The Origin of ‘The Big Apple’

While it’s true that the state of New York is one of America’s largest producers of apples, this fact has got nothing to do with New York City’s popular alias, ‘The Big Apple.’ Over the years, NYC has been given quite a few titles; it’s been called many things – ‘The Great American Melting Pot,’ The City that Never Sleeps,’ ‘New Amsterdam,’ Commonality of the City of New York,’ ‘Gotham’ and whatnot. Among so many of the monikers, how did ‘The Big Apple’ manage to gain so much popularity? Let’s find out.

The origin and the history of this nickname were considered to be a conundrum. There were several doctrines as to how this name came into being. One theory pointed that it originated from the former affluent families selling apples during the Great Depression. Another speculation indicated that the name originated from a well-known brothel whose women were referred to as ‘Big Apples.’ Had it not been for the works of amateur etymologists Barry Popik and Gerald Cohen, it would still be a mystery.

To tell you the truth, the term stemmed out in 1910, appearing in a book titled ‘The Wayfarer in New York.’ It was later popularized in the early 1920s by John Fitzgerald, a sports writer for a New York newspaper. This moniker gained popularity in connection with horse racing. It started when Fitzgerald overheard a bunch of stable hands discussing their plans to move to ‘The Big Apple,’ which was a reference to NYC for its big league race tracks. It was then that he began to title his column headers around this phrase. Later in the 30s, the Jazz musicians in the city adopted the name and everything from late-night clubs to songs were named after ‘The Big Apple.’ As time progressed, this moniker’s popularity began to fade. It wasn’t until the early 70’s that the New York Convention and Visitors Bureau officially adopted it and started using it as a part of their tourism campaign to spruce up NYC’s afflicted economy. ‘The Big Apple’ has been popular ever since, enjoying absolute ubiquity and ceaseless mentions in headlines and catchphrases.

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