[Ads-l] big apple

Peter Reitan pjreitan at HOTMAIL.COM
Fri Feb 7 01:16:56 UTC 2020

I recently saw Martin Scorsese's film, "New York, New York."  During the 
film, Robert De Niro's character, a jazz saxophonist in late-1940s New 
York City, refers to New York City as "the Apple" a couple times.

I was familiar with Barry Popik's numerous early Big Apple citations, 
mostly from horse racing in the 1920s, and a dance craze in the 1930s, 
and a few scattered citations to the city itself from the mid-1940s 
through the 1950s.

But I hadn't seen any early, "the Apple" citations, so I wondered 
whether it was an anachronism.

In looking, I found one reference to New York City as "the Apple" from 
an African-American newspaper in 1947, so the usage in the film could 
have been appropriate to the time.

Nancy Waterman and Hattie Franklin were visiting in the "Apple," (New 
York City,) this weekend.
[End Excerpt]
>From the New England news section, specifically Lynn, Mass, in The New 
York Age, March 1, 1947, page 12.

I also found a few early examples of "the Big Apple" for the city, 
itself, not related to the dance craze or horse racing.

In another African-American newspaper in 1938.
Washington, D. C., Mar. 10 - Heading back to the "Big Apple," New York 
City, Earl Hines and his band closed another successful engagement at 
the Howard theatre here.
[End Excerpt]
The Pittsburgh Courier, March 12, 1938, page 20.

A slang article from 1928 describe "the Big Apple" as Hollywood slang.
[Excerpt] Hollywood's Own Language. . . . . THE BIG APPLE - New York 
city.[End Excerpt]
The Boston Globe, April 21, 1928, page 2.

Another slang article form 1928 refers to it as racketeer slang.

[Excerpt] Rapid Fire Lingo of Racketeer World Carries on Business of 
Handling the Hootch and "Rides" . . . . "the Big Apple," New York city . 
. . .[End Excerpt]

Press and Sun-Bulletin (Binghamton, New York), October 12, 1928, page 

------ Original Message ------
From: "David Daniel" <dad at coarsecourses.com>
To: ADS-L at listserv.uga.edu
Sent: 2/3/2020 4:58:16 PM
Subject: big apple

>---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>Poster:       David Daniel <dad at COARSECOURSES.COM>
>Subject:      big apple
>I've been watching old Perry Mason shows. Very cool, as well as
>nostalgia-ridden. Anyway, the episode I'm watching now (air date Nov 15,
>1958) is about horse racing and Perry is defending a jockey accused of
>murder (of course he didn't do it). So Perry and Paul Drake are talking to
>the trainer who was the jockey's boss, and the trainer is talking about how
>you move up in the racing world. You start off small, etc. etc., and then
>one day you make it to the Big Apple. "The Big Apple?" Perry asks. "Yeah,"
>says the trainer, "Saratoga, Belmont..." meaning the big ones. Perry had
>never heard the term and there is no direct reference to New York, except of
>course that both those tracks are in New York. It's strictly treated as
>racing jargon. (A side note on these shows: I have watched about 45 of them
>now and have yet to see a black actor, not one. Feels very bizarre. Also
>everyone except Della Street is constantly - constantly - smoking.)
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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