Where Did the Term “Lemon” Come From and Why is it Used To Describe a Worthless Purchase?

In 1910, the rotating slot machine appeared as a device for dispensing chewing gum and gave us the symbols still used on slot machines today.

The spinning flavors were cherry, orange, and plum.

Each wheel had a bar reading “1910 Fruit Gum,” and three of those in a row paid off in a jackpot of gum.

But, also like today, if any row came up a lemon there was no payout at all, which gave us the disappointed expression, “It’s a lemon.”

A disappointing purchase or investment is often called a “lemon”.

The term may also be a metaphor for something which “leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth.”

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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