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 June 19, 2009
“Wake up and smell the coffee”

"Wake up!” is an admonition for someone to get a true sense of reality. People often drink coffee in the morning; the full phrase of “Wake up and smell the coffee!” has been cited in print from at least 1943.

The ending of “Smell the coffee!” is sometimes used by itself. “Coffee” is sometimes replaced in phrases such as “Wake up and smell the roses!” and the 2007 book title “Wake up and smell the planet!” “Wake up and smell the bagels” has been cited in print since at least the 1990s.

“Wake up and smell the tyranny”—to be politically awake—has been cited in print since at least 2000.


The Free Dictionary
wake up and smell the coffee
Prov. Try to pay attention to what’s going on.
Things have changed around here, Wallace J. Hodder! Wake up and smell the coffee!
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
slang (orig. U.S.). to wake up and smell the coffee (also decaf, etc.): to be realistic or aware; to abandon a naive or foolish notion. Freq. in imper.
Popularized by the U.S. syndicated advice columnist ‘Ann Landers’ (1918-2002, b. Esther Pauline Friedman).
1943 Chicago Daily Tribune 18 Jan. 17/2 A few years back, when a wife told her husband to ‘wake up and smell the coffee’, it usually was said in utter derision. Now, when there is coffee to smell, she shouts it to him in supreme delight
1955 ‘A. LANDERS’ in Oshkosh (Wisconsin) Daily Northwestern 21 Dec. 23/2 Wake up and smell the coffee. Do you want a wife who smokes, drinks, likes taverns and slaps you around?
1981 N.Y. Times 15 Nov. II. 17/4 Joffrey and Arpino are theatrical as well as dance people… I’d been wrapped on up on line and whether your arabesque was high enough for so many years. They made me wake up and smell the coffee.
1995 D. MARC Bonfire of Humanities 118 Wake up and smell the decaf, folks.
2001 Nation 2 July 21/1 State and local organizing is where the future is for our movementit’s time to wake up and smell the coffee.

18 January 1943, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, pg. 17, col. 2: 
A few years back, when a wife told her husband to “wake up and smell the coffee,” it usually was said in utter derision. Now, when there is coffee to smell, she shouts it to him in supreme delight.

22 March 1944, Benton Harbor (MI) News-Palladium, pg. 2, col. 3:
These labor leaders with comfortable salaries should wake up and “smell the coffee.”

OCLC WorldCat record
Wake up and smell the coffee : 365 daily doses of reality
Author: Andrew Frothingham; Tripp Evans
Publisher: New York : Berkley Books, 1995.
Edition/Format: Book : English : Berkley trade pbk. ed

OCLC WorldCat record
Wake up and smell the coffee! : advice, wisdom, and uncommon good sense
Author: Ann Landers
Publisher: New York : Villard, ©1996.
Edition/Format: Book : English : 1st ed

OCLC WorldCat record
Wake up and smell the coffee
Author: Cranberries (Musical group)
Publisher: Santa Monica, CA : MCA, 2001.
Edition/Format: Musical CD : Rock music : No Linguistic Content

OCLC WorldCat record
Wake up and smell the coffee
Author: Eric Bogosian
Publisher: New York : Theatre Communications Group ; St. Paul, MN : Distributed to the Book trade by Consortium Book Sales and Distribution, 2002.
Edition/Format: Book : English : 1st ed

OCLC WorldCat record
Wake up and smell the planet : the non-pompous, non-preachy grist guide to greening your day
Author: Brangien Davis; Katharine Wroth
Publisher: Seattle, Wash. : Skipstone, ©2007.
Edition/Format: Book : English

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Friday, June 19, 2009 • Permalink