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 21, 2006
New York is a sucked orange (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
Ralph Waldo Emerson called New York City "a sucked orange" in an essay printed in 1860. A "sucked orange" has no juice. Emerson didn't like New York.

The "sucked orange" metaphor was popular in the 19th century and was not invented by Emerson.

This quote became more popular when "the Big Apple" came into use, but "sucked orange" has absolutely nothing to do with "the Big Apple." If anything, the terms are opposites. A sucked orange is spent; a big apple is full of fruit to be eaten.

http://www.rwe.org/works/Conduct_4_Culture.htm
"Culture"
from The Conduct of Life (1860, rev. 1876)
by
Ralph Waldo Emerson

(...)

But after a man has discovered that there are limits to the interest which his private history has for mankind, he still converses with his family, or a few companions, -- perhaps with half a dozen personalities that are famous in his neighborhood. In Boston, the question of life is the names of some eight or ten men. Have you seen Mr. Allston, Doctor Channing, Mr. Adams, Mr. Webster, Mr. Greenough? Have you heard Everett, Garrison, Father Taylor, Theodore Parker? Have you talked with Messieurs Turbinewheel, Summitlevel, and Lacofrupees? Then you may as well die. In New York, the question is of some other eight, or ten, or twenty. Have you seen a few lawyers, merchants, and brokers, -- two or three scholars, two or three capitalists, two or three editors of newspapers? New York is a sucked orange. All conversation is at an end, when we have discharged ourselves of a dozen personalities, domestic or imported, which make up our American existence. Nor do we expect anybody to be other than a faint copy of these heroes.

Life is very narrow. Bring any club or company of intelligent men together again after ten years, and if the presence of some penetrating and calming genius could dispose them to frankness, what a confession of insanities would come up! The "causes" to which we have sacrificed, Tariff or Democracy, Whigism or Abolition, Temperance or Socialism, would show like roots of bitterness and dragons of wrath: and our talents are as mischievous as if each had been seized upon by some bird of prey, which had whisked him away from fortune, from truth, from the dear society of the poets, some zeal, some bias, and only when he was now gray and nerveless, was it relaxing its claws, and he awaking to sober perceptions.

7 February 1835, The Boston Pearl, and Literary Gazette, pg. 178:
But an end must come to all things; andI, after filling two as good sheets of paper as ever were manufactured -- and worn my pen to a stump, and my brains to the consistency of a sucked orange -- as some one or other observes -- am obliged to come to a regular conclusion.

April 1849, Holdens Dollar Magazine, pg. 246:
His brain, from the effects of constant pumping and squeezing, is very much in the condition of a well-sucked orange; through which dribbles an ocean of the highly-concentrated essence of old-newspaper, in "one weak, washy, everlasting flood."
(Referring to a New York newspaper editor -- ed.)

4 April 1999, New York Times, "FYI" by Daniel B. Schneider, pg. CY2:
Q. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "New York is a sucked orange." What on earth did he mean?
A. Emerson (1903-1882), a resident of Concord, Mass. and archetypal New Englander, was not overly fond of New York City, and was said to shudder when itws name was spoken. His "New York is a sucked orange" maxim -- long ignored by the New York Convention and Visitors Bureau -- first appeared in 1860 in a book called "The Conduct of Life."

Seemingly opaque, it is not so acidic when taken in context: "Have you seen a few lawyers, merchants, and brokers -- two or three scholars, two or three capitalists, two or three editors of newspapers? New York is a sucked orange. All conversation is at an end when we have discharged ourselves of a dozen personalities, domestic or imported, which make up our American existence."

Posted by Barry Popik
Names/Phrases • (0) Comments • Wednesday, June 21, 2006 • Permalink