George Bernard Shaw? Oscar Wilde? Irvin Cobb? Michel de Montaigne? Anonymous?
Youth is wasted on the young.
These words have been attributed to two famous Irish wits: George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde. Oddly, I have not seen any precise citations. Would you please help?
Quote Investigator: The earliest strong match located by QI appeared in a syndicated newspaper column called “Cook-Coos” by Ted Cook in February 1931. 1 The expression was ascribed to George Bernard Shaw, and the central meaning was congruent to modern instances; however, the phrasing was quite different Boldface has been added to excerpts: 2
Someone asked Bernard Shaw what, in his opinion, is the most beautiful thing in this world.
“Youth,” he replied, “is the most beautiful thing in this world—and what a pity that it has to be wasted on children!”
QI has not yet identified an interview with Shaw containing the above remark; hence, the attribution was indirect. In the following months and years there was an efflorescence of similar statements linked to Shaw employing highly-variable phrasing. No closely matching written remark has been found in the corpus of Shaw; thus, residual uncertainty remains.
Attributions to Oscar Wilde were in circulation by 1963, but QI has found no substantive support for the linkage.
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1931 February 14, Rockford Register-Republic, Cook-Coos by Ted Cook (King Features Syndicate), Quote Page 8, Column 1, Rockford, Illinois. (GenealogyBank) ↩
- 1931 February 14, Nevada State Journal, Cook-Coos by Ted Cook (King Features Syndicate), Quote Page 5, Column 2, Reno, Nevada. (Newspapers_com) ↩