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 October 24, 2007
“Tougher than a two-dollar steak”

The columnist Molly Ivins described Ann Richards as “tougher than a two-dollar steak.” The steak phrase is an old one and not confined to Texas. The price of the steak has varied through the years, but it’s implied that there’s nothing so tough as cheap steak.


15 September 1926, Oakland (CA) Tribune, pg. 16, col. 3:
With a schedule tougher than a cheap steak ahead of them the team is working hard to develop an attack and defense that will win. 

31 December 1927, Danville (VA) Bee, pg. 6, col. 7:
While he was about it, he was forced to accept a hard right to the rotunda but the lad not only is fast but also tougher than a railroad depot steak. 

Live Search Books
Moon Over Broadway
by Mark Hellinger
New York, NY: William Faro, Inc.
1931
Pg. 288:
The facts were tougher than a twenty cent steak. 

1 March 1931, Dallas (TX) Morning News, automobile section, pg. 2:
“Are your whiskers when you wake tougher than a two-bit steak? Try __ shave.”
(Burma Shave ad—ed.)

22 May 1939, Dallas (TX) Morning News, section 2, pg. 5:
This course is tougher than a 20c steak. 

10 April 1941, Dallas (TX) Morning News, section 2 ,pg. 5:
If Hank Greenberg remains, the Tigers will be tougher than a rawhide steak. 

25 May 1943, Stars and Stripes (London), pg. 2, col. 5:
The bayonet course isn’t much different than ones you’ve seen in camp but you can’t let up for a second here or you’ll have a Limey sergeant, as tough as a 15 cent steak, climbing all over your frame.

24 November 1948, Amarillo (TX) Globe, pg. 14, col. 6:
Before all that brass and braid, however, you can expect the Middies to be tougher than a two-dollar steak.

Google Books
Watch for the Morning:
the story of Palestine’s Jewish pioneers and their battle for the birth of Israel
by Thomas Sugrue
New York, NY: Harper
1950
Pg. 263:
That it’s tougher than a ten-cent steak.

27 January 1958, Charleston (WV) Gazette, pg. 14, col. 6:
Although the Blue Devils own only a 6-5 record, they are tougher than a 10-cent steak on their home court, having lost only four games in five years there.

28 August 1958, Montana Standard (Butte, MT), pg. 11, col. 4:
As the hardest event in sports, the decathlon is tougher than a 75 cent steak.

22 September 1960, Dallas (TX) Morning News, section 1, pg. 1:
WASHINGTON (UPI) --Retired Gen. Walter Bedell “Bulldog” Smith made good Wednesday on his reputation of being “tougher than a 15-minute egg or a 25c steak.”

2 May 1963, Raleigh Register (Beckley, WV), pg. 21, col. 5:
Coming up with something to beat all three of the big ones looks tougher than a dollar steak. 

14 February 1964, Great Bend (KS) , pg. 1, col. 5:
Finding the solution to the puzzle has turned out to be tougher than a 50 cent steak.

12 March 1965, San Antonio (TX) Express, pg. 4E, col. 4:
Trinity’s defense is fielding .977 to the opposition’s .882 and the school’s pitching staff has looked tougher than a fifty cent steak.

21 June 1970, Abilene (TX) Reporter-News, pg. D1, col. 1:
The subsequent win over Butt must have boosted his already-soaring confidence, for he was tougher than a dollar steak in the finals. 

Google Books
Governing Codes:
Gender, Metaphor, and Political Identity
by Karrin Vasby Anderson
Lanham, MD: Lexington Books
2005
Pg. 59:
Molly Ivins wrote that Richards “is no pushover. She is...’tougher than a two-dollar steak.’ Richards seems to have a way of forcing male challengers to lose their cool.”

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Wednesday, October 24, 2007 • Permalink