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Big Apple – The Much Debated Toponym of NYC

There is no doubting the fact that when we refer to the phrase ‘The Big Apple’ almost everyone in this world knows to what it refers to – the once capital of the United States and its largest city – New York. If ever there’s been a city that one would give anything to settle down in, it’s got to be New York. More than 800,000 companies, an economic hub, some of the best restaurants in the world, fine lifestyle, exotic nightlife, the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, the Yankees, the Flushing Meadows – the list is just endless. Everybody wants a bite of ‘the big apple’ and would love to engross oneself in the ‘city of skyscrapers’.

The sobriquet ‘city of skyscrapers’ can be understood, given the number of towering structures in New York. But, what’s it with ‘The Big Apple’? Where does New York get this toponym from? Who actually started it and why is it that NYC is called so?

Apples and Pigeons

It can be duly noted that New York has got a lot of apple trees in the city. So, could it be that the apples give the phrase to New York? But then again, New York’s also got a lot of pigeons in the city. Why not call it ‘the big pigeon’ then?

Many stories and theories have been speculated to date as to why NYC is called ‘the big apple’. While some of them sound reasonable enough, some sound too good to be believable.

The French Procuress

Probably, the most contradicted theories, which dates back to the early 19th century. During this period, there was a notorious French procuress by the name Eve Claudine de Saint-Evremond who ran a brothel. The women who worked in the brothel were referred to as Eve’s apples, from where NYC is known to have got its nickname.

Too good to be believable, ain’t it?

The Race Courses

Jockeys in the 1920’s referred to the race courses in the city as ‘big apple’, as they were considered to be the finest of the time, and also the rewards (which were also referred to as apples) given to the winners were substantial. John J. Fitzgerald, a sportswriter for New York Morning Telegraph borrowed the phrase from the jockeys and published an article by the name “Around the Big Apple”. This article was instrumental in popularizing the phrase.

In 1997, the corner of 54th and Broadway was given the name “Big Apple Corner” because that was where Fitzgerald lived.

The Harlem Nightclub

This nightclub in the 1930s was considered to have had the best audience of the country and ‘jazz’ musicians were eager to perform at this place just to get noticed by the elite. Can you guess what the name of the night club was? You are right – “The Big Apple”. Jazz musicians of the 30s are also known to have played a major role in promoting this phrase.

Other Theories

There are many other theories speculated about how NYC got its toponym.

During the depression, even the most well off families were known to have sold apples on the streets of this city to meet their daily needs. May be why New York is associated with the apple phrase.

In 1971, New York was becoming less favorable, given the rise of crime rate, blackouts and riots. So NYC decided to promote the glory by distributing red apples on the streets of the city, which implied brightness and cheerfulness. This was the year in which NYC officially became ‘the big apple’.

No matter what the theory behind the name of, ‘probably the most happening city in the world’, if there is a city one should definitely visit, if not live in, that’s got to be “The Big Apple”.

1 response to Big Apple – The Much Debated Toponym of NYC

  1. what is your geographical and ethnological basis for saying. “The Big Apple’ almost everyone in this world knows to what it refers to” In Asia as in Africa most people never heard the expression and most probably don’t care about it. It would be more accurate to say: “”The Big Apple’ almost everyone in this world don’t now what it refers to”. Travel the globe. You will see if I’m wrong.
    This being said, “Big Apple” is a nice and enviable apochoristic name for New York.

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