Big Apple / Manzana WAS: "Always be sincere, even if you don't mean it" (1954) & Yahoo Answers

Mullins, Bill AMRDEC Bill.Mullins at US.ARMY.MIL
Mon Apr 24 16:49:17 UTC 2006

Barry's rant below is the first I've heard of the "manzana" explanation.
Just to add more confusion, there was a horse racing in Detroit in 1906
named "Manzana", and another racing in NY in 1928 named Manzana (both
found in Dallas Morning News archives).  The Atlanta Constitution,
7/6/04 makes reference to Manzana racing in Chicago.  The Washington
Post  Aug 1, 1908 has Manzana racing in Fort Erie; The Washington Post ,
Sep 10, 1908, has him in Montreal; etc., etc., with other listings of
the horse at other tracks.  No mention was noted of the size of Manzana
-- was he (or she, or it) a big horse?

If there were in fact reference to a horse known as "Big Manzana" or
some variant, it would seem to be relevant to the Big
Apple question.

> ...
> The origin of "the Big Apple" seems to be a popular Yahoo
> Answers question.
> My name comes up a lot in the answers, although my website
> has never been mentioned. One woman continues to promote the
> "Big Apple whore theory," even after its removal from the web.
> ...
> One person (below) seems to have recently visited my website,
> but he  credits the 1960s "manzana principal" theory, citing
> John Ciardi (sigh) and  Robert Hendrickson (bigger sigh) and
> 2004's Language Log (sighs, throws up  hands).
> ...
> There are quotes like: "New York jazz musicians of the 1930s
> (New Orleans roots!)." Listen: Cab Calloway regularly went to
> the track. The 1934 "Big Apple"
>  joint in Harlem was run by sportsmen. The NYC jazzmen of the
> 1930s got "the Big  Apple" from Fitz Gerald.
> ...
> This is followed with: "And note that the fact that the
> term's first  clearly DOCUMENTED use (by Fitzgerald) does NOT
> show us that the 'racetrack'
> application preceded its application to the jazz scene (it's
> hard to imagine how that would happen). It might well have
> happened the other way round!"
> ...
> Yeah, it's hard to imagine that the first citations in race
> track lingo are actually true.
> ...
> Thanks to Jerry Kreuscher and Language Log for believing in
> "manzana principal" without a single citation anywhere. No
> Language Log update? Jeez,  this never ends even when it ends.
> ...
> ...
> ...
> _;_ylt=ApirUnuC8vmjarJG4Tk.o
> 042206896_
> (;_ylt=ApirUnuC8vmjarJG4Tk.o
> ...
> _;_ylt=AqrIt2FzxoQg_YlUgWAss
> 041211280_
> (;_ylt=AqrIt2FzxoQg_YlUgWAss
> First, about the alleged bordello  background -- the page
> from which everyone got this story
> (_
> (  --The  Society for New York
> History) never gave a source for the story and has since
> removed it! I think we can dismiss that one.
> I think Barry Popik's  documentation of Fitzgerald's
> discovery of the term around 1920 --now widely  accepted as
> THE explanation-- is an important part of the answer, but
> notice  that it does NOT pull all the pieces together, nor
> does it actually tell you the  SOURCE of the expression!!
> Fitzgerald was just relating an expression he first  heard on
> a trip to New Orleans.
> The New Orleans connection appears to be  absolutely
> critical. Note that it fits in with the long recognized use
> of the  term "big apple" among New York jazz musicians of the
> 1930s (New Orleans roots!)  And note that the fact that the
> term's first clearly DOCUMENTED use (by  Fitzgerald)does NOT
> show us that the 'racetrack' application preceded its
> application to the jazz scene (it's hard to imagine how that
> would happen). It  might well have happened the other way round!
> So who coined the phrase,  and why? I believe John Ciardi and
> Robert Hendrickson offer the best  explanation, one which
> fits in very well with the Fitzgerald and jazz musician
> stories (though oddly Popik tends to be dismissive of it,
> perhaps thinking it  somehow undercuts his work ?!) At any
> rate it makes a LOT of sense.
> The  explanation is simple:
> The word "manzana" in Spanish means either apple or  'built
> up block of houses, neighborhood'. Ciardi suggests that the
> slang  expression 'manzana prinicipale' i.e., 'main/big apple
> [or apple orchard]' was  thrown around in New Orleans, a city
> with some old Spanish roots and  expressions, not just French.
> (Popik seems to dislike the Spanish explanation  because of
> the "French"
> background of New Orleans, but in fact there was more  than
> one cultural influence in this area).
> It's easy to see how such an  expression might be picked up
> and used by folks in New Orleans to refer to some  'hot spot'
> where the MAIN action in a field (jazz, racing, whatever) was
> to be  found --that was the place to be!
> "In about 1910 jazz musicians there  used it as a loose
> translation of the Spanish 'manzana principal,' the main
> 'apple orchard,' the main city block downtown, the place
> where all the action  is." From the "Encyclopedia of Word and
> Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson  (Facts on File, New
> York, 1997)."
> _
> (
> l)  Source(s):
> see all the theories discussed on
> _
> (
> (for  Ciardi's view, see the Jerry Kreuscher emails)
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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