November 13, 2004

For the Randomly Curious

by Nick Morgan

For no good reason at all, it occurs to me that I have no idea why New York City is called "The Big Apple." Some stories--apparently apocryphal--reference prostitute slang as the phrase's origin, but most sources seem to agree on a less exciting explanation:

    “The Big Apple” was the catchphrase of New York Morning Telegraph track writer John J. Fitz Gerald in the 1920s. He admitted this twice and it was the name of three of his columns. He picked up the term from African-American stable hands at the Fair Grounds racetrack in New Orleans, probably on January 14, 1920.

    The “Big Apple” racing circuit had meant “the big time,” the place where the big money was to be won. Horses love apples, and apples were widely regarded as the mythical king of fruit. In contrast, the smaller, poorer tracks were called the “leaky roof circuit” or “bull ring” tracks.

    “The Big Apple” became the name of a club in Harlem in 1935, and Harlem itself was referred to as the “apple” at this time. A club in Columbia, South Carolina also took the “Big Apple” name, and it was here that 1937’s national “Big Apple” dance craze began.

Perhaps I was expecting tales of acid trips or poetic inspiration . . . ? But there you have it. Horses like apples.

November 13, 2004 05:59 PM | TrackBack

Do you like apples?
In evita, madonna has a line i didn't quite catch,
I wanna be a (da da dee) in Beunos Aires, Big Apple.
I - think - the new york usage was first.
I got her number, how do you like them apples?
- good will hunting

Posted by: arbitrary aardvark at November 15, 2004 11:48 PM
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