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 15, 2009
Vanilla (plain or ordinary)

Vanilla is the most popular flavor of ice cream, so lots of people must like it. “Plain vanilla,” however, is something that is basic, standard, and perhaps also drab and dull.

As late as 1946 (see below), “she’s plain vanilla” was a man’s remark that a woman was pure and wholesome. By the 1950s (perhaps the time when half gallons of vanilla ice cream became common in everyone’s freezer), “plain vanilla”—or just “vanilla”—meant something basic and standard. By 1960, “plain vanilla” cars were cars with just the basics and no extras. By the 1980s, this “vanilla” meaning of “just the basics, no extras” was used to describe computers and computer programs.

“Vanilla sex” was recorded in 1972 to indicate basic sexual positions (such as the “missionary position"), without sadism, masochism, or anything exotic. “Vanilla” is still used to describe unadventurous heterosexual and homosexual sex.

“Vanilla” entered the financial world by at least 1981, when the New York (NY) Times described the “plain vanilla swap.” “Plain vanilla” is still used in finance to describe simplified financial tools.

New York (NY) Times “On Language” columnist William Safire wrote this lament in 1985: “Here, then, is a word coming to mean in slang the opposite of its standard meaning. Farewell, tasty vanilla.”


Wikipedia: Vanilla
Vanilla is a flavoring derived from orchids of the genus Vanilla native to Mexico. Etymologically, vanilla derives from the Spanish word “vainilla”, little pod. Originally cultivated by Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican peoples, Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés is credited with introducing both the spice and chocolate to Europe in the 1520s. Attempts to cultivate the vanilla plant outside Mexico and Central America proved futile because of the symbiotic relationship between the tlilxochitl vine that produced the vanilla orchid and the local species of Melipona bee; it wasn’t until 1837 that Belgian botanist Charles François Antoine Morren discovered this fact and pioneered a method of artificially pollinating the plant. Unfortunately, the method proved financially unworkable and was not deployed commercially. In 1841, a 12-year-old French-owned slave by the name of Edmond Albius, who lived on Île Bourbon, discovered the plant could be hand pollinated, allowing global cultivation of the plant.

Wikipedia: Vanilla sex
Vanilla sex (or conventional sex) is a description of what a culture regards as standard or conventional sexual behaviour. Different cultures, subcultures and individuals have different ideas about what constitutes this type of sex. Often, it is interpreted as sex which doesn’t involve such elements as BDSM, kink, or fetish activities.

Description
Among heterosexual couples in the Western world, vanilla sex often refers to the missionary position. Among homosexual men, it sometimes implies that the activity is non-insertive (i.e. intercrural intercourse, frottage etc.). It can also be used to describe insertive sex without any element of BDSM or any fetish. The British Medical Journal defines it as “Sex that does not extend beyond affection, mutual masturbation, and oral and anal sex.”

The term “vanilla” derives from the use of vanilla extract as the basic flavouring for ice cream, and, by extension, meaning “plain” or “conventional”. Thus, the term “vanilla” is sometimes used as an insult, to describe someone who is overly conventional, or unwilling to take risks, in both sexual and non-sexual contexts.

Dictionary of Sexual Terms
vanilla sex:
1. Conventional sexual activities typically associated with bland heterosexuality in distinction to the more adventurous sexual activities practiced by sadomasochists, bondagers, and fetishists.
2. In gay parlance, non-penetrative, non-genital sex . 

Investopedia
Plain Vanilla
What Does Plain Vanilla Mean?
The most basic or standard version of a financial instrument, usually options, bonds, futures and swaps. Its opposite is an exotic instrument, which alters the components of a traditional financial instrument, resulting in a more complex security.

For example, a plain vanilla option is the standard type of option, one with a simple expiration date and strike price and no additional features. With an exotic option, such as a knock-in option, an additional contingency is added so that the option only becomes active once the underlying stock hits a set price point.

London South East - Financial Glossary
Vanilla Swap

Two parties enter into an agreement to exchange the difference between a fixed rate of interest and a nominated floating rate. 
Plain Vanilla Debt
Fixed rate borrowing with no additional features such as convertibility rights or warrants.

Urban Dictionary
vanilla
It’s the original of something, like the original Ice Cream flavour. In computergames the original game is called classic or vanilla when the expansion comes out.
by Liedtke Mar 13, 2003

(Oxford English Dictionary)
vanilla, n. (and a.)
[From the popular perception of vanilla as the ordinary, bland flavour of ice-cream.] Plain, basic, conventional; (esp. of a computer, program, or other product) having no interesting or unusual feature; safe, unadventurous. Used orig. with reference to sexual activity (esp. in vanilla sex). Only occas. as pred. adj. colloq. (orig. U.S.).
1972 B. RODGERS Queens’ Vernacular 184 Vanilla bar, a gay bar that is not SM. Ibid. 205 Vanilla,..rigid, conforming, goody-goody ‘This neighborhood is too vanilla for the licks of us.’
1983 G. L. STEELE et al. Hacker’s Dict. 129 It’s just a vanilla terminal; it doesn’t have any interesting features.
1985 W. DYNES Homolexis 123 S & M adepts dismiss gays of simpler tastes as mere fluffs, who limit themselves to timid exercises in vanilla sex.
1988 InfoWorld 24 Oct. 60/2 In its unmodified, ‘vanilla’ state Accountmate is an adequate, if unimpressive, system.
1989 Profession 89 60/1 The specious appropriation of selected fragments of a prestigious literary theory can even make a species of ‘vanilla linguistics’..look enticingly ‘postmodern’.
1992 Guardian 28 Nov. (Weekend section) 7/2 Since the late Seventies, the lesbian community has also suffered a painful schism between ‘S & M dykes’ and ‘vanilla’ lesbians.

plain-vanilla adj. fig. (orig. U.S.) having no special or additional features; basic, ordinary; cf. VANILLA n.
1959 Washington Post 13 July A19/2 After Cocacabana, Bethany Beach will always look slightly *plain vanilla to me.
1975 Forbes (Nexis) 1 Oct. 72 E-Systems also does aircraft maintenance and overhaul—from what Dixon calls ‘plain-vanilla repair work’ to keeping the Presidential air fleet working.
2000 Esquire May 54/1 A sensible mix of stocks, bonds, and money-market mutual funds, the most plain-vanilla kind of investment strategy.

1 March 1936, New York (NY) Times, “Lexicon of the Soda Jerker: The Slang Employed Behind the Counter Has Now Been Recorded by Phrase Detectives” by Helen Dallas, pg. X10:
A “plain vanilla” is a former manager who is now working behind the counter.

Google Books
Time Magazine Versus the Daily Newspaper
By Harvey Frye Roberts
Published by University of Wisconsin--Madison
1946
Pg. 64:
... remarked admiringly: “She’s plain vanilla.”

Google Books
Coronet
By Arnold Gingrich
Published by David A. Smart, 1955
Item notes: v. 38
Pg. 87:
He writes the kind of music that is considered “plain vanilla” by fellow musicians and is as popular as vanilla in the U.S.

Google Books
Infantry
By Infantry School (U.S.), United States Army Infantry School, United States Army Infantry School. Editorial and Pictorial Office, United States Army Infantry School. Book Dept
Published by U.S. Army Infantry School, 1957
Item notes: v. 75
Pg. 2:
Every infantryman, no matter what kind of label precedes his name, is a plain vanilla infantryman first; and his basic mission has not changed since our Infantry came into being on 14 June 1775.

Google Books
The Pahlmann Book of Interior Design
By William Pahlmann
New York, NY: Viking Press
1960
Pg. 68:
An air of mystery and romance may at dusk invade a room which is plain vanilla in the morning.

Google Books
Marketing Research, Principles and Readings:
Principles and Readings

By Parker M. Holmes
Published by South-Western Pub. Co.
1960
Pg. 188:
Almost the only purchasers of “plain vanilla” — without additionals — are fleet buyers.

Google Books
Out of the air
By Mary Margaret McBride
Garden City, NY:  Doubleday
1960
Pg. 313:
...but I think you and I have done well with our plain vanilla names— Mary Margaret, Mary Martin.”

Google Books
The Hiroshima Pilot
By William Bradford Huie
New York, NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons
1964
Pg. 207:
Mr. Scarborough, of Abilene, calls himself a “plain vanilla country lawyer,” but he is able and prominent.

Google Books
January 1965, Popular Science, pg. 73, col. 2:
To spice up the proceedings and make for some interesting comparisons, John brought along three additional Corvairs: a ‘65 Monza Sprint coupe with a mildly modified engine and Powerglide; his own ‘64 Monza Sprint coupe with four-speed synchromesh and 155-hp., four-carburetor engine; and a plain-vanilla ‘63 Corvair sedan with Powerglide.

Google Books
Spare Rib
Published by Spare Ribs Ltd., 1975
Item notes: nos. 162-173
Pg. 39:
When I first came into contact with lesbian sadomasochism I asked a question: what is the difference between ‘mild’ SM and ‘heavy’ vanilla sex? (vanilla = non SM).

18 August 1981, New York (NY) Times, “Municipal Bond Swaps” by Vartanig G. Vartan, pg. D8:
Simply put, a bond swap involves the sale of price-depressed bonds, thus allowing its holder to establish a loss for tax purposes, and then the reinvestment of the proceeds in other municipals that provide comparable yield and quality as nearly as possible. This is known among bond dealers as the “plain vanilla swap.”

3 November 1985, New York (NY) Times, “On Language” by William Safire, pg. SM13:
Eric Dickerson, the great Los Angeles Rams running back, explained to the sports columnist Scott Ostler why his team almost lost that day: “I think we were just too vanilla.”
(...)
Originally, the word carried with it the very essence of zest and flavor. “Ah, you flavor everything,” wrote Sydney Smith in 1845, using the French word for it, “you are the vanille of society.”
(...)
For a time, even its slang use carried a connotation of delectability. Every former soda jerk (now beverage dispenser, or squirtperson) knew that the call of “Vanilla!” was code for “Come out of the kitchen—there’s a chick just walked in that’ll knock your eye out!”
(...)
Now we have Business Week writing, “Learjet now builds a standard ‘vanilla’ airplane—free of paint, upholstery, or any optional avionics or conveniences.” Time writes of “what the trade calls a ‘plain vanilla’ radio—i.e., one without options.” (...) Neologistic Newsweek drops the quotation marks around the metaphoric use of vanilla, writing of a dull movie: “after it’s over you feel a vanilla chill settling over history itself.”

Here, then, is a word coming to mean in slang the opposite of its standard meaning. Farewell, tasty vanilla.

8 June 1986, New York (NY) Times, “Interfacing With Biz Speak” by William Davis, pg. SMA86:
Less “creative” cash management is referred to as “plain vanilla practices.”

(Trademark)
Word Mark “PLAIN VANILLA”
Goods and Services IC 036. US 100 101 102. G & S: financial investment services in the field of mutual funds. FIRST USE: 19940520. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19940520
Mark Drawing Code (1) TYPED DRAWING
Serial Number 74534280
Filing Date June 7, 1994
Current Filing Basis 1A
Original Filing Basis 1B
Published for Opposition March 28, 1995
Registration Number 1973361
Registration Date May 7, 1996
Owner (REGISTRANT) FLAGSHIP FINANCIAL INC. CORPORATION DELAWARE One First National Plaza Suite 910 Dayton OHIO 454021506
Assignment Recorded ASSIGNMENT RECORDED
Attorney of Record Theodore D. Lienesch
Type of Mark SERVICE MARK
Register PRINCIPAL
Live/Dead Indicator LIVE

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • (0) Comments • Sunday, March 15, 2009 • Permalink