A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

Recent entries:
“Your mind is a garden, your thoughts are the seeds…” (12/19)
“Never mix the grape and the grain” (drinking adage) (12/19)
“My mother taught me about the science of osmosis—‘Shut your mouth and eat your supper!‘“ (12/19)
“Yo mama’s so stupid, she asked for a price check at the 99-cent store” (12/18)
“In a dog-eat-dog market, get yourself a big dog” (12/18)
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Entry from January 21, 2011
“A grapefruit is a lemon that had a chance and took advantage of it”

"A grapefruit is a lemon that had a chance and took advantage of it!” is a witticism first cited in print in 1913 and credited to someone named “Baer”—possibly Arthur ‘Bugs” Baer (1886-1969). Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) is often given credit, but there’s no evidence that the statement was even in print during his lifetime.

The slang sense of “lemon” meaning something defective or unsatisfactory was popularized in 1906.


Google News Archive
2 June 1913, Trenton (NJ) Evening True American, pg. 11, col. 2:
Succulent Grape-fruit.
A fellow by the name of Baer, perhaps the original Bear, makes the remark that “a grapefruit is a lemon that had a chance and took advantage of it!”—The Co-opt-or.

Google News Archive
1 May 1922, Bakersfield (CA) Californian, pg. 5, col. 1:
A Grapefruit Is a Lemon That Took Advantage of an Opportunity.

Google News Archive
15 January 1931, Pittsburgh (PA) Press, pg. 31, col. 7 classified ad:
SALESMEN
A grapefruit is a lemon that had a chance and took advantage of it.

Google Books
Map and Compass:
The art of navigation

By Pete Hawkins
Milnthorpe: Cicerone
2003
Pg. 149:
A grapefruit is a lemon that had a chance and took advantage of it (Oscar Wilde)

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • (0) Comments • Friday, January 21, 2011 • Permalink