Explanation of Big Apple NYC name

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at MST.EDU
Tue Dec 17 16:19:44 UTC 2013

Incidentally, if anyone is looking for a much more complete treatment (the result of 20+ years of research), please note the book
I co-authored with Barry Popik:
_Origin of New York City's Nickname, "The Big Apple,"_, 2nd, revised and expanded edition,  (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang), 2011.

It's mentioned on the following website: http://www.amazon.de/Origin-York-Citys-Nickname-Apple%C2%BB/dp/3631613865

which presents the abstract that Popik and I prepared a few years ago:

The monograph aims for a comprehensive look at the history of «The Big Apple», incorporating material that has come to light since the first edition of this work was published in 1991. The overall picture now is: Apples, always important, became especially so with the appearance of the Big Red Delicious Apple in Iowa, 1870's. «The Big Apple» therefore came to refer to somebody or something very important. In 1920 an African-American stablehand in New Orleans mentioned in conversation: «We's goin' to ';the big apple'» (NYC racetracks as the big time in horseracing). Turf writer John J. Fitz Gerald overheard this statement and adopted «The Big Apple» (1921ff.) in his columns, popularizing it to refer particularly to the NYC tracks. Secondarily it could refer to big time horseracing in general. In the 1930's «The Big Apple» was picked up by black jazz musicians to designate NYC in general (and Harlem in particular) as the place where the greatest jazz in the world was being pla!
 yed. And in 1971 Charles Gillett revived «The Big Apple» as part of a public-relations campaign on behalf of NYC. Despite the increasingly clear picture of what happened, various incorrect etymologies have arisen about «The Big Apple». The monograph addresses and rejects them in some detail.

Gerald Cohen
From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] on behalf of ADSGarson O'Toole [adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM]
Sent: Monday, December 16, 2013 9:11 PM
Subject: Explanation of Big Apple NYC name

Why New York City Is Known as “The Big Apple”
by Maria Popova


[Begin excerpt]
How come New York City is nicknamed “The Big Apple”? That’s precisely
what ten-year-old Ellen wonders in Does My Goldfish Know Who I Am?
(public library) — that magnificent compendium of big thinkers’
answers to little kids’ questions about how life works, also among the
best children’s books and the best science books of 2013. Author
Philip Gooden, masterful writer about language and history, explains:

[Begin nested quote]
There’s an old American expression “to bet a big apple” and it means
to be very certain of what you’re talking about. Then about a hundred
years ago the “big apple” started to be applied to horse racing in New
York, perhaps because it was the most important center for horse races
or because of the value of the prizes. From there the expression grew
even wider until it came to describe the city itself, especially
during an age when it was one of the most exciting, fast-moving and
glamorous places on Earth.

After a time, advertisers started using the words and even the image
of a large, glossy, unblemished apple because they realized it was a
good way to encourage people to visit the city. It’s true too: New
York is like the biggest apple in the world, the shiny object that
everybody wants a slice of.
[End nested quote]
[End excerpt]

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