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 April 12, 2005
"Herb" is the name of a weakling. Burger King ran a 1980s ad campaign featuring "Herb," and it's believed to have influenced use of the name.

26 December 1985, Washington Post, pg. C2:
Unsigned "teaser ads" began apeparing in newspapers and on billboards across the country - "It's not too late, Herb"; "What are you waiting for, Herb?" They were, Friedman says, "designed to raise Herb consciousness."

28 December 1985, Washington Post, pg. F3:
Herbert Paul Schenck, 32, of Westfield, N.C., is having a beef with Burger King about their ad campaign, which features a vague, pitiable fellow named "Herb."

10 June 1999, New York Times, pg. B1:
But the students cannot entirely leave the outside world outside. Many have seen parents or siblings die from violence or AIDS. They are poor. Their parents may have tempers themselves. And they have learned that to survive on the streets, they must be tough above all else, that to be a ''Herb'' -- slang for a weakling -- is not only loathsome, but potentially fatal.

16 September 2003, New York Sun, pg. 16, col. 3:
(Book review of Jonathan Lethem's The Fortress of Solitude - ed.)

The Herb Grows Up

Two days after I turned 12 years old, I had my first day of junior high school.
One of Wakim's boys shoved me back hard against the crowd. "You want some, herb?" he asked.

I'd never heard the word before, but as I soon found it was one of those words that can define existence for a 12-year-old boy while remaining unknown to the broader world. In the 1980s it was (and may still be, I don't know) both noun and verb. A "herb" was a born victim, nearly always white; to be "herbed" was to be on the bad end of an intimidation game where you gave up your new Starter cap, your JanSport bag, the few dollars in your pocket, or even your bus pass, all on pretext that you somehow had a special and protective relationship with your assailant.

Posted by {name}
Workers/People • Tuesday, April 12, 2005 • Permalink

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