Yes! We have no bananas
Bless you, Philip B. Corbett, deputy news editor of The New York Times, and all your heirs and assigns. You have answered a nagging question of long standing.
It is a commonplace of advice on writing to avoid what H.W. Fowler called the “elegant variation,” the tendency among “second-rate writers, those intent rather on expressing themselves prettily than on conveying their meaning clearly,” to lean on synonyms and circumlocutions and epithets to avoid repeating words. The example almost always quoted is from the writer who referred to the banana on a subsequent reference as “the elongated yellow fruit.”
I was never able to track down the origin of that particular excess, but now the estimable Mr. Corbett, at his Words to Watch blog at The Times, says that it supposedly — there’s that famed Times copy desk caution — came from The Boston Transcript. And lo, he links to a 1953 article in Time, and there it is.
I’m willing to take that supposition, even from Time in the '50s , on trust until someone demonstrates otherwise. One more brick in the wall between knowledge and ignorance.