Big Apples and Red Herrings

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Fri May 15 22:14:20 UTC 2009

What to make of this?

        POMONA'S LAST AND LARGEST.  [14 1/2 inches around; grown by Thomas Gardner of Paramus]]  It was a "big apple."
        N-Y Commercial Advertiser, September 4, 1848, p. 2, col. 3

Doubtless no connection with our favorite "Big Apple", but why the quotation marks?  Were "scare quotes" -- I believe they have been called that here, I've never known a name for them -- in use 160 years ago?  I've the impression that they are more recent.  Are the "" just meant to emphasize the words?  "It was one hell of a big apple."
But if they are there to call attention to an allusion or catch-phrase, then maybe there is some connection. . . ?


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.

The American Dialect Society -

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