chronicle his campaign. This made for some puzzling writing. “Hizzoner, Mayor Bloomberg?” read a headline in Bloomberg Businessweek

“So what makes a billionaire media executive who runs a company with 7,200 employees think he can manage the Big Apple and its 8 million citizens? Truth is, Michael R. Bloomberg thinks he can do pretty much anything. Especially when everyone else thinks he can’t. Once he officially announces his candidacy in two months or so, Bloomberg will sell himself to the voters as a political outsider with vision and managerial expertise. “I won’t be beholden to anybody,” he vows.”

Chicago mayors can also be called “Hizzoner” – so can any big-city mayor. For example, the Wall Street Journal reported on a plan to lure businesses to Chicago by offering lower taxes:

“The bright idea comes from Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, who is looking to lure employers from Oregon after that state’s voters approved a huge tax increase last week. The tax hike in Oregon “will help our economic development immediately. You’d better believe it,” Hizzoner told the Chicago Sun Times late last week. “We’ll be out in Oregon enticing corporations to relocate to Chicago.”

In Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times ran a slightly snarky item titled “Hizzoner Talks!” to announce an upcoming talk by mayor Eric Garcetti, who had been in office just a few months at the time.

A number of plays and movies have used the title “Hizzoner,” usually to recount the biography of one mayor or another. Hizzoner was also the name of a very short-lived sitcom starring Kathy Cronkite and Mickey Deems. The show focused on the ups and downs of life as the mayor of a small midwestern town and ran for one season in 1979.