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Barry Popik
Barry Popik (born 1961) is an American amateur etymologist, a rated chess master who has competed in more than a hundred countries, and an administrative law judge who has also run for political office in New York Citymarker.

Personal background

Barry Popik was born in 1961 and raised in Rockland Countymarker, New Yorkmarker. He was educated at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institutemarker, in Troy, New Yorkmarker, graduating B.S. (Economics) in 1982, B.S. (Management) 1982; and in 1985 he graduated J.D. from Touro Law School in Huntington, New Yorkmarker. Barry Popik and wife, Angie, were long-time Manhattanmarker residents, but the Popiks now live in Austin, Texasmarker.

Chronicler of the American Language

In a profile on January 2, 2001, Ed Zotti described Barry Popik in The Wall Street Journal as "the restless genius of American etymology." He is a contributor-consultant to the Oxford English Dictionary, Dictionary of American Regional English, Historical Dictionary of American Slang, and the The Yale Book of Quotations. He is recognized as an expert on the origins of the terms "Big Apple", "Windy City," "hot dog," and many other food and slang terms; he is a consulting editor of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America.

Popik's work on the etymology of Big Apple has been widely acclaimed. Previously, it was thought that New York City's nickname came courtesy of jazz musicians' slang for the city. But, after extensive research at the New York Public Librarymarker, Popik traced the term back to the 1920s, when it was coined by journalist John J. Fitz Gerald, a horse racing reporter for the New York Morning Telegraph. Horses love apples, and when Fitz Gerald overheard African-American stable hands in a New Orleans racetrack talking about a particular race-course in the city as 'the Big Apple' — or the greatest reward any thoroughbred could want — he fell in love with the description and re-titled his racing column "Around the Big Apple". In 1997, Mayor Rudy Giuliani passed legislation renaming the southwest corner of West 54th Street and Broadway, the corner on which Fitz Gerald resided from 1934 to 1963, “Big Apple Corner". Popik was honored by being asked to dedicate the new street name.

Political career

Popik was the Republican Party and Liberal Party of New York candidate for election as Manhattan Borough President in 2005. Popik received more than 40,000 votes but finished second to Scott Stringer, who received more than 200,000 votes. Stringer spent more than $1.5 million on his election campaign, whereas Popik spent less than $10,000.

Judicial career

Since 1990, Popik has served as a New York City administrative law judge in the Parking Violations Bureau of the City's Department of Finance.




  • Co-author, The Origin of New York City's Nickname "The Big Apple" (forthcoming 2006).

Consulting Editor

  • (Senior Consulting Editor)
  • (Consulting Editor)


Publications in which Popik is a subject:


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