There’s Damn Few Girls as Well Shaped as a Fine Horse

Hannah Arendt? Christopher Morley? Kitty Foyle? Rosey Rittenhouse?

Dear Quote Investigator: While looking through a compilation of quotations about horses I came across the following:

Few girls are as well shaped as a good horse.

Inexplicably, the words were ascribed to the political theorist Hannah Arendt who wrote about the Nazi Adolf Eichmann and popularized the phrase “the banality of evil”. I doubt she wrote about horses very often. The saying appears on a large number of webpages. Would you please explore its provenance?

Quote Investigator: Christopher Morley was a magazine editor, newspaper columnist, and novelist. In 1939 he published the best-seller “Kitty Foyle” which was later made into a prize-winning movie. The title character was the primary narrator of the book, but the remark about horses was attributed to a minor male character named Rosey Rittenhouse. Interestingly, the original phrasing was slightly different. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

As a matter of fact I agree with Rosey Rittenhouse, there’s damn few girls as well shaped as a fine horse. It’s a great piece of kidding Nature put over on men to give them the idea that females are so beautiful; but it’s mighty satisfying to hear it said.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. 1939 Copyright, Kitty Foyle by Christopher Morley, Quote Page 224, J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Verified visually and with a page image; thanks to Mardy Grothe)

Pogo Comic on Extraterrestrials: Either Way, It’s a Mighty Soberin’ Thought

Pogo? Porky Pine? Walt Kelly? Timothy Ferris? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The comic strip “Pogo” by Walt Kelly combined beautiful artwork with entertaining wordplay and satire. Kelly also expressed a delightful sense of wonder as in the following supposed remark about the possibility of extraterrestrial life:

Thar’s only two possibilities: Thar is life out there in the universe which is smarter than we are, or we’re the most intelligent life in the universe. Either way, it’s a mighty sobering thought.

I have been unable to find a strip containing this text. The word “thar” does not accord with the speech patterns of the denizens of Okefenokee Swamp. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: This was a difficult question because QI knows of no comprehensive databases containing the text of Walt Kelly’s oeuvre. Also, the computer algorithms that convert the dialog in daily comic strip bubbles into searchable text do not work well. Nevertheless, QI has located the most likely origin of this quotation.

On June 20, 1959 the syndicated “Pogo” strip published three panels showing the characters Porky Pine and Pogo the Possum. Porky Pine speculated about beings on other planets: 1

Porky Pine: I BEEN READIN’ ‘BOUT HOW MAYBE THEY IS PLANETS PEOPLED BY FOLKS WITH AD-VANCED BRAINS.

Pogo: UM

Porky Pine: ON THE OTHER HAND, MAYBE WE GOT THE MOST BRAINS…MAYBE OUR INTELLECTS IS THE UNIVERSE’S MOST AD-VANCED.

Porky Pine: EITHER WAY, IT’S A MIGHTY SOBERIN’ THOUGHT.

The overall semantics and the punchline matched the modern statement, and QI conjectures that a flawed memory of Porky Pine’s monologue led to the creation of a misquotation.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. 1959 June 20, The Honolulu Advertiser, Pogo Comic Strip by Walt Kelly, Quote Page B3, Honolulu, Hawaii. (Newspapers_com)

Put All Your Eggs in One Basket, and Then Watch That Basket

Mark Twain? Andrew Carnegie? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Proverbial wisdom tells us never to put all our eggs in one basket, but a humorous inversion of that advice has been ascribed to the renowned humorist Mark Twain and the business titan Andrew Carnegie. Who should receive credit?

Quote Investigator: On June 23, 1885 Andrew Carnegie addressed the students of Curry Commercial College of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He gave pungent advice to the learners which included a repudiation of the traditional adage about baskets and eggs. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

The concerns which fail are those which have scattered their capital, which means that they have scattered their brains also. They have investments in this, or that, or the other, here, there and everywhere. “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is all wrong. I tell you “put all your eggs in one basket, and then watch that basket.” Look round you and take notice; men who do that do not often fail. It is easy to watch and carry the one basket. It is trying to carry too many baskets that breaks most eggs in this country. He who carries three baskets must put one on his head, which is apt to tumble and trip him up. One fault of the American business man is lack of concentration.

The text above was from a collection of speeches and essays published by Carnegie in 1902. The date and location of the speech were specified in the book. Contemporaneous news accounts also mentioned the event. For example, on August 19, 1885 “The Yonkers Statesman” of Yonkers, New York described the talk under the title “Success in Business”. The phrasing varied: “I tell you” versus “We tell you”, but the adage was identical: 2

“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is all wrong. We tell you “put all your eggs in one basket, and then watch that basket.”

Mark Twain heard about Carnegie’s remark, and he was intrigued enough to record it in one of his notebooks. Later, he employed the reversed adage as a chapter epigraph in his tale titled “Pudd’nhead Wilson”. Below are additional selected citations in chronological order including detailed citations for Twain. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. 1902, The Empire of Business by Andrew Carnegie, The Road to Business Success: A Talk to Young Men, (From an address to Students of the Curry Commercial College, Pittsburg, June 23, 1885), Start Page 3, Quote page 17, Doubleday, Page & Company, New York. (HathiTrust) link
  2. 1885 August 19, The Yonkers Statesman, Success in Business, Quote Page 2, Column 1, Yonkers, New York. (Old Fulton)

If You Have Two Friends in Your Lifetime, You’re Lucky. If You Have One Good Friend, You’re More than Lucky

S. E. Hinton? David Viscott? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: An article by Ed Yong about crabs on the website of “The Atlantic” contained an arresting quotation about the rarity of strong friendship. The words were ascribed to the prominent young-adult novelist S. E. Hinton (Susan Eloise Hinton). Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: S. E. Hinton is best known for her 1967 young-adult novel “The Outsiders”. In 1971 her second novel with the same Oklahoma setting was titled “That Was Then, This Is Now”. The narrator, a young man named Bryon Douglas, made the following observation: 1

If you have two friends in your lifetime, you’re lucky. If you have one good friend, you’re more than lucky.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. 1971 Copyright, That Was Then, This Is Now by S. E. Hinton, Quote Page 49, Viking: A Division of Penguin Putnam, New York. (Reprint with 1988 copyright cover art)(Verified with hardcopy)

Don’t Tell Yer Trouble to Others. Most of ‘Em Don’t Care a Hang; an’ the Rest Are Damn Glad of It

Robert Haven Schauffler? Nantucket Sea Captain? Rita P.? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Whenever I am tempted to complain about a setback in my life I recollect a wry piece of advice. Here are two versions:

  1. Never tell people your troubles. Half of them don’t care and the other half will be glad it happened to you.
  2. Don’t harangue people with your troubles. Most of your listeners aren’t interested, and the rest are happy you’re finally getting what’s coming to you.

Would you please explore the provenance of this expression?

Quote Investigator: The earliest full match located by QI appeared in the 1939 self-help book of the popular author Robert Haven Schauffler titled “Enjoy Living: An Invitation to Happiness”. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Be careful how you outshine even your intimates in conversation or anything else, or load your griefs and worries upon their shoulders. “If you want enemies,” said la Rochefoucauld,”excel your friends; but if you want friends, let your friends excel you.” “Don’t tell yer trouble to others,” a Nantucket sea-captain advised me. “Most of ’em don’t care a hang; an’ the rest are damn glad of it.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. 1939, Enjoy Living: An Invitation to Happiness by Robert Haven Schauffler, Chapter 19: Getting Along with People, Start Page 243, Quote Page 249, Dodd, Mead & Company, New York. (Verified on paper)

There Is Surely Nothing Quite So Useless as Doing with Great Efficiency What Should Not Be Done At All

Peter Drucker? Gore Vidal? Professor Giddings? Jesse H. Shera? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: I belong to an organization which is expending an inordinate effort perfecting the execution of a task that is peripheral to its mission. A famous management guru spoke about the pointlessness of efficiently performing a function that should not be done at all. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1963 Peter Drucker published an article titled “Managing for Business Effectiveness” in the “Harvard Business Review”, and he discussed the troublesome error of misallocation. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

But every analysis of actual allocation of resources and efforts in business that I have ever seen or made showed clearly that the bulk of time, work, attention, and money first goes to “problems” rather than to opportunities, and, secondly, to areas where even extraordinarily successful performance will have minimal impact on results.

What is the major problem? It is fundamentally the confusion between effectiveness and efficiency that stands between doing the right things and doing things right. There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. 1963 May, Harvard Business Review, Managing for Business Effectiveness by Peter F. Drucker, Harvard Business Publishing, Boston, Massachusetts. (Online archive at hbr.org; accessed February 6, 2017) link

Dictators Ride To and Fro Upon Tigers from Which They Dare Not Dismount

Winston Churchill? Harry Truman? Chinese Adage? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Anyone who was sitting atop a tiger would have a difficult time dismounting safely. Apparently, this scenario has been employed metaphorically by the political leaders Winston Churchill and Harry Truman. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: In 1937 Winston Churchill delivered an address titled “Armistice—Or Peace?” He correctly perceived that political and military developments of that period were ominous, and emerging dictatorships were particularly dangerous. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Grim war-gods from remote ages have stalked upon the scene. International good faith; the public law of Europe; the greatest good of the greatest number; the ideal of a fertile, tolerant, progressive, demilitarized, infinitely varied society, is shattered. Dictators ride to and fro upon tigers from which they dare not dismount. And the tigers are getting hungry.

Harry Truman also used this figurative language in a volume of his memoirs. Detailed information is given further below together with additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. 1939 Copyright, Step By Step 1936-1939 by Winston S. Churchill, Essay: Armistice—Or Peace?, Date: November 11, 1937, Start Page 157, Quote Page 159, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York. (Verified with scans)

Life is a Tragedy when Seen in Closeup, But a Comedy in Longshot

Charlie Chaplin? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The cinema icon Charlie Chaplin depicted comic and tragic situations in his films, and he also experienced both in his personal life. One of his memorable quotations metaphorically employed the film director terms closeup and longshot to contrast tragedy and comedy. Would you help me to find a citation for his statement?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence located by QI appeared in a 1972 “Chicago Tribune” article about a gala attended by honoree Charlie Chaplin that was held at the Philharmonic Hall in New York City. The program notes for the event were written by the influential film critic Richard Roud. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

“Life is a tragedy when seen in closeup, but a comedy in long-shot,” is a Chaplin quote that Richard Roud, director of the New York Film Festival, borrowed to introduce the program notes for the gala.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. 1972 April 6, Chicago Tribune, ‘Little Tramp’ Triumphs: Chaplin Savors His ‘Renaissance’ by Carol Kramer (Chicago Tribune News Service), Section 2, Quote Page 2, Column 7, Chicago, Illinois. (Newspapers_com)

Two Kinds of Fools: This Is Old, Therefore It Is Good. This Is New, Therefore It Is Better

William Ralph Inge? John Brunner? Bishop of Ripon? Anonymous?

Quote Investigator: There are two different types of fools. One naively embraces and extolls everything that is old; the other credulously praises everything that is new. This insight has been ascribed to William Ralph Inge who was a professor at Cambridge and Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. It has also been attributed to the influential British science fiction author John Brunner. Would you please tell me the precise phrasing of this thought and who should receive credit?

Dear Quote Investigator: William Ralph Inge who was widely known as Dean Inge wrote a long-lived column for the “Evening Standard” in London. Many pieces were collected in “Lay Thoughts of a Dean” and “More Lay Thoughts of a Dean”. The second volume contained articles published between 1928 and 1930 including an essay “Some Wise Saws” featuring the following adage: 1

There are two kinds of fools. One says, “This is old, therefore it is good”; the other says, “This is new, therefore it is better.”

John Brunner included a version of this saying in his 1975 novel “The Shockwave Rider”, but he credited Dean Inge. Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. 1931, More Lay Thoughts of a Dean by William Ralph Inge, Section: Here, There, and Everywhere, Chapter 9: Some Wise Saws, Quote Page 201, Putnam, London and New York. (Verified with hardcopy)

It’s Easy Enough, My Friend, to Dream of Utopian Worlds Afar…

Edgar Allan Poe? Ted Olson? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: There is a verse stating that only one person out of one-hundred is actively working toward making bold dreams come true. This notion has been ascribed to the horror master Edgar Allan Poe. Are you familiar with this verse? Would you please examine this topic?

Quote Investigator: The October 1, 1926 issue of “Forbes” magazine printed a five stanza poem by Ted Olson titled “Dreamer and Doer”. The first stanza described the ineffectual “dreamer” archetype. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

It’s easy enough, my friend, to dream
Of Utopian worlds afar;
Where wealth and power and prowess gleam
Remote as the utmost star.

The final stanza described the “doer” archetype and included the statement under investigation:

And ninety-nine are with dreams content.
But the hope of a world made new
Is the hundredth man who is grimly bent
On making the dream come true!

Edgar Allan Poe died in 1849 long before the poem above first appeared, and QI has found no substantive evidence linking him to these words.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. 1926 October 1, Forbes, Volume 18, Number 12, Dreamer and Doer by Ted Olson, Quote Page 32, B. C. Forbes Publishing Company, New York. (Gale Cengage)