Author Archives: garson

Friendship Itself Will Not Stand the Strain of Very Much Good Advice for Very Long

Robert Wilson Lynd? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Providing copious assertive advice to a friend can jeopardize the relationship especially when the advice has not been solicited. The Irish journalist and essayist Robert Lynd crafted a remark about these strains with a humorous edge. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1924 Robert Wilson Lynd published a collection of essays called “The Peal of Bells”. The title essay appeared first in the book and contained the following guidance: 1

I often long to direct them with good advice, and refrain only because I know that friendship itself will not stand the strain of very much good advice for very long. And so, while I am inwardly aching to preach to my errant fellow-creatures, I find myself talking to them instead about diet, diseases, cinemas, Bernard Shaw, and the day on which I backed three winning horses at Ascot.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading


  1. 1924, The Peal of Bells by Robert Lynd, Chapter 1: The Peal of Bells, Start Page 1, Quote Page 2 and 3, Methuen & Company, London. (Verified with hardcopy)

Good Judgment Depends Mostly on Experience and Experience Usually Comes from Poor Judgment

Rita Mae Brown? Will Rogers? Fred Rose? C. H. White? Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr.? Uncle Zeke? Barry LePatner? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Good judgement is rooted in experience, but a humorous addendum notes that the crucible of experience is poor judgment. This notion has been credited to humorist Will Rogers and activist Rita Mae Brown. Would you please explore its origin?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in “The Muncie Evening Press” of Muncie, Indiana in 1932. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Fred Rose quoted this comment at the Rotary Club-Central Senior Class meeting Tuesday: “Good Judgment depends mostly on experience and experience usually comes from poor judgment.”

The phrasing signaled that the saying was anonymous, and Rose was not asserting coinage. This article presents a snapshot of current knowledge, and earlier citations may be discovered in the future. Rita Mae Brown used the expression in 2001 after it had been circulating for decades.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading


  1. 1932 February 17, The Muncie Evening Press, In the Press of Things, Quote Page 4, Column 7, Muncie, Indiana. (Newspapers_com)

Write Something, Even If It’s Just a Suicide Note

Gore Vidal? Lucinda Ebersole? Rand B. Lee? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Aspiring authors are typically told to set aside enough time to make writing into a daily habit. The provocative author Gore Vidal apparently employed an extreme version of this injunction:

Write something, even if it’s just a suicide note.

Did Vidal coin this astringently comical remark?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match known to QI appeared in “The Fitzhenry & Whiteside Book of Quotations” in 1986: 1

Write something, even if it’s just a suicide note. Anon.

The creator was unidentified and no citation was provided. An identical entry appeared in the 1987 successor volume “Barnes & Noble Book of Quotations” from the same editor Robert I. Fitzhenry. 2

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order including evidence that Gore Vidal did use the expression. Continue reading


  1. 1986, The Fitzhenry & Whiteside Book of Quotations, Revised and Enlarged, Edited by Robert I. Fitzhenry, Section: Writers and Writing, Quote Page 388, Fitzhenry & Whiteside Limited, Toronto. (Verified on paper)
  2. 1987, Barnes & Noble Book of Quotations: Revised and Enlarged, Edited by Robert I. Fitzhenry, Section: Writers and Writing, Quote Page 388, Barnes & Noble Books, Division of Harper & Row, New York. (Verified on paper)

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


  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


Pogo: UM



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


  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


  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


  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


  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


  1. 1963 May, Harvard Business Review, Managing for Business Effectiveness by Peter F. Drucker, Harvard Business Publishing, Boston, Massachusetts. (Online archive at; 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


  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)