The Big Apple

New York – the city that never sleeps. This insomniac metropolis, fuelled by coffee, is known for its fast paced heartbeat, which keeps the city alive day to night. NYC, like the cool kid on the block, has a host of aliases that its meagre neighbours can use in their gossiping.

Gotham City.The Melting Pot. The Empire State.

The Big Apple

I asked myself – why the big apple?  Why of all the glorious and abundant fruits, choose the apple? Perhaps it had a religious undertone, and the forbidden fruit was chosen to represent the sins the city has bathing in its blocks and alleys.  Perhaps an apple to represent the humble American apple pie – an analogy that a slice of the city is possible for any man or woman who is brave enough to try and survive in the concrete jungle. It turned out that neither of these were true.

The city was first described as the Big Apple  in the 1920’s by a sports journalist called John Fitz Gerald who called his regular section in the Morning Telegraph, “Around the Big Apple.’

Ok…but that still doesn’t explain why he chose that does it? Well like most good ideas – this one was stolen. Well, perhaps not stolen, but in the end credited to the wrong man.

In his own column, Fitzgerald wrote of how the Big Apple came to be – and it began at the New Orleans Fair Grounds Racecourse. He wrote:

“Two stable hands were leading a pair of thoroughbreds around the the Fair Grounds in New Orleans and engaging in desultory conversation. ‘Where y’all goin’ from here?’ queried one. ‘From here we’re headin’ for The Big Apple,’ proudly replied the other.”

The Big Apple was jockey jargon. It was a niche word. A private word used most likely only among the chatter of the men involved in the training and riding of horses who had not yet won big.

The Big Apple was not a place to them – it was a prize, a big win, a platform to the next echelons of the sporting world. A chance to earn the big bucks.

Nobody went to the Big Apple. You wanted it.

And so the name became engrained in daily life and ultimately popular culture. New York, the Big Apple. The city that never sleeps, in the land of opportunities. To many it embodies the American Dream – the aspiration for bigger, for better. A dream that those stable boys back in 1920’s New Orleans had.

And so even with the ticking of time, the aspiration for the Big Apple – continues.

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Let The Cat Out The Bag

“Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.”  Benjamin Franklin

Dealing in secrets is a risky business. The founding father of the great US of A Franklin describes this onerous occupation aptly. It is murderous past time to associate yourself with and two let alone three is company, for secrets do not belong to anyone but themselves. Like heavy rainfall, the pressure of keeping a secret, more so when it is not your own, can mount until finally the dam breaks- the secret  washes off your hands and flows into the laps of others.

You’ve let the cat out of the bag.

But why did you put the poor cat in the bag in the first place? And  why of all the animals did the cat get the short straw with the bag? [ perhaps in this case curiosity did kill the cat 😉 ]

Now it’s probably not hard to believe that shady shenanigans such as putting a cat in a bag dates back to the medieval times. If there is any truth to the saying learning from your mistakes, the medieval times is most definitely testament to this, and we can only thank our ancestors for being so crude and aggressive in their actions because it means that we gentle souls don’t have to dabble in such cat bagging activities.

The belief is that the saying originates from the times when livestock was sold at markets . Off you’d go looking for the perfect pig and after perusing the pork on offer and finding the right one –  sturdy hips are a must – the merchant would  “bag” your goods for ease of transport. ( Walking a pig home has never been an acceptable move, neither now nor in the medieval ages. ) Content  with your savvy shopping you return home ready to show your significant other how you have an eye for quality when it comes to pig picking. That is until you open the bag and lo and behold a cat pops out.  This is no witchcraft or black magic, alas this is an example of good old market fraud. You’ve well and truly been cheated out of your chops. Replacing your pig with a cat means that the market salesman not only makes a profit but also gets to keep his high quality ham to continue the real hustle with more oblivious shoppers.

So letting the cat out of the bag can be seen to have a literal meaning and origin. The poor cat got bagged because  cats come a dime a dozen and so were perfect ploys in the great game of farm animal fraud. Nowadays the saying is used to describe letting a secret slip rather than for describing a swindling salesman .

Secrets are guilty pleasures. We all have them and expect to keep them our own  and yet  all too often we are quick to divulge other people’s secrets. It’s a double standard which is a sad reality of life. Perhaps a bag isn’t enough for this feline freight but then again tiger’s aren’t meant to be caged.

Tis the nature of the beast.

“If I maintain my silence about my secret, it is my prisoner…if I let it slip from my tongue, I am its prisoner.” – Arthur Schopenhauer

Heard It On The Grapevine

There has never been a time like now. Information about anyone or anything is at the click of a button. With the advent of the digital world and social media you can find out most things about people online .  In fact social media is the biggest satisfaction to one of man’s greatest cravings . Like a pyromaniac with a zippo lighter, we scroll , eyes glazed over with inquisitive wonder, through online timelines and news feeds, our shameful hunger for other’s people’s business satisfied with each glorious mouthful of virtual information. We are a prying race, we like to know what others are doing and why we aren’t doing it too. The likes of Facebook and Twitter allow the constant updates of peoples lives to be streamed straight to our handheld devices and so, with some form of implicit consent  by their acceptance of your  friend request,   we monitor their activities, thoughts and relationships.

It is a virtual grapevine, thriving in all climates and seasons, gifting us the fruits of other people’s labours and lives.  By word of mouth soon even I know that Jenny’s dad’s cousin bought a new house in Idaho. ( I don’t know Jenny and I have never been to Idaho.)

But where did the saying ” Heard it on the Grapevine” come from?

This phrase was born in the USA ( try not singing that! ) back in the 19th century when Samuel Morse’s telegraph system was the new means of communication. The first telegraphing line built, like most new products on the market , was a basic prototype and so in its unrefined  glory parts of these wires were held shoddily  off the ground by being strung on trees  and so the trailing wires on the ground were likened to un farmed grapevines . Because of this, the first telegraph lines built were prone to damage by weather and hooligans and so information undoubtedly encountered problems in reaching its destination . From there came the term ” heard it on the grapevine” where grapevine was used to refer to the telegraphing system in a mocking manner. The truth was that the information passed on the  “grapevine” was unreliable, transmission had somewhere gone wrong and the true message had been received either tainted and lost in translation or not at all.

We use the term now to describe hearing misinformed gossip from a friend’s sister’s cousin , with information spreading like wildfire, bringing along with it debris that taints the true course of the original flame.

Regardless it was the dulcet tones of Mr Marvin Gaye who brought the phrase to popular culture in 1968. But as the song goes ” people say believe half of what you see, son, and none of what you hear. “

So perhaps it’s best to believe things when it’s straight from the horses mouth! ( But that’s for another post eh !)