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Big Apple

Posted by ESC on June 26, 2003

In Reply to: Big Apple posted by EE on June 26, 2003

: Why is New York called the Big Apple? What is the origin of the expression?

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).