FWIW: WSJ errs on "Big Apple"

Bapopik at AOL.COM Bapopik at AOL.COM
Fri Jan 19 04:22:13 UTC 2007




It's a old code word from the days  of slavery, same as georgia peach. Thats
what i was told on the Circle  line which is a boat tour that circles NYC.

by Nat Hentoff
Wall Street Journal, January 17, 2007, pg. D12, col. 4:
"The Queens Jazz Trails tour takes place the first Saturday of every month.
Copies of the accompanying map can be obtained from Mr. Miller at Ephemera
Press  (ephemerapress.com). There, too, is his celebrated illustrated map of the
Harlem  Renaissance that cites cultural historian Alaine Locke's 1919 first
chorus to  the abiding importance of Harlem: 'Harlem is the precious fruit of
the Garden of  Eden, the big apple.'"
To the Editor of the Wall Street Journal:
New York City's nickname, "the Big Apple," does not come from "cultural
historian Alaine (sic) Locke's 1919 first chorus to the abiding importance  of
Harlem: 'Harlem is the precious fruit of the Garden of Eden, the big apple.'"
[WSJ, "Jazz's History Is Living in Queens" by Nat Hentoff, 1-17-07]
First, his name is Alain LeRoy Locke (1886?-1954). Second, there is no
evidence whatsoever that he said this in 1919. Third, I haven't found any  evidence
that Locke said this phrase at all. Even if he did say it some time  during
his lifetime, Locke had no influence on the nickname.
Wall Street Journal readers should know the correct information because I
was profiled in the WSJ in a "Big Apple" story on January 2, 2001. Nat Hentoff
should know the correct information because I personally mailed it to him (at
the _Village Voice_, where he works).
Through much hard work, professor Gerald Cohen (Univ. of Missouri-Rolla)  and
I discovered that "the Big Apple" was the pet phrase of NY Morning Telegraph
track writer John J. Fitz Gerald in the 1920s. Fitz Gerald twice admitted
that  he first heard the term used by African-American stablehands at the Fair
Grounds  racetrack in New Orleans. "The big apple" had meant the big treat, the
big reward for horses and horsemen.
For many years, I distributed the correct information to the media and to
politicians, but no one listened to me. Finally, in 1997, I dedicated "Big Apple
 Corner" at West 54th Street and Broadway, where Fitz Gerald lived the last
thirty years of his life. No one came to the dedication, and no memorial at
that  site even explains the street sign.
In 1934, a club called "the Big Apple" opened in Harlem at West 135th  Street
and Seventh Avenue (now Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard). The club
featured a unique upside-down apple at its entrance, and 1930s Harlem jazz
musicians quickly referred to Harlem as "the Apple." About a year later, another  "Big
Apple" club opened in Columbia, South Carolina, and the nationwide 1937  "Big
Apple" dance craze began at this club.
About three months ago, Harlem's "Big Apple" night club plaque was  removed
to make way for a Popeye's restaurant that opened just weeks ago.  Someone
recovered the plaque and attempted to sell it on eBay. Such is how the  history of
New York City is preserved.
There is no "Big Apple" memorial at New Orleans' Fair Grounds racetrack,  and
the African-American stablehands who first called New York "the Big Apple"
have never been honored in any way, by anyone, ever. No mention of these facts
will be made this Black History Month (I've tried for fifteen years), and
this  story will never make your local television news. I re-doubled my efforts
to  honor the New Orleans stablehands after Hurricane Katrina (I even ran for
Manhattan Borough President and finished second), but no one was even kind to
When my wife's uncle was killed in a hit-and-run on a Manhattan street last
year, that was the last straw for us and we moved out of "the Big  Apple." It
is difficult to believe that Hentoff and New Orleans and New  York can either
be so very ignorant or so heartless
Barry Popik

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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