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 March 18, 2019
Irish Grape (potato)

An “Irish grape” is a “potato,” according to some slang. “We han meighl, and potatoes, too. My feyther use’t to co’ ‘em Irish grapes” was printed in the novel Besom Ben (1864) by Edwin Waugh. The slang was from Manchester (UK).

“Irish grapes.... potatoes” was printed in the book A Dictionary of Army and Navy Slang (1941) by Park Kendall and Johnny Viney. This slang was used by the U.S. military in World War II, but it’s not known if it was influenced from Manchester slang.

The slang term “Irish grape” is of historical interest today.


Google Books
Besom Ben
By Edwin Waugh
Manchester, UK: John Heywood
1864, 1866 (4th edition), 1886
Pg. 15:
Eawr Betty’s laid in for a week or so ... We han meighl, and potatoes, too. My feyther use’t to co’ ‘em Irish grapes.

7 January 1865, Manchester (UK) Weekly Times, “Besom Ben” by Edwin Waugh, Supplement sec., pg. 1, col. 3:
Eawr Betty’s laid in for a week or so ... We han meighl, and potatoes, too. My feyther use’t to co’ ‘em Irish grapes.

26 May 1887, Manchester (UK) Guardian, pg. 6, col. 4:
THE VEGETARIAN SOCIETY.—(...) “I cannot say I am partial to a cold potato or a raw turnip, but I can relish a roasted Irish grape and a pinch of salt with anyone.”

Google Books
Papers of the Manchester Literary Club
Volume 26
1900
Pg. 226:
Potatoes are “Irish grapes.”

Google Books
A Dictionary of Army and Navy Slang
By Park Kendall and Johnny Viney
New York, NY: M.S. Mill Co.
1941
Pg. ?
Irish grapes.... potatoes.

Google Books
The Soldier and His Food
By the United States War Department, Bureau of Public Relations
Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office
1942
Pg. 8:
“Irish grapes” refers, of course, to white potatoes.

Google Books
Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang
By Jonathon Green
London, UK: Weidenfeld & Nicolson
2005
Pg. 773:
Irish grape n. [1940s-70s] (US) a potato.

Google Books
War Slang:
American Fighting Words & Phrases Since the Civil War

By Paul Dickson
Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, Inc.
2011
Pg. 176:
Irish grapes. White potatoes.

Twitter
J.R. deLara
@jrdelara
Also: Irish banjo - A shovel; Irish buggy - A wheelbarrow; Irish grape - A potato; Irish turkey - Corned beef and cabbage.
2:29 PM - 19 Nov 2011

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Monday, March 18, 2019 • Permalink