Anyone Who Can Drive Safely While Kissing Is Simply Not Giving the Kiss the Attention It Deserves

Albert Einstein? Philippa? Fluffy Flapper? James Russell? Apocryphal? Anonymous?

kiss09Dear Quote Investigator: The modern traveler may encounter dangerous drivers who are texting while driving. But another risky behavior has been occurring on roadways for many decades: kissing while driving. The brilliant physicist Albert Einstein supposedly said:

Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.

I think this ascription is unlikely. Would you please examine the history of this saying?

Quote Investigator: There is no substantive evidence that Einstein wrote or spoke the statement above. It is listed within a section called “Probably Not By Einstein” in the comprehensive reference “The Ultimate Quotable Einstein” from Princeton University Press: 1 Einstein died in 1955, and the phrase was implausible attributed to him many years later in a book called “More Sex Talk” in 2002. Details are given further below.

The earliest pertinent match known to QI appeared as a short item in multiple U.S. newspapers starting in 1923. The joke employed a dialog format, and its creator was unidentified. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 2 3

Dorcas—”Do you ever allow a man to kiss you when you’re out motoring with him?”

Philippa—”Never, if a man can drive safely while kissing me he’s not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.”

Many thanks to top researcher Bonnie Taylor-Blake who located and shared several valuable citations via a message at the Snopes website.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In June 1924 the “Los Angeles Times” published a version of the quip attributed to a prototypical flapper of the era: 4

One of our fluffy flappers allows no kissing when she is out riding. She says the man cannot drive a car and give the kiss the attention it deserves.

In 1927 the joke continued to circulate in the “The Pittsburgh Courier” of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: 5

“Do you allow Jack to kiss you when you’re out motoring with him?”

“Never. If a man can drive safely when kissing me, then he’s not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.”

In 1928 “The Pittsburgh Courier” printed a variant with a gender switch: 6

Braddock Motor hints: Never allow a girl to kiss you when you are out driving with her, for if she can drive a car while kissing you, she’s not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.

By 1948 a one-line version of the jest referring to a “petty girl” was in circulation. This instance from a Williamsburg, Iowa newspaper was similar to modern instances: 7

A man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl isn’t giving the kiss the attention it deserves.

In August 1948 the long-lived column called “A Line O’ Type Or Two” in the “Chicago Tribune” printed this version: 8

“How come you got mad at the b.f. just cause he can drive safely while kissing you?”
“He isn’t giving the kiss the attention it deserves.”
Sally B.

In 1973 a columnist in a Texas newspaper attributed the jest to a columnist in another Texas newspaper: 9

JAMES RUSSELL in the Belton Journal:
“A man who can drive a car safely white kissing a pretty girl is not giving the kiss the attention It deserves.”

A book called “More Sex Talk: A New Collection of Ribald, Raunchy, and Provocative Quotations” credited the quip to the notable scientist Albert Einstein in 2002. No supporting citation was offered for this improbable assignment: 10

Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.
—Albert Einstein

In conclusion, the ascription of this quip to Albert Einstein was spurious. The earliest instances of the core jest appeared by 1923, and different versions have evolved over the decades.

Image Notes: Portrait of Albert Einstein taken circa 1935 at Princeton via Wikimedia Commons. Picture of kiss from Unsplash at Pixabay.

(Great thanks to Kat Caverly and Brad Barbera whose inquiries led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Special thanks to Bonnie Taylor-Blake for her pioneering research.)

Notes:

  1. 2010, The Ultimate Quotable Einstein, Edited by Alice Calaprice, Section: Probably Not By Einstein, Quote Page 482, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. (Verified on paper)
  2. 1923 December 17, Hamilton Daily News, Smiles, Quote Page 15, Column 7, Hamilton, Ohio. (NewspaperArchive) 11 12 1924 January 17, The Davenport Democrat and Leader, Safety First (Freestanding filler item), Quote Page 13, Column 4, Davenport, Iowa. (Newspapers_com)
  3. 1924 January 23, Harrisburg Telegraph, Safety First (Freestanding filler item), Quote Page 8, Column 6, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com)
  4. 1924 June 12, Los Angeles Times, Pen Points by the Staff, Quote Page 4, Column 5, Los Angeles, California. (ProQuest)
  5. 1927 January 15, The Pittsburgh Courier, (Untitled filler item), Quote Page 3, Column 2, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (ProQuest)
  6. 1928 November 24, The Pittsburgh Courier, (Filler item), Quote Page 6, Column 5, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (ProQuest)
  7. 1948 August 12, The Journal Tribune and Shopper (Williamsburg Journal-Tribune), (Untitled filler item), Quote Page 5, Column 6, Williamsburg, Iowa. (Newspapers_com)
  8. 1948 August 23, Chicago Daily Tribune, A Line O’ Type Or Two, Quote Page 26, Column 3, Chicago, Illinois. (ProQuest)
  9. 1973 April 16, Dallas Morning News, The Texas Press: It’s No Easy Job Raising Cattle for Market by Mike Kingston (Editorial Staff Writer), Quote Page 2D, Column 5, Dallas, Texas. (GenealogyBank)
  10. 2002, More Sex Talk: A New Collection of Ribald, Raunchy, and Provocative Quotations by James Wolfe, Quote Page 91, Citadel Press Books of Kensington Publishing Corp., New York. (Google Books Preview)