Anyone Who Doesn’t Take Truth Seriously in Small Matters Cannot Be Trusted in Large Ones Either

Albert Einstein? Apocryphal?

einstein06Dear Quote Investigator: My University has an Academic Integrity Office which has launched a poster campaign that includes an image of Albert Einstein together with the following statement which has been ascribed to the brilliant physicist:

Anyone who doesn’t take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted with large ones either.

Misquotations linked to this famous genius are very common, and I have not yet found convincing evidence that these really are the words of Einstein. Would you please examine this topic?

Quote Investigator: QI believes that this quotation and its ascription are genuine; however, the words were originally written in German by Einstein; hence, multiple translations into English were possible.

In 1957 the journal “New Outlook: Middle East Monthly” printed a statement with the following description:

Excerpt from Albert Einstein’s last statement, April, 1955, published here for the first time through the kindness of Helen Dukas, Professor Einstein’s secretary.

The journal presented the text in German with an accompanying English translation. The English passage included a close match for the statement under investigation. Boldface has been added: 1

Wenn es sich um Wahrheit und Gerechtigkeit handelt, gibt es nicht die Unterscheidung zwischen kleinen und grossen Problemen. Denn die allgemeinen Gesichtspunkte, die das Handeln der Menschen betreffen, sind unteilbar. Wer es in kleinen Dingen mit der Wahrheit nicht ernst nimmt, dem kann man auch in grossen Dingen nicht vertrauen…

When the issue is one of Truth and Justice, there can be no differentiating between small problems and great ones. For the general viewpoints on human behaviour are indivisible. People who fail to regard the truth seriously in small matters, cannot be trusted in matters that are great.

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  1. 1957 July, New Outlook: Middle East Monthly, Volume 1, Number 1, Albert Einstein On Israeli-Arab Relations, Quote Page 5, Published by Tazpioth, Tel Aviv, Israel, (Verified on paper)

Repentance on a Sunday for What One Has Done on Saturday

Thomas R. Ybarra? Contributor to Life Magazine? Victor L. Berger? Anonymous?

calendar06Dear Quote Investigator: Individuals who attend church services without sincerity have long been criticized with the following sardonic description:

Those who repent on Sunday,
For what they did on Saturday,
And plan to do again on Monday.

I have been unable to determine who first said this. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: The earliest close match located by QI was printed in the humor magazine “Life” in 1905, and the author was unidentified: 1

A Christian is a man who feels
Repentance on a Sunday
For what he has done on Saturday,
And is going to do on Monday.

This theme has a long history and QI conjectures that the above verse was inspired directly or indirectly by lines in a poem published in the eighteenth century. Details are given below.

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  1. 1905 December 14, Life, Volume 46, Number 1207, A Definition, Quote Page 746, Column 2, Life Publishing Company, New York. (Google Books Full View) link

Do Not Be So Open-Minded That Your Brains Fall Out

Carl Sagan? Arthur Hays Sulzberger? Marianne Moore? E. E Cummings? William Allan Neilson? Walter Kotschnig? G. K. Chesterton? Max Radin? James Oberg? Anonymous?

open07Dear Quote Investigator: There is a desirable balance between exploring novel ideas with an open mind and maintaining a healthy skepticism. The following humorous cautionary statement exemplifies the tension:

Do not be so open-minded that your brains fall out.

I have heard this expression attributed to New York Times publisher Arthur Hays Sulzberger, Smith College President William Allan Neilson, and astronomer Carl Sagan. Do you know who should be credited?

Quote Investigator: The earliest close match located by QI appeared in a newspaper report in January 1940 about a speech by Walter Kotschnig given at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. Kotschnig worked with refugee organizations early in his career and subsequently joined the United States State Department. Boldface has been added: 1 2

Prof. Walter Kotschnig told Holyoke College students to keep their minds open—”but not so open that your brains fall out.”

He condemned the purpose of students who go to college merely to learn skill and urged his listeners to find the “real aim of education, to acquire a philosophy of life, intellectual honesty, and a constant search for truth.”

The same metaphor was used in 1937; however, the phrasing was condemnatory instead of cautionary. Details for this citation are given further below. The comical notion that an open mind might lead to a mind with “nothing in it at all” was suggested much earlier in 1886.

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  1. 1940 January 27, Blytheville Courier News, Professor Tells Students to Open Minds to Truth, Quote Page 2, Column 2 and 3, Blytheville, Arkansas. (NewspaperArchive)
  2. 1940 February 1, The Canton Repository (Repository), “Open Mind to Truth, Holyoke Class Told” Quote Page 12, Column 8, Canton, Ohio. (GenealogyBank)

There’s a Sucker Born Every Minute

P.T. Barnum? Hungry Joe Lewis? Artemus Ward? Mike McDonald? Apocryphal? Anonymous?

barnum06Dear Quote Investigator: A famous saying about gullibility is usually attributed to the well-known showman P. T. Barnum. Here are two versions:

There’s a sucker born every minute.
There’s a fool born every minute.

Whether Barnum actually used either of these expressions is controversial. Would you please examine this topic?

Quote Investigator: QI has located no persuasive evidence that Phineas Taylor Barnum who died in 1891 spoke or wrote this common saying. Researcher Ralph Keyes stated in “The Quote Verifier” that “No modern historian takes seriously the routine attribution of this slogan to P. T. Barnum.” 1

There exists a family of closely related expressions with a long history. Here is a sampling together with years of occurrence. The first item listed employed dialectical spelling. The word “flat” was a synonym for “fool”. The abbreviation “attrib” means that the words were attributed to an individual, but the evidence was indirect:

1806: there vash von fool born every minute
1826: a new fool is born every day
1839: there is a flat born every minute
1877: there is a fool born every hour
1882: there was a sucker born every minute (attrib anon con man)
1885: there was a sucker born every minute (attrib Hungry Joe)
1888: there is a sucker born every minute (attrib Artemus Ward)
1889: a sucker is born every minute (attrib Mike McDonald)
1890: a fool was born every minute (attrib P.T. Barnum)
1892: there was a sucker born every minute (attrib P.T. Barnum)

The above listing is a snapshot of current research results, and it will certainly change over time as more data is gathered. The earliest instances of these expressions were anonymous, and QI believes that later attributions had inadequate support.

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  1. 2006, The Quote Verifier by Ralph Keyes, Quote Page 215, St Martin’s Griffin, New York. (Verified on paper)

If I Had a Single Flower for Every Time I Think of You, I Could Walk Forever in My Garden

Alfred Lord Tennyson? Claudia Adrienne Grandi? Anonymous?

tennyson05Dear Quote Investigator: The website of a major international news organization has an article titled “Tennyson: 10 Essential Quotes” with the following item listed third: 1

If I had a flower for every time I thought of you… I could walk through my garden forever.

Strangely, I have not been able to locate this expression in the oeuvre of Alfred Lord Tennyson. According to the commentary in the article this quote has become quite popular:

This romantic sentiment may sound like the message on a greeting card, but it now makes its way into wedding speeches and toasts.

Would you please trace the provenance of this popular sentiment?

Quote Investigator: QI has located no substantive support for crediting the famous poet Alfred Lord Tennyson with this expression.

The earliest evidence of a close match found by QI was printed in a Rockmart, Georgia newspaper in May 1992. The paper described the contents of an annual publication called “The Sting” which was created by the local Middle School. A section of memories included the verse and identified the author as by Claudia Adrienne Grandi. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 2

A special remembrance was given to Joey Watts with a poem which read: “If I had a single flower for every time I think of you, I could walk forever in my garden” written by Claudia Adrienne Grandi.

The phrasing of this instance differed somewhat from the most common modern version. For example, this poem referred to “a single flower” instead of “a flower”; also, the position of the word “forever” was shifted.

The evocative poems of Grandi have appeared in several collections published by “Blue Mountain Arts” which is a popular greeting card company. QI believes Grandi should be credited with the verse and not Tennyson.

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  1. Website: BBC News Magazine, Article title: “Tennyson: 10 essential quotes”, Date on website: March 7, 2011, Website description: British Broadcasting Corporation, public service broadcaster of news and entertainment in the United Kingdom. (Accessed on April 7, 2014) link
  2. 1992 May 27, The Rockmart Journal, Annual received at Elm Street, Quote Page 10A, Column 4, Rockmart, Georgia. (Google News Archive)

They May Forget What You Said, But They Will Never Forget How You Made Them Feel

Frank A. Patterson Jr.? Maya Angelou? Carl W. Buehner? Carl W. Buechner? Carol Buchner? Don Aslett? Jerry Johnston? Anonymous?

speaking06Dear Quote Investigator: The most valuable advice that I have ever heard for speakers and teachers is the following:

They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.

This statement has been attributed to Carol Buchner, Maya Angelou, and others. The essential insight is that a skilled communicator must be aware of the emotional valence of his or her words. Would you please explore the history of this quotation?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence located by QI appeared in a 1971 collection titled “Richard Evans’ Quote Book”. The statement was ascribed to Carl W. Buehner who was a high-level official in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints: 1

They may forget what you said — but they will never forget how you made them feel.
—Carl W. Buehner

Richard L. Evans who compiled the set of quotations was also a prominent figure in the LDS church. For more than forty years he was the program narrator for the weekly radio and television broadcast of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir called “Music and the Spoken Word”. Evans presented three-minute sermonettes addressing a variety of themes. 2 3 The book’s subtitle indicated that some material was from these broadcasts:

Selected from the “Spoken Word” and “Thought for the Day” and from many inspiring thought-provoking sources from many centuries.

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  1. 1971, Richard Evans’ Quote Book by Richard L. Evans, (“Selected from the ‘Spoken Word’ and ‘Thought for the Day’ and from many inspiring thought-provoking sources from many centuries”) Quote Page 244, Column 2, Publishers Press, Salt Lake City, Utah. (Verified with scans; thanks to the librarians of Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah)
  2. Website: Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Webpage title: History of Music and the Spoken Word, Date on website: Undated, Website description: Information about The Mormon Tabernacle Choir of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Accessed on April 5, 2014) link
  3. 1976, The Worth of a Smile: Spoken Words for Daily Living by J. Spencer Kinard, Section: Preface, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. (Verified with scans)

Don’t Tax You. Don’t Tax Me. Tax That Fellow Behind the Tree

Russell B. Long? Anonymous?

long05Dear Quote Investigator: It’s tax time again in the U.S., and I recently heard a humorous rhyming verse on this topic:

Don’t tax you. Don’t tax me. Tax the guy behind the tree.

Do you know who originally said this?

Quote Investigator: The earliest close match for this verse located by QI appeared in a “Money” magazine article in July 1973 titled “Congress Tackles the Income Tax”. The words were credited to Russell B. Long who was a legislator from Louisiana: 1

“Most people have the same philosophy about taxes,” says Senator Russell B. Long, who has heard all the variations during seven years as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which handles tax legislation. Long puts that universal theme to verse:

Don’t tax you,
Don’t tax me,
Tax that fellow behind the tree.

This is the earliest citation for the full tripartite expression located by QI; however, other versions were in circulation by the 1930s, and the expression evolved over a period of decades.

In March 1932 “Collier’s Weekly” ran an article titled “Tax Everyone But Me” which included an instance starting with “Congress! Congress! Don’t tax me” instead of the sing-song: “Don’t tax you. Don’t tax me”. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 2

At the end of the year, and again at the opening of 1932, the hotel rooms and lobbies of Washington were crowded and swarming with citizens who had come to play, in paraphrased adult form, an old game of their childhood:

Congress! Congress! Don’t tax me,
Tax that fellow behind the tree.

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  1. 1973 July, Money, “Congress Tackles the Income Tax” by William B. Mead, Start Page 55, Quote page 55, Time Inc., Chicago and New York. (Verified on paper)
  2. 1932 March 26, Collier’s Weekly, “Tax Everyone But Me” by William G. Shepherd, Start Page 12, Quote Page 12, Column 1, P.F. Collier, New York. (Unz)

Writers Are Just Schmucks with Underwoods

Jack Warner? Bill Davidson? Samuel Goldwyn? Louis B. Mayer? Harry Cohn? Apocryphal?

underwood06Insult: Schmuck? Schlep? Schnook?

Dear Quote Investigator: The attitude of Hollywood producers toward writers has been epitomized by the following callous remark:

A writer is a schmuck with an Underwood.

The Underwood Typewriter Company manufactured the best writing implements when the statement was made. Here is another version I’ve seen:

Writers are just schmucks with typewriters.

These words have been attributed to Jack Warner, Samuel Goldwyn, and Harry Cohn. Would you please examine this saying?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence located by QI appeared in 1961. Oddly, two different versions were given by a journalist named Bill Davidson in that year. The book “The Real and the Unreal” recounted Davidson’s extensive experiences in Hollywood and included the following passage. Boldface has been added: 1

One of the Warner brothers, for example, used to call all writers—even William Faulkner, who was once under his command—“schmucks with typewriters” (schmuck is a derisive Yiddish expression for a bumpkin, an idiot). He used to make all his writers punch a time clock as they entered and left the studio…

While Faulkner was crafting screenplays he was employed by the powerful studio chief Jack Warner. Hence, Davidson was probably attributing the comment to Jack Warner who continued as an influential figure in the film business into the 1960s. This initial instance referred to “typewriters” instead of the particular brand “Underwood”.

In October 1961 Davidson wrote an article in “Show: The Magazine of the Arts”, and the content overlapped with material in his book. In the following excerpt the quotation incorporated the Yiddish term “schlep” instead of “schmuck”: 2

There are several ways of getting hired in Hollywood. The first, and most difficult, is to have talent. The talented are considered untrustworthy interlopers. One of the Warner brothers, for example, used to call all writers—even William Faulkner, who was once under his command—“schleps with typewriters” (schlep is a derisive Yiddish expression for a bumpkin, an idiot).

It is unclear why Bill Davidson presented two different quotations, and the inconsistency reduces the credibility of the ascription. Perhaps Davidson had collected conflicting reports. Etymologically “schmuck” can be traced to the Yiddish term for phallus, and it was considered vulgar by some speakers. This taboo association might have provided a motivation for replacing one term with another.

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  1. 1961, The Real and the Unreal by Bill Davidson, Chapter 14: How to Get Fired in Hollywood, Start Page 241, Quote Page 242, Published by Harper & Brothers, New York. (Verified on paper)
  2. 1961 October, Show: The Magazine of the Arts, Volume 1, Number 1, Hollywood: A Cultural Anthropologist’s View (Place in the Sun) by Bill Davidson, Start Page 80, Quote Page 81, Column 2, Hartford Publications, New York. (Verified on paper)

When in Doubt Have a Man Come Through a Door with a Gun in His Hand

Raymond Chandler? Apocryphal?

clinch05Dear Quote Investigator: The novelist Raymond Chandler was famous for his literary crime fiction. He once discussed the techniques he employed to craft his hardboiled fiction and supposedly offered advice similar to the following:

If your plot is flagging, have a man come in with a gun.
When stumped, have a man come through a door with a gun.

Did Chandler really give this counsel?

Quote Investigator: In April 1950 Raymond Chandler published an essay titled “The Simple Art of Murder” in a magazine called the “Saturday Review of Literature”, and he reflected on his background as an author in pulp magazines of the 1920s and 1930s. The tales about police officers, journalists, and detectives sometimes lacked realism Chandler said because they occurred during a compressed time-frame and involved an artificially close-knit group of people. Here is an excerpt with boldface added: 1

This was inevitable because the demand was for constant action and if you stopped to think you were lost. When in doubt have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand. This could get to be pretty silly but somehow it didn’t seem to matter. A writer who is afraid to over-reach himself is as useless as a general who is afraid to be wrong.

As I look back on my own stories it would be absurd if I did not wish they had been better. But if they had been much better they would not have been published.

So Chandler did write a remark of this type, but he was not presenting it as advice. The weapon flaunting tactic was an occasional expedient he resorted to while writing for the pulps.

There is some confusion surrounding the citation for this statement because Chandler wrote another more widely known essay with the same title several years earlier. In December 1944 “The Atlantic Monthly” published “The Simple Art of Murder”; however, that piece did not contain the quotation. 2

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  1. 1950 April 15, Saturday Review of Literature, The Simple Art of Murder by Raymond Chandler, Start Page 13, Quote Page 13 and 14, Saturday Review Associates, New York. (Unz)
  2. 1944 December, The Atlantic Monthly, “The Simple Art of Murder” by Raymond Chandler, Start Page 53, The Atlantic Monthly Company, Boston, Massachusetts (Verified on paper)

It Is the Responsibility of Every Human Being To Aspire To Do Something Worthwhile

Albert Einstein? Armand Hammer? Apocryphal?

med08Dear Quote Investigator: A hospital in Rhode Island has a display in the main lobby listing the names of generous donors. The following quotation attributed to Albert Einstein is also printed on the display:

It is the responsibility of every human being to aspire to do something worthwhile, to make this world a better place than the one he found.

I researched this statement because I wished to know what prompted Einstein to deliver this encouragement. Oddly, I was unable to find any direct evidence that he said or wrote these words. Is this Einstein’s instruction?

Quote Investigator: No. This statement was made by the businessman and philanthropist Armand Hammer and not by Albert Einstein.

In December 1988 “Life” magazine published a cover story called “The Big Picture: The Meaning of Life” which compiled comments from a variety of “philosophers, pundits and plain folk” who pondered “what it’s all about”. The confusion about the source of the quotation stems from the entry listed for Hammer excerpted here: 1

Industrialist/physician ARMAND HAMMER

The first thing I look at each morning is a picture of Albert Einstein I keep on the table right beside my bed. The personal inscription reads: “A person first starts to live when he can live outside of himself.” In other words, when he can have as much regard for his fellow man as he does for himself. I believe we are here to do good. It is the responsibility of every human being to aspire to do something worthwhile, to make this world a better place than the one he found.

Only the short inscription sentence enclosed in quotation marks was ascribed to Einstein. The passage after the quoted words should be credited to Hammer. Thus, the expression under investigation was attributed to Hammer in the pages of “Life”.

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  1. 1988 December, Life, The Big Picture: The Meaning of Life: Philosophers, pundits and plain folk ponder what it’s all about, (Answer by Armand Hammer), Quote Page 89, Column 2, Published by Time, Inc, Chicago, Illinois and New York, New York. (Verified on microfilm)