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Bapopik at AOL.COM
Thu Jun 29 14:00:43 UTC 2000
The RHHDAS has "applesauce" from 1918, but without a hint of its origin.
This is from THE GIRL FROM RECTOR'S (Doubleday, Page & Co., Garden CIty,
NY, 1927) by George Rector, pg. 133:
_THAT APPLE-SAUCE JOKE_
There is an expression sweeping America to-day which I heard Corse
Payton use twenty-five years ago. Chauffeurs (Pg. 135--ed.) toss it at
traffic policemen, traffic policemen catch it in mid-air and hurl it back,
bad boys about it at truant officers, and good little girls shrill it to
their fond parents. Each granny tells it to grandpa and there isn't much
doubt that grandpa has mumbled it to the manicurist in the barber shop. That
expression is "apple sauce." You possibly have used it yourself without
knowing how it originated. It started with Thatcher, Primrose, and West, who
had one of the greatest minstrel organizations ever assembled. The
expression "apple sauce" means anything that is old, trite, and out-of-date.
This was the routine of the apple-sauce gag:
THATCHER: Mr. Interlocutor, a teacher has twelve pupils and only eleven
WEST: Yes, Mr. Tambo, a teacher has twelve pupils and only eleven
THATCHER: That's right. Now she wants to give each pupil an equal
share of the apples without cutting the apples. How does she do it?
WEST: Let me see. A teacher has twelve pupils and only eleven apples.
SHe wants to give each pupil an equal share of the apples without applying a
knife to the fruit. How does she do it? I must confess my ignorance. How
does she do it, Mr. Tambo?
THATCHER: She made apple sauce.
Thatcher used to get a huge laugh from this joke. Naturally, all the
other rival minstrels grabbed it, used (Pg. 136--ed.) it, an finally hamered
it into an early grave by too much repetition. Audiences refused to laugh at
it any more and it was discarded. So any other joke which is old and no good
is also called apple sauce. There is something about this expression which
is very satisfying. When a motorcycle cop tells you that he is going to give
you a ticket, not knowing that you are the mayor's friend, you tell him,
"Apple sauce." When he hands you the ticket, you tell him, "Apple sauce."
When you tell the judge you were going only two miles an hour, the judge
hands down the verdict of, "Apple sauce." And when you fork over fifteen
dollars and bounce out of the court room, the little birdies in the trees
seem to be chirping it. I have never seen anything, outside of a sneak
thief's skeleton key, which seemed to fit so many situations.
In a previous chapter I spoke about the personnel of my restaurant--the
cooks, the head chefs, the waiters, and the captains. There was one crew I
forgot to mention, and this outfit was the band of nighthawks operating the
fleet of scooped-out and sea-going hacks. The scooped-out hack was the open
Victoria, while the sea-going vehicle was the closed hack, more like a
brougham. Like Robin Hood's band, they were a merry bunch of outlaws who
trimmed the rich--but failed to donate to the poor. There were fifteen or
twenty outside of Rector's every night, rain or shine. Their scale of prices
depended on their victim's condition of sobriety and knowledge of geography.
Their tactics originated the (Pg. 137--ed.) famous expression "run-around."
A man who is giving you the run-around is trying to stall you off by using
OED has "run-around" from 1915.
That applesauce joke was the "Why did the chicken cross the road?" joke
of its time. The applesauce joke would often be used involving horses,
because everyone knew that horses loved apples. Some track writer on an
entertainment newspaper would soon call the New York City horse
Also from THE GIRL FROM RECTOR'S:
Pg. 15: His vest buttons also were precious stones, and I think that when
remonstrated with for his excessive display of gems, Mr. ("Diamond Jim"--ed.)
Brady remarked, "Them as has 'em wears 'em." (An early "If you've got it,
Pg. 68: In this case, "tub worker" did not mean bending over the week's wash
in the back of a Chinese laundry. This group of tourists worked the tubs.
The tubs were ocean liners. Their polish was as false as the sheen on an
oiled apple. It could be dropped readily, and in passing their tables I
often overheard such sinister words as "the (Pg. 69--ed.) mouthpiece," "the
big store," "the mob," "the iron theatre," and "the rap."
This may mean nothing to you unless I explain that the mouthpiece was a
lawyer, the big store was the district attorney's office, the mob was a gang
of crooks, the iron theatre was a jail, and the rap was either an accusation
or a term in jail. They were not nice lads, but there was no way of
excluding them provided they behaved themselves. And they always acted very
well in Rector's.
Pg. 73: ...there is an old saying in New York that the doctors support Wall
Street and the actors support the race track.
Pg. 86: He would eat his salad with some dandy Camembert cheese, running
south. By "running south" we meant the cheese was so soft that it had to be
eaten with a spoon instead of a knife.
Pg. 121: We did not serve many beef sirloins, although Rector's was
responsible for that very popular and well-known dish, the steak a la minute.
After waiting an hour or so for this order to be served, you might naturally
wonder how it ever got its maiden (Pg. 122--ed.) name of a la minute. It was
the swiftest steak we served, because it was sliced thin as a wafer and
cooked very quickly. If timed by reliable handicappers, I think the best we
could have claimed for it was steak a la fifteen minutes.
Some guests pronounced minute with an accent on the last syllable, which
made it mean very small or even infinitesimal. These guests were closer to
the truth. But I refuse to validate that old story about the guest who asked
his waiter to point out his steak and was informed that it was hiding under a
pea. We were never fortunate enough to get peas of that size.
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