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 February 19, 2005
“Call me a taxi.”/“You’re a taxi!”
"Call me a cab" is such an old joke, it pre-dates the popular introduction of the word "taxi." It's now most frequently "Call me a taxi"/"You're a taxi." A later variant is "Call me an ambulance"/"You're an ambulance."

English dramatist and librettist W. S. Gilbert said in 1893, ""You're a cab. But I'm afraid I can't with truth call you a han(d)some." Ambassador and long-time New Yorker Joseph Hodges Choate (1832-1917) popularized "Call me a cab"/"You're a cab!" in 1901.

A taxi version was printed in a 1920 newspaper:

"Boy, call me a taxi."
"Very good, sir! You're a taxi."

“Call me an Uber."/"You’re an Uber!” is another form of the joke.

Wikipedia: W. S. Gilbert
Sir William Schwenck Gilbert (18 November 1836 – 29 May 1911) was an English dramatist, librettist, poet and illustrator best known for the fourteen comic operas (known as the Savoy operas) produced in collaboration with the composer Arthur Sullivan. The most famous of these include H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance and one of the most frequently performed works in the history of musical theatre, The Mikado.

Wikipedia: Joseph Hodges Choate
Joseph Hodges Choate (January 24, 1832 – May 14, 1917) was an American lawyer and diplomat. Choate was associated with many of the most famous litigations in American legal history, including the Kansas prohibition cases, the Chinese exclusion cases, the Maynard election returns case, the Income Tax Suit, and the Tilden, Stanford, and AT Stewart will cases. In the public sphere, he was influential in the founding of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
He was appointed, by President McKinley, U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom to succeed John Hay in 1899, and remained in this position until the spring of 1905. In England he won great personal popularity, and accomplished much in fostering the good relations of the two great English-speaking powers. He was one of the representatives of the United States at the second Peace Congress at the Hague in 1907.

29 April 1893, The Colonies and India (London, UK), pg. 18, col. 1:
Mr. W. S. Gilbert, the well-known dramatist and writer of comic operas, is a somewhat caustic wit in private life, and not infrequently scores off those with whom he is brought in contact. One of his pungent remarks was addressed to a certain rude young masher whom he encountered at a ball in Ecclestone Square. Mr. Gilbert was standing at the hall door, preparatory to going away, when the aforesaid masher, apparently mistaking him for an attendant, said, insolently, "Call me a cab; call me a cab!" "Certainly," replied Mr. Gilbert, suavely, "You're a cab. But I'm afraid I can't with truth call you a han(d)some."

17 November 1901, New York (NY) Times, "Mr. Choate Arraigned Before the Lotus Club," pg. 3, col. 4:
Mr. Howland added another to the collection of Choate anecdotes the dinner brought forth.

"At a certain drawing room in London," said he, "a guest approached Mr. Choate, who was in the conventional dress of the English waiter, and said, 'Call me a cab.' 'All right,' said Mr. Choate, 'if you wish it. You're a cab.'" [Laughter.]

3 February 1902, Atlanta (GA) Constitution, pg. 5:
Brooklyn Eagle: Now that Ambassador Choate has returned from "near the Court of St. James," the following story, among many others about him, is in circulation: A semi-state reception was given at the residence of a certain lord and Mr. Choate, in his "court dress" of plain broadcloth, was inconspicuous in comparison with the gold laced and insignia decorated representative of other countries.

When the nigh was waning one of the departing guests, whose indulgence probably made him forget that English lackeys on such occasions were the livery of their office, approached Mr. CHoate and requested him to call him a cab. The response was a blank stare. Upon his repeating the request: "Won;t you call me a cab, please?" Mr. Choate responded: "Certainly. You're a cab." Imagine the indignation of the insulted Englishman, who, upon making complaint to the host, was asked, as a favor. to point out the offender.

After a search through the crowded saloons the Englishman was quite at the elbow of Mr. Choate when he exclaimed: "That's the man!" The whispered reply, "Why, that's the United States ambassador," was heard by Mr. Choate. Then a presentation and explanation of the unfortunate mistake. Mr. Choate, in his characteristic way, said: "My lord, the gentleman need not fell at all disturbed; I remember the circumstance very well. If the gentleman had been just a little more polite I should have called him a 'hansom cab.'"

2 August 1920, El Paso (TX) Herald, "About Broadway Plays and Players" by Bide Dudley, pg. 7, col. 2:
"Boy, call me a taxi."
"Very good, sir! You're a taxi."
Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityTransportation • Saturday, February 19, 2005 • Permalink

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