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Big Apple

Posted by Peter Wellburn on June 27, 2003

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


Perhaps the theory about the Hispanic description of 'manzana'(apple) shouldn't be dismissed so lightly. 'Manzana' is still used in Spain to refer to a city building although I believe its origin is archaic. It can be an entire street where that consists of a single building (erected at the same time and in the same style). I have seen it in older parts of Madrid for example.

Why they called buildings 'apples' I do not know unless 'manazana' had another meaning in the past.

Peter Wellburn

: : 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).

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