In 2004, I created this website for the Big Apple Fest. I had told the Big Apple Fest directors that the "whore theory" was a freely admitted internet hoax or spoof, and was to be ignored. The Big Apple Fest put it on its own website, nearly word-for-word.
In August 14, 2004, a Toronto Globe and Mail article was titled "What Would Madam Eve Think?" Ben Zimmer posted the following to rec.folklore.urban on August 15, 2004:
Reporting on the Big Apple Fest, an art exhibit featuring 250 large
acrylic apples placed around New York, the Toronto Globe and Mail falls prey to some etymological mischief...
What would Madam Eve think?
By SIMON HOUPT
Saturday, August 14, 2004 - Page R6
What exactly is the root of New York's tag as the Big
Apple? And could it have anything to do with the
approbation, 'How about them apples?'"
Jazz aficionados point to the use of the phrase 'the big
apple' by black musicians, to refer to New York gigs in
the 1930s. Horse-racing fans can go back a couple of
decades earlier, when a reporter for the Morning
Telegraph heard the phrase around the tracks.
But the explanation that precedes them all goes back to
the early 19th century, possibly 1803 or 1804, when a
certain Mlle. Evelyn Claudine de Saint-Evremond
established a salon on the Lower East Side -- then a
well-regarded residential neighbourhood -- for
The anglicized version of her name was Eve, and she
apparently boasted of her "apples," her many girls on
hand, that tempted men from afar. It is said that Eve
and her apples helped New York earn the dubious
distinction of being the American city with the highest
per-capita concentration of houses of ill repute.
Some say the account is apocryphal, but Big Apple Fest
organizers stand behind it. Still, it's probably best
not to lead with that explanation when speaking with
those who believe New York is now the Disney World of
the Northeastern United States.
A family of four from North Carolina that wandered into
the midtown orchard last week, only three hours after
stepping off the plane from Charlotte, pronounced the
idea of oversized apples scattered through the streets
of New York to be "cool." They cooled considerably when
told of the bordello anecdote, then excused themselves.
Expect the Globe and Mail to incur the ire of amateur word-sleuth Barry Popik, who takes these matters very seriously. His well-researched website
See also Mark Liberman's recent Language Log posting on the topic:
Ben "apple tarts" Zimmer
"SOME SAY THE ACCOUNT IS APOCRYPHAL, BUT THE BIG APPLE FEST ORGANIZERS STAND BEHIND IT." I wrote again to the Big Apple Fest organizers. They didn't reply.
The "Public Advocate" reviews the performance of city agencies. The Big Apple Fest operates under NYC & Company, our re-named Convention and Visitors Bureau. Charles Gillett was president of this Convention and Visitors Bureau when he revived "Big Apple" in the 1970s. I had told the "Public Advocate" that the Big Apple Fest must not only not "stand behind" this hoax, but it must be removed entirely. And what the Fest actually should be doing is honoring the African-American stablehands who gave our city its nickname.
The Big Apple Fest organizers replied to the Public Advocate. The Public Advocate's office sent the reply, without any comment whatsoever, directly to me.
The Big Apple Fest did not endorse any "Big Apple" theory. The whore material was on its website "for discussion purposes only."
"FOR DISCUSSION PURPOSES ONLY"? Why would anyone want to discuss this?
If the "public advocate" can't help remove a bunch of erroneous text from a city agency's website - how difficult is that to do? How many people do you have to see?
I had told the "public advocate" that I had passed the "Big Apple Corner" law. Gerald Cohen and I had written the definition for the Encyclopedia of New York City (1995). We were not kidding around. The hoax had to be removed.
It's still there today, even after writing to the "Public Advocate."
(RECENT, BIG APPLE FEST 2005 NOTE: It appears that the Big Apple Fest website has been changed for 2005. The horrendous Toronto Globe and Mail "What would Madam Eve think?" article is no longer linked. There is no explanation of "the Big Apple" - everything has been removed. Not even "Big Apple Corner" is mentioned. No one will know the meaning of "the Big Apple" and the black stablehands will never be honored. Great job.)
Public Advocate (1993 election) • (0) Comments • Monday, March 28, 2005 • Permalink