The New Yorker on "The Big Apple"

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at UMR.EDU
Sat Jan 15 17:01:43 UTC 2005

  Any criticism for the failure of the NY Historical Society to credit Barry Popik for his "Big Apple" discoveries should be directed at me rather than the NYHS.
A year or two ago I contacted Mariam Touba (reference librarian, NYHS) about Peter Salwen's hoax that "The Big Apple" derives from a story about prostitutes.
The NYHS was previously unaware of the hoax and considered the story a possible bona fide deriviation.

    Ms. Touba was very grateful for the correction and sent me a revised treatment--evidently the one which the New Yorker has recently relied on.
And here we get to my mea culpa: I never got back to Ms. Touba to thank her for the rewritten version and to mention it would be good to include specific mention of Barry.

    I'll belatedly try to make good on both points next week.

Gerald Cohen
P.S. The planned second edition of my _Origin of New York City's Nickname "The Big Apple"_ will have Barry as co-author and include his very valuable material. The revised edition will be completed this summer (2005) or at the latest in 2006.

> ----------
> From:         American Dialect Society on behalf of Fred Shapiro
> Reply To:     American Dialect Society
> Sent:         Saturday, January 15, 2005 7:38 AM
> Subject:           The New Yorker on "The Big Apple"
> At the risk of providing further ammunition to a certain person's extensive complaints of neglect, let me point out that The New Yorker, 17 Jan. 2005, p. 40, has an item about the New-York Historical Society that includes the following: "The most commonly asked question is
> about the origin of the term 'The Big Apple.' (It seems to have started with African-American stable-hands in New Orleans in the nineteen-twenties; an earlier usage of the term, in a 1909 collection of vignettes called 'The Wayfarer in New York,' is, according to the
> Historical Society's official line, a red herring.)"
> In terms of spreading truth rather the usual etymological bullshit, the above scores pretty highly.  Regrettably, however, it fails to give credit to Barry Popik for his pivotal role in illuminating this
> term.
> Fred Shapiro

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