Author Archives: garson

I’ve Been Poor, and I’ve Been Rich. Rich Is Better!

Fanny Brice? Beatrice Kaufman? Joe E. Lewis? Sophie Tucker? Johnny Hyde? Jack Herbert? Harold Gray? Bernice Fitz-Gibbon? Bob Mankoff?

Dear Quote Investigator: A newly wealthy person sometimes feels sentimental about an earlier period of poverty. Yet, one well-heeled individual unapologetically proclaimed:

I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. And, believe me, rich is better.

These words have been ascribed to entertainer Fanny Brice, singer Sophie Tucker, comedian Joe E. Lewis, writer Beatrice Kaufman, and others. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match known to QI appeared in May 1937 in the popular syndicated gossip column of Leonard Lyons who credited the writer Beatrice Kaufman. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

At the Tavern Mrs. George S. Kaufman urges a noted theatrical figure to accept the movie offers being tendered him. “Listen, and take my advice,” she urges. “Don’t overlook the money part of it. I’ve been poor and I’ve been rich. Rich is better!”

The above citation was listed in the important reference works “The Yale Book of Quotations” 2 and “The Quote Verifier”. 3 Kaufmann is the leading candidate for creator of this remark although in subsequent years it was employed by many others. Even columnist Lyons credited multiple people.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading


  1. 1937 May 12, The Washington Post, The Post’s New Yorker by Leonard Lyons, Quote Page 13,Washington, D.C. (ProQuest)
  2. 2006, The Yale Book of Quotations by Fred R. Shapiro, Section: Beatrice Kaufman, Quote Page 415, Yale University Press, New Haven. (Verified with hardcopy)
  3. 2006, The Quote Verifier by Ralph Keyes, Quote Page 179, St Martin’s Griffin, New York. (Verified on paper)

I Take My Hat Off To You as a Composer; I Put Back Ten Hats as a Man

Arturo Toscanini? Georges Clemenceau? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: According to legend the prominent conductor Arturo Toscanini expressed disrespect for the famous composer Richard Strauss during an incident in the 1930s. To understand this incident it is helpful to know that removing one’s hat was a gesture of respect in the European culture shared by the two men. Here are two versions of the insult:

1) For Strauss the composer, I take my hat off. For Strauss the man, I put it on again.

2) Strauss, as a musician I take my hat off to you; as a man I put on twelve hats.

Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence of this insult schema located by QI appeared many years earlier in 1918. Georges Clemenceau who was the Prime Minister of France reportedly employed the hat remark while discussing the behavior of a country during World War 1. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

He was receiving a delegation from Rumania, and, after a short conversation, was asked by one of the delegates to send a message to the Rumanians who had given such gallant support to the Allies before national intrigue played them false. Then up rose Clemenceau and uttered the following tigerish sentiment: “I rise in the presence of your delegation; I take my hat off to the Rumanian people; I put it on again in the face of the Rumanian government.” Short, sweet, typically French in its incisive, epigrammatic quality.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading


  1. 1918 December 21, The New Appeal (Appeal to Reason), A Great Difference, Quote Page 3, Column 6, Girard, Kansas. (Newspapers_com)

My Life Depended on 150,000 Pieces of Equipment – Each Bought from the Lowest Bidder

Alan Shepard? John Glenn? Wernher von Braun? Gus Grissom? Gordon Cooper? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: According to legend an astronaut was asked how he felt sitting in a space capsule while preparing for launch or travelling in orbit around the Earth. He replied with a trenchant comment about equipment and low-bid contracts. Would you please examine this topic?

Quote Investigator: On April 26, 1963 a columnist in a Bryan, Texas newspaper printed a remark ascribed to astronaut Alan Shepard although the word “supposedly” was used to signal uncertainty. Shepard was the first American to travel into space. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Here’s one of the comments Astronaut Alan Shepard supposedly made before he crawled into his space capsule for the first trip into outer space by an American: “Just think, the contract on this thing went to the lowest bidder.”

A few days later, on May 1, 1963 a columnist in an Amarillo, Texas newspaper printed a more elaborate quip ascribed to John Glenn who was the first American to orbit the Earth: 2

Astronaut John Glenn is supposed to have said: “My life depended on 150,000 pieces of equipment – each bought from the lowest bidder.”

Similar remarks have been attributed to other astronauts, and QI conjectures that the colleagues of the space program shared the quip with one another. During a 1998 interview Glenn directly retold his version of the joke, and QI believes he created the most interesting version.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading


  1. 1963 April 26, The Bryan Daily Eagle, Eagle Items by Brett Martin, Quote Page 2, Column 4, Bryan, Texas. (Newspapers_com)
  2. 1963 May 1, The Amarillo Globe-Times, Putting Around Curtis with Putt Powell, Quote Page 15, Column 1, Amarillo, Texas. (Newspapers_com)

We Cannot Direct the Wind, But We Can Adjust the Sails

Cora L. V. Hatch? Thomas Sheridan? George Whyte-Melville? A. B. Kendig? Ella Wheeler Wilcox? Bertha Calloway? Jimmy Dean? Dolly Parton? Thomas S. Monson?

Dear Quote Investigator: We are buffeted by events that are beyond our control, but we can still react constructively. A popular adage highlights this flexibility:

We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.

This saying has been credited to Dolly Parton, Thomas S, Monson, Bertha Calloway, Jimmy Dean, and several others. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: In 1859 the well-known spiritualist Cora L. V. Hatch delivered a lecture at the Cooper Institute while in a trance as reported in “The Cleveland Plain Dealer”. Hatch employed a version of the expression: 1

You could not prevent a thunderstorm, but you could use the electricity; you could not direct the wind, but you could trim your sail so as to propel your vessel as you pleased, no matter which way the wind blew.

This was the earliest close match known to QI. Other oft-mentioned candidates for crafters of this adage were born after it was in circulation.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading


  1. 1859 January 15, Daily Plain Dealer, Mrs. Cora L. V. Hatch on Spiritualism: The Law of God a Unit, Quote Page 2, Column 3, Cleveland, Ohio. (GenealogyBank)

Believe Nothing You Hear, and Only One Half That You See

Edgar Allan Poe? Dinah Craik? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The following hyperbolic proverb encouraging skepticism has been credited to the master of mystery and the macabre Edgar Allan Poe:

Believe half of what you see and nothing of what you hear.

Did Poe craft this saying?

Quote Investigator: The short story “The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether” by Edgar Allan Poe appeared in the November 1845 issue of “Graham’s Magazine”. The tale was set in a private hospital for the mentally ill, and the adage was spoken by the nominal head of the institution. Emphasis added by QI: 1

“You are young yet, my friend,” replied my host, “but the time will arrive when you will learn to judge for yourself of what is going on in the world, without trusting to the gossip of others. Believe nothing you hear, and only one half that you see.

This was the earliest strong match known to QI. Hence, Poe is the leading candidate for coiner of this expression although the phrasing differed slightly from the popular modern versions.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading


  1. 1845 November, Graham’s Magazine (Graham’s American Monthly Magazine of Literature and Art), Volume 28, Number 5, The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether by Edgar Allan Poe, Start Page 193, Quote Page 194, Column 2, George R. Graham & Co., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (HathiTrust Full View) link

If We’re Lucky, Robots Might Decide To Keep Us as Pets

Isaac Asimov? Marvin Minsky? Paul Saffo? Edward Fredkin? Bruce Sterling?

Dear Quote Investigator: Reportedly, a top researcher in artificial intelligence once said something like:

Humans will be lucky if superintelligent robots treat them as pets.

At some point a grim elaboration was appended:

If humans are unlucky, they will be treated as food.

Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: In 1970 “LIFE” magazine journalist Brad Darrach wrote an article about Shakey the Robot, an early mobile robot built at the Stanford Research Institute. The primitive device was grandly called the “first electronic person” within the article title. Darrach interviewed Marvin Minsky, a leading researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who was quoted making a startling prediction: 1

In from three to eight years we will have a machine with the general intelligence of an average human being. I mean a machine that will be able to read Shakespeare, grease a car, play office politics, tell a joke, have a fight. At that point the machine will begin to educate itself with fantastic speed. In a few months it will be at genius level and a few months after that its powers will be incalculable.

Minsky and a colleague warned that intelligent computers should not be put in control of indispensable systems; instead, they must be carefully controlled. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI:

The problem of computer control will have to be solved, Minsky and Papert believe, before computers are put in charge of systems essential to society’s survival. If a computer directing the nation’s economy or its nuclear defenses ever rated its own efficiency above its ethical obligation, it could destroy man’s social order—or destroy man. “Once the computers got control,” says Minsky, “we might never get it back. We would survive at their sufferance. If we’re lucky, they might decide to keep us as pets.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order including a 1985 passage asserting that Minsky denied making the statement about pets. Continue reading


  1. 1970 November 20, LIFE, Meet Shaky, the first electronic person: The fascinating and fearsome reality of a machine with a mind of its own by Brad Darrach, Start Page 58B, Quote Page 58D, 66, and 68, Time Inc., New York. (Google Books Full View)

Never Go to Bed Mad—Stay Up and Fight

Phyllis Diller? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Newlyweds are sometimes given the following thoughtful relationship advice:

Never go to bed while angry with your partner.

The prominent comedian Phyllis Diller twisted this expression to yield a very funny line. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: The quip appeared in her 1966 book “Phyllis Diller’s Housekeeping Hints”. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Never Go to Bed Mad—Stay Up and Fight

Just the other day I said to Fang, “Don’t you think we’ve got a storybook romance?” and he said, “Yes, and every page is ripped.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading


  1. 1966 Copyright, Phyllis Diller’s Housekeeping Hints by Phyllis Diller, Chapter 7, Quote Page 98, Doubleday and Company, Garden City, New York. (Verified with hardcopy)

Patriotism Means To Stand by the Country. It Does Not Mean To Stand by the President or Any Other Public Official

Theodore Roosevelt? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: There is a spirited disagreement on Facebook about whether the following statement can be ascribed to Theodore Roosevelt:

Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the President.

Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: Several U.S. presidential administrations have been greeted by critics who have cited this expression. In May 1918 Theodore Roosevelt published an article titled “Lincoln and Free Speech” in “Metropolitan Magazine” which began with the following paragraph. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

PATRIOTISM means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the President or any other public official save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him in so far as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country. In either event it is unpatriotic not to tell the truth—whether about the President or about anyone else—save in the rare cases where this would make known to the enemy information of military value which would otherwise be unknown to him.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading


  1. 1918 May, Metropolitan Magazine, Volume 47, Number 6, Lincoln and Free Speech by Theodore Roosevelt, Start Page 7, Quote Page 7, Column 1, The Metropolitan Magazine Company, New York. (HathiTrust Full View) link

It Is the Customary Fate of New Truths to Begin as Heresies and to End as Superstitions

Thomas Henry Huxley? George Bernard Shaw? Garrett Hardin? Caryl P. Haskins? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: An influential idea passes through three stages:

1) Begins as heresy
2) Turns into orthodoxy,
3) Ends up as superstition.

I cannot remember who said this. Can you help?

Quote Investigator: There are several different quotations that describe the reception of new ideas via a series of stages. A partial match with two stages instead of three was spoken by the scientist Thomas Henry Huxley during a lecture delivered at The Royal Institution of Great Britain. Today Huxley is best known as “Darwin’s bulldog” because of his vigorous defense of the theory of evolution. Huxley’s speech was printed in the journal “Nature” in 1880. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

History warns us, however, that it is the customary fate of new truths to begin as heresies and to end as superstitions; and, as matters now stand, it is hardly rash to anticipate that, in another twenty years, the new generation, educated under the influences of the present day, will be in danger of accepting the main doctrines of the Origin of Species with as little reflection, and it may be with as little justification, as so many of our contemporaries, twenty years ago, rejected them.

In 1961 Huxley received credit for a version with heresy, orthodoxy, and superstition, but QI has not yet found substantive evidence that he actually employed a tripartite expression.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading


  1. 1880 May 6, Nature: A Weekly Illustrated Journal of Science, Volume 22, The Coming of Age of the Origin of Species by T. H. Huxley, (Footnote: A lecture delivered at the Royal Institution, Friday March 19, 1880), Start Page 1, Quote Page 1, Column 2, Macmillan and Company, London and New York. (Google Books Full View) link