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 Popeye's fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from March 15, 2010
“We ain’t got no north” (directional joke)

Manhattan directions don’t have north, south, east and west. People are directed uptown, downtown, or crosstown (Hudson River or East River).

A traditional story (cited in print since at least 1986) has it that a tourist wants to go north, and a New Yorker explains: ‘We ain’t got no north!”

A New York City Walking Tour of the Neighborhoods Around Grand Central Terminal
(There’s no north, nor any directions in Manhattan; there’s only uptown and downtown and toward the Hudson River or the East River.)

Google News Archive
4 November 1986, St. Petersburg (FL) Times, pg. 25A, col. 1:
When it comes to geography, they don’t even know what they have in their own city, and everything across the North (Hudson) River is in the “sticks” as far as they are concerned. So don’t ever ask for direction to the north.

A lady from Florida made that mistake recently when she asked the news vendor on Times Square the directions of north. His answer, with that all-knowing New York expression, was, “Lady we gotta downtown, we gotta uptown, we gotta crosstown, but we ain’t got no north, except the river.”

Google Books
Students as researchers:
Creating classrooms that matter

By Shirley R. Steinberg and Joe L. Kincheloe
London: Routledge
Pg. 141:
This reminds me of a New York joke: a tourist stopped and asked the operator of a newsstand which way was north. The man replied, “We got up town, down town, and cross town. We don’t got no north.”

Schott’s Vocab Blog - NYTimes.com
February 22, 2010, 5:41 am
Dropped Eaves
This weekend, co-vocabularists have generously shared the gems they have overheard.
“NYPD Officer to Out-of-Towner: ‘Lady, ‘dis is Noo Yawk….you gots yer uptown, you gots yer downtown, you gots yer crosstown….y’ain’t got no north.’”
Donald W. Dickson

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityNames/Phrases • (0) Comments • Monday, March 15, 2010 • Permalink