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 April 26, 2005
New York Kiss & New York Kiss-Off
A "New York Kiss" is a punch. A "New York Kiss-Off" is a rude dismissal. Both date from the mid-19th or early 20th century and are not used today.

Ask for a hug instead.

Carlyon offers a veritable 19th century lexicon. He gives the origins and meanings of the words "claptrap" and "hooker" and the expressions "to wing it" and "read the riot act." "Rhino" was slang for money, which is how we eventually got the expression "to pay through the nose." How amazing to find that "amazing" was once considered a vulgar word. Similarly, the word "role" was considered to be "in miserable taste." A punch was called "a New York kiss." If you took pictures, you were not a photographer but a "photographist." To "play the woman" meant to snoop around for information--and women back then most certainly did not like the word "women."

Another phrase based on the same view of frenzied New York City life, although not so respectful, is "a New York kiss-off," which translates as "an extremely rude dismissal." Speaking as a New York City resident myself, I resent that one.

Regional sayings are kind of interesting in that way--the local residents don't use them often, sometimes because they think it's not all that flattering. A different phrase supported by the same outlook of the harried New York City life, is not so respectful' "a New York kiss-off," which renders as "an extremely rude dismissal." It's easy to imagine that many hard working New York City resident would resent that one.

10 April 1977, Lincoln (NE) Star, pg. 49(?):
There is the kiss-off which, according to the Dictionary of American Slang, means "to dismiss or get rid of something or someone, often rudely and curtly." As a noun it can mean death, a brush-off or notice of dismissal from a job, especially without warning.

New Yorkers often call it "the California kiss-off" or the Hollywood kiss, while in Los Angeles it's referred to as "the New York kiss-off."

Posted by Barry Popik
Names/Phrases • Tuesday, April 26, 2005 • Permalink

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