President Donald Trump tweeted today about the destruction of the “Old Grey Lady” and called for the resignation of many people at The New York Times. Not everyone realizes that the phrase “Old Grey Lady” is actually an old nickname for The New York Times that’s been around for a while. Trump read his tweets about the Old Grey Lady out loud during his New Mexico rally a few hours later.
Today Trump tweeted twice about The New York Times and new accusations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
First he wrote: “I call for the Resignation of everybody at The New York Times involved in the Kavanaugh SMEAR story, and while you’re at it, the Russian Witch Hunt Hoax, which is just as phony! They’ve taken the Old Grey Lady and broken her down, destroyed her virtue and ruined her reputation…”
Then he continued: “…She can never recover, and will never return to Greatness, under current Management. The Times is DEAD, long live The New York Times!”
He seemed to move on after that, tweeting about his trip to New Mexico for a rally. But some people on Twitter couldn’t move on because they weren’t sure what “Old Grey Lady” meant.
Some wondered if he was talking about Lady Liberty or if he was talking about the Statue of Liberty.
But it turns out that “Old Grey Lady” is a nickname for The New York Times that’s been around for quite awhile, but not everyone’s familiar with the term. Sometimes the nickname is just “The Grey Lady” and not “Old Grey Lady.”
In fact, there’s a story from 2018 by The New York Times about when it switched to printing in color called: “When the Gray Lady Started Wearing Color.”
The question about the Grey Lady term has been asked on Quora. One person explained that the NYT was called “Old Lady of 43rd Street” back when it was published from a building at 229 West 43rd Street in Manhattan. This was a callback to the Bank of England being nicknamed “Old Lady of Threadneedle Street.’ The “Grey Lady” terms has been used since the 1950s for the NYT.
And here’s a story from Life talking about how The Old Grey Lady would celebrate its 100th birthday in 1951. The story begins:
The Old Grey Lady will celebrate her 100th birthday this Sept. 18. The ‘lady’ is a newspaper – the New York Times – regarded by many in the world at large (and all within its own world) as the world’s greatest. And newsmen generally hail it as ‘old’ and ‘gray’ by way of acknowledging its traditional special marks: starch conservatism and circumspection.”
In 1991, Time published a story titled “Tarting Up The Gray Lady Of 43rd Street.” The story began: “The New York Times has long had more in common with the Congressional Record than with its distant cousins, the tabloids. It has never had much of a nose, or a tolerance, for either gossip or nonpolitical scandal. So what on earth is going on at the Times these days? Why is the Gray Lady leaning over the back fence and acting like a garrulous matron? Why has she suddenly started kicking up her heels — occasionally tripping over her own feet?…”
So as you can see, “Old Gray Lady” is actually a term commonly used to refer to The New York Times. Sometimes it’s used approvingly and sometimes with a disapproving tone, but it’s been commonly used for a long time.