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.

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Entry from October 08, 2009
“I’m so poor I can’t afford to pay attention”

"I’m so poor I can’t afford to pay attention” is a quip that’s found its way onto T-shirts. The saying is cited in print from at least 1964, but became popular in the 1990s (especially as a “Yo’ mama...” rap).

I’m so poor I can’t afford to pay attention
kinda speaks for itself
Product id: 235413712931431710
Made on 6/26/2006 5:52 PM

Yo mama’s so poor she can’t afford to pay attention.

16 May 1964, Danville (VA) Bee, pg. 13, col. 6:
OUCH...Let’s hope LBJ’s war on poverty helps Danvillian John Kemp—who says he is so poor he can’t pay attention.

Google Books
Faith and the Good Thing
By Charles Richard Johnson
New York, NY: Viking Press
Pg. 68:
She was so poor — you ready? — she couldn’t even pay attention.

17 January 1974, Charleston (WV) Gazette, “The Gazetteer” by James Dent, pg. 1D, col. 4:
COWORKER says a state policeman told him the other day that he was so poor he couldn’t even pay attention.

Google Books
No Bugles, No Drums
By Charles Durden
New York, NY: Viking Press
Pg. 36:
I’ve always been so poor I couldn’t hardly pay attention, let alone tuition.

Google Groups: net.jokes
Newsgroups: net.jokes
From: (Sandy T., MKO1-2/H32, 264-5977)
Date: Tue, 11-Jun-85 16:04:18 EDT
Local: Tues, Jun 11 1985 3:04 pm
Subject: We’re so poor . . .

We’re so poor, we can’t even pay attention.
I know, I know, this is an *OLD* one!  I’ll try to think of another.

SmartMoney (February 5, 2002)
So Poor They Can’t Pay Attention

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