Earliest Absolutely Unmistakable Usage of "Big Apple" = New York City

Fred Shapiro fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Sun Jan 11 00:18:09 UTC 2004

Some, such as Gerald Cohen, consider that the earliest unambiguous usage
of "Big Apple" meaning "New York City" occurs in a glossary of film slang
published in the _New York Times_, 11 Mar. 1928; that citation was
discovered by me in the 1980s and is printed in the OED as its first use
for "Big Apple."  Barry Popik, of course, has found that John J. Fitz
Gerald (sure hope I got the spelling right on that!) used "Big Apple" with
the specific meaning of "New York race tracks" in the early 1920s.  In one
of the Fitz Gerald usages, in the New York Morning Telegraph, 18 Feb.
1924, I believe he makes the transition to "Big Apple" = "New York City,"
but that is not absolutely clearcut.

I have now found a slightly earlier unmistakable usage of "Big Apple" =
"New York City."  A search on American Periodical Series retrieves the
following article:

THE BOOKMAN, Feb. 1928
"Mr. Wogglebaum Cooks an Opera" by Roy L. McCardell

p. 638
But as I dope it, if the Head Cheese _has_ been nicked into buying it by
them literary yes men on The Big Apple, it _could_ be made the picture
panic of the world.

p. 639
[Glossary:] On the Big Apple = _In New York City._

Fred Shapiro

Fred R. Shapiro                             Editor
Associate Librarian for Collections and     YALE DICTIONARY OF QUOTATIONS
  Access and Lecturer in Legal Research     Yale University Press,
Yale Law School                             forthcoming
e-mail: fred.shapiro at yale.edu               http://quotationdictionary.com

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