Big Apple

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"The Big Apple" is a nickname for New York City. It was first popularized in the 1920s by John J. Fitz Gerald, a sports writer for the New York Morning Telegraph. Its popularity since the 1970s is due to a promotional campaign by the New York Convention and Visitors Bureau, known now as NYC & Company.


The nickname of New York

Although the history of the Big Apple was once thought a mystery,[1] research over the past two decades, primarily by amateur etymologist Barry Popik[2] and Gerald Cohen of Missouri University of Science and Technology,[3] has provided a reasonably clear picture of the term's history. Previously, there were a number of false etymologies,[4] of which the most ridiculous was the claim that the term derived from a New York brothel whose madam was known as Eve.[5] This was subsequently exposed as a hoax[6] and has been replaced on the source web site with more accurate information.[7]

The earliest citation for "big apple" is the 1909 book The Wayfarer in New York, by Edward Martin, writing: "Kansas is apt to see in New York a greedy city. . . . It inclines to think that the big apple gets a disproportionate share of the national sap" (emphasis added).[8][9] William Safire considered this the coinage, but the Random House Dictionary of American Slang considers the usage "metaphorical or perhaps proverbial, rather than a concrete example of the later slang term", and Popik likewise does not consider this the coinage.

The Big Apple was first popularized as a reference to New York City by John J. Fitz Gerald in a number of New York Morning Telegraph articles in the 1920s in reference to New York horse-racing. The earliest of these was a casual reference on May 3, 1921:

J. P. Smith, with Tippity Witchet and others of the L. T. Bauer string, is scheduled to start for "the big apple" to-morrow after a most prosperous Spring campaign at Bowie and Havre de Grace.[10]

Fitz Gerald referred to the "big apple" frequently thereafter.[11] He explained his use in a February 18, 1924, column under the headline "Around the Big Apple":

The Big Apple. The dream of every lad that ever threw a leg over a thoroughbred and the goal of all horsemen. There's only one Big Apple. That's New York. Two dusky stable hands were leading a pair of thoroughbred around the "cooling rings" of adjoining stables at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans and engaging in desultory conversation. "Where y'all goin' from here?" queried one. "From here we're headin' for The Big Apple," proudly replied the other. "Well, you'd better fatten up them skinners or all you'll get from the apple will be the core," was the quick rejoinder.[12]

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