The Dictionary Is the Only Place Where Success Comes Before Work

Vince Lombardi? Mark Twain? Arthur Brisbane? Vidal Sassoon? Stubby Currence? Anonymous?

dict10Dear Quote Investigator: There is an astute saying about gaining achievements through effort that deftly refers to the alphabetical order of a dictionary. Here are two versions:

1) Success comes before work only in the dictionary.
2) The dictionary is the only place where success comes before work.

This expression has been attributed to football coach Vince Lombardi, humorist Mark Twain, newspaper editor Arthur Brisbane, hair stylist Vidal Sassoon, and others. Would you please explore its origin?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive evidence that Mark Twain made this statement. It is not listed on the Barbara Schmidt’s TwainQuotes.com website, an important reference tool for checking expressions ascribed to the luminary. Also, it does not appear in the large compilation “Mark Twain at Your Fingertips”.

The earliest strong match for this saying located by QI was published in 1935 by a newspaper columnist named Stubby Currence. The details are given further below.

QI conjectures that the expression emerged from a precursor statement that was in circulation by the 1920s. The following was printed in a New Castle, Pennsylvania newspaper in 1925, and the same statement with the words “for it” deleted was printed in a Humboldt, Iowa newspaper in 1926: 1

One way to find success without working for it is to look it up in the dictionary.

Three key vocabulary items were shared with the saying under investigation: “success”, “working”, and “dictionary”. But the meaning here was somewhat different. The reader might find the word “success” simply by looking it up in a dictionary, but this action was distinct from actually obtaining worldly success. The wordplay and joke structure here were distinguishable, but there were multiple points of similarity with the phrase being traced.

In 1932 “The News-Herald” newspaper of Franklin, Pennsylvania printed another version of the precursor quip. This instance semantically matched the 1925 citation, but syntactically it was closer to the next citation in 1935: 2

In a dictionary is the only place one can find success without working for it.

In 1935 an expression solidly matching the one given by the questioner was published in the “Bluefield Daily Telegraph” of Bluefield, West Virginia. The words appeared in a column called “The Press Box” by Stubby Currence who covered sports for the paper. QI does not know whether Currence was the crafter of the jape or simply the transmitter: 3

BUFF SAYS: “The dictionary is the only place where you come to SUCCESS before you get to WORK.”

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Notes:

  1. 1925 July 27, New Castle News, Hints and Dints, Quote Page 4, Column 3, New Castle, Pennsylvania. (NewspaperArchive) 4 1926 February 12, The Humboldt Republican (Humboldt Independent), Office Dog Barks, Quote Page 2, Column 3, Humboldt, Iowa. (NewspaperArchive)
  2. 1932 May 5, The News-Herald, Looking at the News of Today by William J. Crawford, Quote Page 4, Column 4, Franklin, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com)
  3. 1935 February 17, Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Fodder For Sports From: The Press Box by Stubby Currence, Section 2, Quote Page 1, Column 6, Bluefield, West Virginia. (Newspapers_com)

Don’t Like to Write, But Like Having Written

Dorothy Parker? George R. R. Martin? Frank Norris? Robert Louis Stevenson? Cornelia Otis Skinner? Clive Barnes? Gloria Steinem? Hedley Donovan?

write09Dear Quote Investigator: Writing is an arduous task for many skilled authors. There is a popular family of sayings that contrasts the elation of accomplishment with the struggle of composition:

1) I hate to write, but I love having written.
2) I loathe writing, but I love having written.
3) Don’t like to write, but like having written.
4) I don’t enjoy writing. I enjoy having written.
5) Writers don’t like writing — they like having written.

Fantasy and science fiction author George R. R. Martin whose books are the basis for the celebrated “Game of Thrones” television series apparently employed this saying. Famous wit Dorothy Parker is also sometimes credited with the remark? Would you please explore its provenance?

Quote Investigator: George R. R. Martin did use an instance of this expression during a 2011 interview, and the details are given further below. However, QI has found no substantive linkage to Dorothy Parker.

The earliest evidence located by QI appeared in a Minnesota journal named “The Bellman” which acknowledged another periodical called “Detroit Saturday Night”. The novelist Frank Norris was recognized for his works “The Octopus: A Story of California” and “The Pit: A Story of Chicago”. In 1915, a decade after his death, a letter written by him was discovered and published. Norris described his work habits as a writer, and the following excerpt contained an instance of the saying under investigation: 1

I write with great difficulty, but have managed somehow to accomplish 40 short stories (all published in fugitive fashion) and five novels within the last three years, and a lot of special unsigned articles. Believe my forte is the novel. Don’t like to write, but like having written. Hate the effort of driving pen from line to line, work only three hours a day, but work every day.

Believe in blunt, crude Anglo-Saxon words. Sometimes spend half an hour trying to get just the right combination of one-half dozen words. Never rewrite stuff; do all hard work at first writing, only revise—very lightly—in typewritten copy.

These words of Norris were widely disseminated by multiple news outlets in 1915 and 1916, e.g., “The Racine Journal News” of Wisconsin, 2 “The Charleroi Mail” of Pennsylvania, 3 and “The Chicago Tribune” of Illinois. 4

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Notes:

  1. 1915 December 4, The Bellman, Volume 19, The Bellman’s Book Plate, The Writing Grind, (Acknowledgement to Detroit Saturday Night), Start Page 642, Quote Page 643, Column 1, Published by The Bellman Company, Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1915 December 17, Racine Journal News, How One Novelist Wrote, Quote Page 4, Column 2, Racine, Wisconsin. (NewspaperArchive)
  3. 1916 January 11, Charleroi Mail, How One Novelist Wrote, Quote Page 3, Column 3, Charleroi, Pennsylvania. (NewspaperArchive)
  4. 1916 February 13, Chicago Tribune, Tabloid Book Review by Fanny Butcher, Quote Page G4, Column 3, Chicago, Illinois. (ProQuest)

When a Subject Becomes Totally Obsolete We Make It a Required Course

Peter Drucker? Apocryphal?

textbooks10Dear Quote Investigator: While perusing a book of quotations categorized as outrageous I saw a remark about college education attributed to the famous business guru Peter Drucker:

When a subject becomes totally obsolete we make it a required course.

I haven’t been able to determine where or when this statement appeared. Is this ascription accurate?

Quote Investigator: In 1969 Peter Drucker published “The Age of Discontinuity: Guidelines to Our Changing Society”. Drucker argued that successful organizations must be capable of change and innovation: 1

An organization, whatever its objectives, must therefore be able to get rid of yesterday’s tasks and thus to free its energies and resources for new and more productive tasks.

Drucker indicated that effective ideas for positive change were often readily available, and yet the resistance to alterations within an organization was often very strong. Drucker employed a version of the saying under investigation when discussing the educational domain. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 2

Rather it is organizational inertia which always pushes for continuing what we are already doing. At least we know—or we think we know—what we are doing. Organization is always in danger of being overwhelmed by yesterday’s tasks and being rendered sterile by them.

If a subject has become obsolete, the university faculty makes a required course out of it—and this “solves the problem” for the time being.

In 1976 “Drucker: The Man Who Invented the Corporate Society” by John J. Tarrant was released, and it included a ten-page appendix filled with remarks by Peter Drucker. The Fall 1976 issue of “The Wharton Magazine” from the University of Pennsylvania reprinted seventeen sayings from the appendix. Here are four examples; the third exactly matches the expression given by the questioner: 3

We know nothing about motivation. All we can do is write books about it.

So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.

When a subject becomes totally obsolete we make it a required course.

The schoolmaster since time immemorial has believed that the ass is an organ of learning. The longer you sit, the more you learn.

In 1992 Drucker crafted another phrasing for his idea. The details are given further below.

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Notes:

  1. 1969, The Age of Discontinuity: Guidelines to Our Changing Society by Peter F. Drucker, Quote Page 193, Harper & Row, New York. (Verified on paper)
  2. 1969, The Age of Discontinuity: Guidelines to Our Changing Society by Peter F. Drucker, Quote Page 193, Harper & Row, New York. (Verified on paper)
  3. 1976 Fall, The Wharton Magazine, Volume 1, Number 1, Bits, Start Page 12, Quote Page 14, Column 1, Published by Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Verified on microfilm)

Humor Can Be Dissected, as a Frog Can, But the Thing Dies in the Process

Mark Twain? E. B. White? Katharine S. White? André Maurois? Marty Feldman?

frog07Dear Quote Investigator: A cogent simile about the cerebral examination of humor has been attributed to three clever individuals: humorist Mark Twain, children’s author E. B. White, and French author André Maurois. Here are four versions:

Analyzing humor is a bit like dissecting a frog: You learn how it works but you end up with a dead frog.

Studying humor is like dissecting a frog. You might learn a lot about it, but you wind up with a dead frog.

Humor can be dissected, as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process.

Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog. You understand it better but the frog dies in the process.

Would you please explore this saying and determine who should receive credit?

Dear Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive evidence that Mark Twain employed this amphibian simile. Citations show that both E. B. White and André Maurois did use this striking analogy, but the data indicated that E. B. White together with his wife Katharine S. White were the likely originators:

In October 1941 the Whites published an essay in “The Saturday Review of Literature” that included the figurative language. The same text was also used in the preface of an influential 1941 collection titled “A Subtreasury of American Humor” edited by the Whites. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1 2 3

Analysts have had their go at humor, and I have read some of this interpretative literature, but without being greatly instructed. Humor can be dissected, as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the purely scientific mind.

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Notes:

  1. 1941 October 18, The Saturday Review of Literature, The Preaching Humorist by E. B. White and Katharine S. White, Start Page 16, Quote Page 16, Column 1, Published by The Saturday Review Company, Inc., New York. (Unz)
  2. 1985, A Teacher’s Treasury of Quotations, Compiled by Bernard E. Farber, Section Humor, Quote Page 139, Column 2 McFarland & Company, Inc., Jefferson, North Carolina. (Verified on paper)
  3. 1941, A Subtreasury of American Humor, Edited by E. B. White and Katharine S. White, Section: Preface, Quote Page xvii, Coward-McCann, New York. (This citation has not yet been verified on paper; references such as A Teacher’s Treasury of Quotations cite this work; Google Books and HathiTrust give a page number of xvii)

Gentlemen, You May Include Me Out

Samuel Goldwyn? Herbert Fields? June Provines? Sheilah Graham? Alva Johnston? Apocryphal?

include07Dear Quote Investigator: Movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn was famous for his creative and idiosyncratic use of the English language. Hollywood legend asserts that Goldwyn participated in a complex, protracted, and tense corporate negotiation in the 1930s. But he was unhappy with the final deal, and he expressed disenchantment with these classic words:

Gentlemen, you may include me out.

Would you please explore this statement?

Quote Investigator: When Samuel Goldwyn was profiled in LIFE magazine in 1959 he adamantly denied that he used the expression: “Include me out”. Instead, Goldwyn contended that he uttered the prosaic “Gentlemen, I’m withdrawing from the association.” Yet, the colorful remark has been ascribed to him since the 1930s.

The earliest evidence located by QI did not link the phrase to Goldwyn. The words appeared in a newspaper serialization of a 1933 movie titled “Let’s Fall In Love”. Herbert Fields crafted the story and the screenplay of the romantic musical though it was not clear who penned the serialization which was published in February 1934. 1

In the following passage, two characters on a movie set were conversing: Rose Forsell was a temperamental star, and Max was a film producer. Forsell believed that she had been insulted, and she was threatening to return to Sweden while Max was attempting to mollify her. The word “Sweden” was spelled “Sveden” to depict Forsell’s accent. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 2

Forsell was in a towering rage “Ah! So now he insults me! So now I go back home—to Sveden!”

Max walked up to her. “Wait a minute, Forsell. Don’t mind what Ken says. I didn’t say it. Include me out of it.”

Forsell ignored Max. “And what’s more, I take the first boat back and I don’t never come back.” She turned on her heel and started away.

By 1935 the phrase had moved from the realm of fiction to non-fiction. A popular “Chicago Tribune” columnist named June Provines recounted an incident with unnamed participants immersed in a business parley. The specified location was the “Hotel Sherman” which was probably a reference to the landmark Sherman House Hotel of Chicago: 3

It was a small business meeting at the Hotel Sherman. The men had met to sign an agreement, according to Henrietta Singer, who reports the incident. The proposition was written and read to them and all of them agreed except one. He walked away, ostensibly thinking it over. The rest looked at him inquiringly, awaiting his answer. After a long pause he gave it, “Include me out,” he said.

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Notes:

  1. Website: IMDB – Internet Movie Database, Movie title: Let’s Fall in Love (1933), Website description: Searchable database of more than 100 million data items about movies and TV, (Accessed imdb.com on October 12, 2014) link
  2. 1934 February 19, Tyrone Daily Herald, Film: Let’s Fall In Love with Edmund Lowe, Ann Southern, and Miriam Jordan, Serialization by arrangement with Columbia Pictures, Quote Page 5, Column 2, Tyrone, Pennsylvania (NewspaperArchive)
  3. 1935 March 27, Chicago Tribune, Front Views and Profiles by June Provines, Quote Page 13, Column 4, Chicago, Illinois. (ProQuest)

This Is On Me

Dorothy Parker? William P. Rothwell? Soaker? Apocryphal? Anonymous?

onme11Dear Quote Investigator: The notable wit Dorothy Parker was also known as an imbiber. She would sometimes generously buy a round of drinks for her companions using the phrase:

This is on me.

Once when asked to create an epitaph for her tombstone she selected the expression above because of its dual meanings. One interpretation would remind her friends of convivial occasions. The other interpretation would prosaically specify that the stone stood above her mortal remains. Did Parker really choose this inscription, and is it on her tombstone?

Quote Investigator: QI plans to examine at least five different epitaphs that have been attributed to Dorothy Parker. Here is a link to a webpage that will have pointers to the five separate analyses when they are completed.

Dorothy Parker died in 1967, and books published in 1968 and 1970 asserted that Parker mentioned this expression as a possible humorous epitaph. Detailed citations are given further below. Nevertheless, the words did not appear on the marker above her ashes. The actual commemorative statement can be read near the end of this article.

This joke has a long history and instances have been circulating for more than one hundred years. For example, in July 1896 the humor magazine “Life” printed a comical dialog about a grave marker. The term “soaker” referred to a heavy drinker. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

BRIGGS. That was rather an appropriate inscription they put on Soaker’s tombstone.
GRIGGS: What was it?
“‘This is on me.'”

Dorothy Parker was born in 1893; therefore, barring preternatural precocity, she did not craft this quip though she may have employed it.

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Notes:

  1. 1896 July 16, Life, Volume 28, Issue 707, (Short untitled item), Quote Page 572, Column 3, Published by Life Office, New York. (ProQuest)

Things Turn Out Best for Folks Who Make the Best of the Way Things Turn Out

Titus Livius? John Wooden? Art Linkletter? Anonymous?

wooden08Dear Quote Investigator: Everyone experiences some adversity, and that may help to explain the popularity of the following adage:

Things turn out best for the people who make the best out of the way things turn out.

These words have been attributed to at least three people: Roman historian Titus Livius, basketball coach John Wooden, and television personality Art Linkletter. Who do you think should receive credit?

Quote Investigator: In May 1965 an instance of this aphorism using the word “folks” was published in a newspaper column in Ada, Oklahoma together with miscellaneous sayings. No attribution was provided: 1

Things turn out best for folks who make the best of the way things turn out.

The expression was constructed using a rhetorical technique called antimetabole. Successive phrases were repeated, but some key words were permuted. In this case, the words: “things”, “turn”, “out”, and “best” were repeated and reordered:

Part 1: Things turn out best for folks who
Part 2: make the best of the way things turn out.

In June 1966 a slightly different version of the saying was printed as a filler item without ascription in a newspaper in Holland, Michigan: 2

Things turn out best for those who make the best out of the way things turn out.

In May 1967 the version immediately above appeared in a supermarket advertisement in a Beckley, West Virginia newspaper without attribution. 3 In the following years, close variants of the adage were published in numerous newspapers. No individual was credited with the remark, and QI believes the statement should be labeled anonymous.

In 1973 prominent UCLA basketball coach John Wooden included the aphorism in a book he co-authored. Wooden did not claim coinage, nor did he provide an ascription. In 1979 entertainer Art Linkletter included the remark in a book he published and credited Wooden. Precise citations for Wooden and Linkletter are given further below. QI has found no substantive support for crediting the dictum to Titus Livius; that linkage appeared relatively recently.

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Notes:

  1. 1965 May 13, The Ada Weekly News, Strayed from the Herd by Connie Nelson, Quote Page 4, Column 8, Ada, Oklahoma. (Newspapers_com)
  2. 1966 June 8, The Holland Evening Sentinel, (Free standing filler item), Quote Page 4, Column 3, Holland, Michigan. (Newspapers_com)
  3. 1967 May 4, The Raleigh Register, (Saying without attribution in advertisement for Carolina Supermarket), Quote Page 28, Beckley, West Virginia. (Newspapers_com)

The Dirtiest Book in All the World Is the Expurgated Book

Walt Whitman? Horace Traubel? Morris L. Ernst? Apocryphal?

leaves09Dear Quote Investigator: Walt Whitman’s landmark poetry collection “Leaves of Grass” was shocking to some of his contemporaries, and he was told by publishers, critics, and attorneys that his work required expurgation. Whitman consented to this censorship initially, but he became increasingly unhappy and angry with this interference over time. The following statement has been attributed to Whitman:

Damn all expurgated books, the dirtiest book of all is the expurgated book.

I have not been able to determine where or when Whitman wrote or said these words. Would you please help me?

Quote Investigator: There is good evidence that Walt Whitman made a statement very similar to the one above. Whitman died in 1892, and the earliest citation located by QI was published in 1906 by Horace Traubel who was a friend of the famous poet and his literary executor. Traubel published a volume about his experiences visiting Whitman a few years before the poet’s death titled “With Walt Whitman in Camden (March 28 — July 14, 1888)”. The book format was a series of dated journal entries, and the entry of Wednesday, May 9, 1888 recounted Whitman’s vivid remark about censorship. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

Damn the expurgated books! I say damn ‘em! The dirtiest book in all the world is the expurgated book. Rossetti expurgated—avowed it in his preface: a sort of nod to Mrs. Grundy…

The phrasing reported by Traubel differed somewhat from the most common modern quotation, but QI hypothesizes that the modern statement was derived from this journal entry. The name “Rossetti” in the remark referred to William Rossetti who published an early expurgated edition of “Leaves of Grass”. The name “Mrs. Grundy” referred to an archetypal figure embodying prudish, priggish, and narrow-minded attitudes.

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Notes:

  1. 1906, With Walt Whitman in Camden (March 28 — July 14, 1888), by Horace Traubel, Journal Date: May 9, 1888, Quote Page 124, Published by Small, Maynard & Company, Boston, Massachusetts. (Google Books Full View) link

Wherever She Went, Including Here, It Was Against Her Better Judgment

Dorothy Parker? Apocryphal?

grave10Dear Quote Investigator: The notable wit Dorothy Parker was once asked to create an epitaph for her tombstone. Apparently, she crafted several different candidates for inscription over the years. I am interested in the following:

Wherever she went, including here, it was against her better judgment.

Did the coruscating Algonquin Round Table member compose this statement?

Quote Investigator: QI plans to examine at least five different epitaphs that have been ascribed to Dorothy Parker. Here is a link to a webpage that will have pointers to the five separate analyses when they are completed.

The expression given by the questioner above was published in a short story written by Parker that was published in “The New Yorker” magazine in 1929. Parker included herself as a character within her own story, and the Parker character recommended the inscription for her own gravestone. At the beginning of the tale, the character was expressing regret about her decision to attend a dinner party. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

Oh, I should never have come, never. I’m here against my better judgment. Friday, at eight-thirty, Mrs. Parker vs. her better judgment, to a decision. That would be a good thing for them to cut on my tombstone: Wherever she went, including here, it was against her better judgment. This is a fine time of the evening to be thinking about tombstones.

Parker’s tone was humorous, and the statement was not inscribed on her actual grave marker.

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Notes:

  1. 1929 October 19, The New Yorker, But the One on the Right by Dorothy Parker, Start Page 25, Quote Page 25, The F-R. Publishing Corporation, New York. (Verified on microfilm)

Whatever You Are, Try To Be a Good One

Abraham Lincoln? William Makepeace Thackeray? Laurence Hutton? Apocryphal? Anonymous?

thackeray09Dear Quote Investigator: It is possible to excel in almost any profession. The following inspirational words are heartening:

Whatever you are, be a good one.

The phrase is usually attributed to Abraham Lincoln, but it sounds modern to my ear. Books about career choice, coaching, quotations, and happiness have all included the saying. Sadly, misattributions to Lincoln are commonplace. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive evidence that Abraham Lincoln made this remark. Lincoln died in 1865, and the earliest attribution to Lincoln was printed in a compendium of quotations in 1946, a very late date.

Interestingly, at the turn of the previous century the saying was firmly attached to another famous individual, the English novelist William Makepeace Thackeray who died in 1863. The earliest instance of the saying located by QI was published in a memoir in 1897 by Laurence Hutton who was a prominent magazine editor, critic, and essayist. The memoir was serialized in “St. Nicholas: An Illustrated Magazine for Young Folks”.

Hutton described a crucial incident from his childhood in the 1850s when he met William Makepeace Thackeray who asked him about his aspirations. Hutton was uncertain about his goals in life, but he replied that he wanted to be a farmer. Thackeray responded to Hutton with a version of the saying which has now become popular. Hutton’s memoir was written in the third person, and he referred to himself as “The Boy”. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

Mr. Thackeray took The Boy between his knees, and asked his name, and what he intended to be when he grew up. He replied, “A farmer, sir.” Why, he cannot imagine, for he never had the slightest inclination toward a farmer’s life. And then Mr. Thackeray put his gentle hand upon The Boy’s little red head, and said: “Whatever you are, try to be a good one.”

If there is any virtue in the laying-on of hands The Boy can only hope that a little of it has descended upon him. And whatever The Boy is, he has tried, for Thackeray’s sake, “to be a good one!”

By 1904 the above version of the saying was shortened to “Whatever you are, be a good one” and re-assigned to Thackeray. Both versions were disseminated in the following decades.

QI believes that Laurence Hutton’s memoir was the most likely origin of the statement, and Hutton ascribed the words to William Makepeace Thackeray, but he was writing many years after the incident occurred; hence, uncertainty was inherent. On the other hand, the expression deeply impressed Hutton and influenced his life, so the phrasing he reported might have been accurate.

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Notes:

  1. 1897 March, St. Nicholas: An Illustrated Magazine for Young Folks, Conducted by Mary Mapes Dodge, Volume 24, Number 5,A Boy I Knew by Laurence Hutton, (The final installment of a series that began in December), Start Page 409, Quote Page 413, Column 2, Published by The Century Company, New York. (Google Books Full View) link