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Cornell Cooperative Extension

November 18, 2013

Columnist shares favorite apple sayings

We’ve all heard, and probably use, sayings that involve apples.

“An apple a day, keeps the doctor away” is a common one. Did you know that it comes from the old English adage, “To eat an apple before going to bed, will make the doctor beg his bread”? I’ve been trying to come up with as many apple sayings as I can. You probably know a lot more, but these are my favorites:

“Don’t upset the apple cart.” We know this means not to cause a problem by trying to change a plan, but did you know it was first recorded by Jeremy Belknap in “The History of New Hampshire,” 1788? The quote reads, “Adams had almost overset the apple-cart by intruding an amendment of his own fabrication on the morning of the day of ratification” [of the Constitution].

According to the University of Illinois Extension, archaeologists have found evidence that humans have been eating apples since at least 6500 B.C. That means there have been lots of years for them to come up with other apple-related sayings. 

How about, “comparing apples to oranges”? I don’t quite get this. I suspect it’s a dismissive way of telling someone they don’t know what they’re talking about. I am open to your suggestions on this one, readers.

“A bad apple spoils the barrel” is easy to understand by anyone who has kept a bowl of apples on the counter for too long. Or onions, for that matter. Rotten apples give off ethylene, which speeds the ripening of the other fruit. The phrase is most often used in relation to people. In 1736, Benjamin Franklin, in “Poor Richard’s Almanack,” wrote, “The rotten apple spoils his companion.” A more modern take on this might be the warning many parents give their children about being judged by the company they keep.

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