Posted by ESC on June 14, 2005
In Reply to: "Big Apple" source incorrect posted by Gary on June 14, 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).