Donald McGill? James Kenneth Stephen? Philip K. Dick? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: Graphic artist Donald McGill created one of the most popular postcards of the previous century. The card depicted a man and woman sitting beneath a tree with a book (shown above), and the caption said:
“Do you like Kipling?”
“I don’t know, you naughty boy, I’ve never kippled!”
The humor was based on wordplay using the surname of the prominent literary figure Rudyard Kipling. The Guinness Book of World Records stated that about 6,000,000 copies of the card were sold. McGill created many other postcards during his long career, but during the 1950s some of his works were banned because the double-entendres and innuendos were too saucy for the censorship-minded authorities in his locality of the United Kingdom.
Could you determine if McGill originated the wonderfully funny dialog on this seaside postcard?
Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence QI has located for a matching joke was printed in 1907. This version was considerably longer than the two dialog lines given above, but the core of the quip remained the same [SNPP]:
At a dinner given in a home that was marked for the literary acquirements of its members the conversation naturally turned to books and their authors. This was not much to the liking of one young woman, who was more noted for her skill at golf and kindred sports than for her knowledge of romance and history. From time to time she attempted to start a discussion of outdoor games, but to no avail. At last her companion at the table turned to her with the inquiry:
“And do you not like Kipling?”
The fair young thing knitted her brows in thought for a moment, then answered blithely:
“Kipling? I don’t believe it has been introduced in our set yet. How do you kipple, anyway?”
By 1917 a concise version of the gag was published that was even closer to the modern version. The initials “s. y. t.” in the following excerpt correspond to “sweet young thing” [NDQC]:
“Are you fond of Kipling?” queried a literary friend of ours of a sweet young thing he met at a party last week.
“I really don’t know,” blushed the s. y. t., “I never kippled.”—Book Notes.
Top quotation expert Nigel Rees writing in “Brewer’s Famous Quotations” noted that the postcard by Donald McGill was “undated, but possibly from the 1930s” [NRBF].
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.