Question: Why is New York City called the big apple?
Its the apple of my eye
The "Big Apple" is a nickname or moniker for New York City used by New Yorkers. Its popularity since the 1970s is due to a promotional campaign by the New York Convention and Visitor's Bureau. Its earlier origins are less clear.
One explanation cited by the New-York Historical Society and others is that it was first popularized by John Fitz Gerald, who first used it in his horse racing column in the New York Morning Telegraph in 1921, then further explaining its origins in his February 18, 1924 column. Fitz Gerald credited African-American stable-hands working at horseracing tracks in New Orleans: "The Big Apple. The dream of every lad that ever threw a leg over a thoroughbred and the goal of all horsemen. There's only one Big Apple. That's New York.''
Two dusky stable hands were leading a pair of thoroughbred around the "cooling rings" of adjoining stables at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans and engaging in desultory conversation.
"Where y'all goin' from here?" queried one.
"From here we're headin' for The Big Apple", proudly replied the other.
"Well, you'd better fatten up them skinners or all you'll get from the apple will be the core", was the quick rejoinder.
In the 1920s the New York race tracks were the cream of the crop, so going to the New York races was a big treat, the prize, allegorically a Big Apple.
In 1997, as part of an official designation of "Big Apple Corner" in Manhattan, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani summarizes the rest of the story:
Eleven years later, many jazz musicians began calling the City "The Big Apple" to refer to New York City (especially Harlem) as the jazz capital of the world. Soon the nickname became synonymous with New York City and its cultural diversity. In the early 1970s the name played an important role in reviving New York's tourist economy through a campaign led by the New York Convention and Visitors Bureau. Today the nickname "The Big Apple," which replaced "Fun City," is the international description of the city and is synonymous with the cultural and tourist attractions of New York City.
Therefore, it is only fitting that the southwest corner of West 54th Street and Broadway, the corner on which John J. Fitz Gerald resided from 1934 to 1963, be designated "Big Apple Corner".
According to PBS's Broadway: The American Musical miniseries, Walter Winchell used the term "Big Apple" to refer to the New York cultural scene, especially Harlem and Broadway, helping to spread the use of this nickname.
A documented earlier use comes from the 1909 book The Wayfarer in New York by Edward S. Martin. He wrote (regarding New York) that the rest of the United States "inclines to think the big apple gets a disproportionate share of the national sap." Etymologists have been unable to trace any influence that this use had on the nickname's popularity.
Swing Musician Harry Gibson remembers in his autobiography that the phrase was used in the 1940's specifically in regard to Swing Street, which was a nickname for 52nd Street west of Broadway. If this is true, then Giuliani, in the above dedication ceremony, missed it by two blocks.
An apocryphal account comes from Jazz slang: Since many musicians in the 1920's and 1930's often lived a hand-to-mouth existence, music gigs were often called "apples". To play in New York City was considered the "Big Time", and hence called "The Big Apple".
Manhattan, Kansas, refers to itself as "The Little Apple" in its promotional literature.
Minneapolis, Minnesota has called itself "The Mini-Apple".
Toronto, Ontario is often called "The Big Apple of Canada" mainly for its size.
In his book, Brain Droppings, comedian George Carlin crosses the readers up by saying the real term is "The Apple" or just "Apple". Any historical reference to that is not brought up by him.
In Bugs Bunny's 3rd Movie: 1001 Rabbit Tales, when Bugs reads the story about a singing frog and the movie segues into the cartoon short One Froggy Evening, he refers to the city the skit takes place in as "The Big Apple" without noting whether or not it's New York City. (The actual short mentions nothing about the city's name.)
The people there are a bunch of worms.