phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Phrases, Sayings and Idioms Home > Discussion Forum

Re: "Big Apple"

Posted by Steve E on June 15, 2005

In Reply to: Re: "Big Apple" posted by Bob on June 15, 2005

: : : : : : Your stated source of the phrase "Big Apple" is incorrect. It was likely first used and popularized by John J. Fitz Gerald, a horse-racing writer for the New York Morning Telegraph beginning in 1921. See the Web site thestraightdope.com for detailed information.

: : : : : I've done some further research and included that theory on this site. It's no more than a theory though and Fitz Gerald himself doesn't claim to have coined the phrase. As you say, it seems likely, but I wouldn't go further than that on the evidence we have.

: : : : There are a bunch of theories.
: : : : BIG APPLE -- "A nickname for New York City since the 1960s, the 'Big Apple' was first used in New Orleans. In about 1910 jazz musicians there used it as a loose translation of the Spanish 'manzana principal,' the main 'apple orchard,' the main city block downtown, the place where all the action is." From the "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997). A second reference also lists the "manzana principal" theory. But says, "However, American Dialect Society Publication #16 (November 1951) says that 'big apple' comes from 'racetrack argot; in big time racing, New York City had a tradition of high purses, excellent tracks, fine horses.' Why race-track people would use the phrase 'big apple' was unexplained, unless the fruit was a reward for a horse." From "Safire's New Political Dictionary" by William Safire (Random House, New York, 1993).

: : :
: : : I have always heard of New Orleans being referred to as 'The Big Easy' but never 'The Big Apple'

: : Who mentioned New Orleans?

: Oops. I see someone did. Absurd. There was, by the way, a tv commercial campaign in New York in the '50s and/or '60s that identified Aqueduct race track as (cue the singers) "the Big A." It ran fairly heavily, so it may have added to the revival of "the big Apple" around that time.

I remember the Big A ads very well. I believe they were part of what the 'Ad Biz' refers to as a 'saturation campaign'--they were everywhere--tv, radio, newspapers, magazines, on buses, trains, phone booths--all over the place! Did I mention that I found them annoying?