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. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from December 20, 2021
“Big Apple” and the Dutch phrase, “to buy for an apple and an egg” (2020)

"To buy something for an apple and an egg” (meaning to buy something cheaply) is an idiom in German ("fürn Appel und ein Ei” or “etwas für einen Apfel und ein Ei bekommen") and in Dutch ("Lets voor een appel en een ei kopen"). Some people claim that this idiom is associated with the “Big Apple” (the nickname of New York City).

On WNYC, in a comment to the story “‘The Big Apple’ Turns the Big 100” by Alec Hamilton on January 21, 2020, Denise Wallace wrote:

“At the visitor center in Haarlem, The Netherlands, the docents say the term came from an old Dutch saying. ‘I got it for an apple’ means you got it really cheap. New York was the ‘big apple’ because it was such a bargain. ”

This is, perhaps, the opposite of the original “Big Apple” meaning. When track writer John J. Fitz Gerald used “Big Apple” in his columns in the New York (NY) Morning Telegraph in the 1920s, “Big Apple” meant the “big time” and the “big reward” in horse racing. New York City is not generally thought of as cheap. Few visitors think that the price of a hotel room is low, and few people who buy apartments in Manhattan think that the prices are low.

The Dutch use probably was influenced by the history of Peter Minuit (about 1850-1638), the 3rd Director of the Dutch North American colony of New Netherland from 1626 until 1631, and his purchase of Manhattan Island for the Dutch from the Lenape Native Americans for 60 guilders of trinkets ($24). That purchase could be said to be “for an apple and an egg.”

It is uncertain how widespread the use is in the Netherlands and in Germany of “Big Apple” and “for an apple and an egg.” It is not known if there are any other relevant print citations.


Wikipedia: Peter Minuit
Peter Minuit (between 1580 and 1585 – August 5, 1638) was from Tournai, in present-day Belgium. He was the 3rd Director of the Dutch North American colony of New Netherland from 1626 until 1631, and 3rd Governor of New Netherland. He founded the Swedish colony of New Sweden on the Delaware Peninsula in 1638.

Minuit is generally credited with orchestrating the purchase of Manhattan Island for the Dutch from the Lenape Native Americans. Manhattan later became the site of the Dutch city of New Amsterdam, and the borough of Manhattan of modern-day New York City. A common account states that Minuit purchased Manhattan for $24 worth of trinkets. A letter written by Dutch merchant Peter Schaghen to directors of the Dutch East India Company stated that Manhattan was purchased for “60 guilders worth of trade,” an amount worth approximately $1,143 in 2020 dollars.

WNYC
“The Big Apple” Turns the Big 100
Jan 21, 2020 · by Alec Hamilton
New York City is marking a milestone. While the origins of the nickname “the Big Apple” are not widely known, a local historian believes he has traced it back to a conversation between stable hands in the Big Easy, a hundred years ago.
COMMENT
Denise Wallace
At the visitor center in Haarlem, The Netherlands, the docents say the term came from an old Dutch saying. “I got it for an apple” means you got it really cheap. New York was the “big apple” because it was such a bargain.
Jan 22, 2020, 7:44 AM

Google Books
Streetwise German:
Speaking and understanding colloquial German

By Paul G. Graves
Lincolnwood, IL: Passport Books
1994
Pg. 252:
fürn Appel und ein Ei, exp . for next to nothing, (lit.) for an apple and an egg.

Google Books
Phraseologie / Phraseology
Volume 2

By Harald Burger, ‎Dmitrij Dobrovol’skij and ‎Peter Kühn
Berlin, Germany: Walter de Gruyter
2008
Pg. 660:
Germ: etwas für einen Apfel und ein Ei bekommen “to get something for an apple and an egg”

Twitter
EuRA
@EuRA_Relocation
Intercultural Phrase of the Week - “Lets voor en appel en een ei kopen” - This Polish phrase translates into English as “Buying something for an apple and an egg” meaning “you bought that very cheaply”, the opposite of the English phrase “it cost an arm and a leg”! #euraphrases
5:30 AM · Nov 12, 2019·Hootsuite Inc.

Expatica
The 10 funniest Dutch phrases – and what they really mean
Last update on June 08, 2021 Written by Tongue Tied
(...)
8. To buy something for an apple and an egg
What the Dutch say: Lets voor een appel en een ei kopen.
What the Dutch mean: To buy something very cheaply (and we all know the frugal Dutch love that)!

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityThe Big Apple1970s-present: False Etymologies • Monday, December 20, 2021 • Permalink