Category Archives: Mary Pettibone Poole

Love Triangles Generally Turn Out To Be Wrecktangles

Jacob M. Braude? Robert Byrne? Sally’s Sallies? Mary Pettibone Poole? Bob Burns? Jimmie Fidler? Anonymous?

triangle11Dear Quote Investigator: I love terrible puns and the following is a great example: 1

Most love triangles are wrecktangles.

The quotation collector Robert Byrne included this statement in “The 2,548 Wittiest Things Anybody Ever Said” with an attribution to Jacob Braude. Would you please tell me more about its provenance?

Quote Investigator: Jacob M. Braude published a large number of compilations of sayings, quotations, and anecdotes. In 1955 he placed an instance with a slightly different phrasing into one of his books, and a detailed citation is given further below. However, this form of wordplay has a much longer history.

In 1866 “wreck-tangle” was used in the maritime realm instead of the domain of amour. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 2

How can you describe the cordage of a vessel, which has run ashore and broken up? By a wreck-tangle.

In 1877 “The Boston Daily Globe” engaged in more elaborate maritime wordplay by adding the groan-inducing terms “try-angle” and “rye-tangle”: 3

The unlucky captain of a New Bedford mackerel smack says he doesn’t want any more geometry in his. The fishing season coming round he went out for a try-angle and brought back a wreck-tangle.—Graphic. His misfortunes were probably caused by an overdose of rye-tangle.

By 1889 “The Weekly Pantagraph” of Bloomington, Illinois published another seaworthy geometrical variant: 4

It is no wonder that a square-rigged ship becomes a wreck-tangle in a storm.

Finally, by 1921 an anonymous joker applied the pun to illicit liaisons, and the result was printed in multiple newspapers such as “The Wichita Daily Eagle” of Wichita, Kansas and “Brooklyn Life” of Brooklyn, New York: 5 6

Al. Bert: “How do these love triangles usually end?”
Phil. Bert: “Most of them turn into a ‘wreck-tangle.'”

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 2012, The 2,548 Wittiest Things Anybody Ever Said by Robert Byrne, No Page Number, Quote Number 283, Touchstone: A Division of Simon & Schuster, New York. (Verified on paper)
  2. 1866 June 9, Bangor Daily Whig and Courier, Local and Other Items, Quote Page 3, Column 4, Bangor, Maine. (Newspapers_com)
  3. 1877 January 16, The Boston Daily Globe, Table Gossip, Quote Page 3, Column 1, Boston, Massachusetts. (NewspaperArchive)
  4. 1889 September 27, The Weekly Pantagraph (Bloomington Weekly Pantagraph), (Filler item), Quote Page 3, Column 3, Bloomington, Illinois. (NewspaperArchive)
  5. 1921 January 29, The Wichita Daily Eagle, (Untitled filler item), Quote Page 3, Column 3, Wichita, Kansas. (Newspapers_com)
  6. 1921 March 26, Brooklyn Life: An Illustrated Home Weekly for Brooklyn and Long Island, Week in Society, Start Page 10, Quote Page 10, Column 1, Brooklyn, New York. (Newspapers_com)

To Repeat What Others Have Said, Requires Education; To Challenge It, Requires Brains

Mary Pettibone Poole? Anonymous?

keyhole10Dear Quote Investigator: Students must be able to memorize some factual material, but an important emphasis in learning should be placed on the development of critical and analytical thinking. The following statement is astute:

To repeat what others have said, requires education; to challenge it, requires brains.

Would you please explore its provenance?

Quote Investigator: In 1938 a woman named Mary Pettibone Poole released a compilation of adages and quotations under the humorous title “A Glass Eye at a Keyhole”. The publisher was Dorrance and Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania which means that the resourceful and energetic Poole funded its publication. The remark appeared in a section called “Excess Prophets”, and no attribution was listed: 1

To repeat what others have said, requires education; to challenge it, requires brains.

This was the earliest occurrence of the quotation known to QI. Whether Poole crafted the statement was not certain. Several other unattributed sayings in the book were already in circulation before the collection was published. Nevertheless, the book was an important locus for the popularization of the saying. In addition, based on current evidence QI would ascribe the words to Poole.

Another intriguing expression from the book has been analyzed on this website. “He who laughs, lasts!” was printed in a section called “Beggars Can’t Be Losers” in Poole’s work, and QI located published instances starting in 1917. Here is a link to the relevant entry.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 1938, A Glass Eye at a Keyhole by Mary Pettibone Poole, Section: Excess Prophets, Quote Page 51, Published by Dorrance and Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Verified with scans; thanks to Dennis Lien and the University of Minnesota library system)

He Who Laughs, Lasts

Mary Pettibone Poole? W. E. Nesom? George F. Worts? H. L. Mencken? Joe Laurie Jr.? Franklin P. Adams? Anonymous?

rembrandt08Dear Quote Investigator: There is a famous proverb that asserts the last person to laugh is the person who laughs the best or the longest. I am interested in a cleverly modified statement emphasizing the connection between humor and longevity:

He who laughs—lasts.

Would you please explore this saying?

Quote Investigator: For many years this comical remark has been ascribed to Mary Pettibone Poole who published a compilation of quotations and quips in 1938 with the vividly absurdist title “A Glass Eye at a Keyhole”. Poole placed this joke in a section “Beggars Can’t Be Losers”: 1

He who laughs, lasts!

None of the statements in Poole’s work were given attributions, and some were probably original; however, many were not. QI can now report some earlier instances of the joke above.

In November 1917 the humor magazine “Judge” printed a poem by W. E. Nesom titled “Perverted Proverbs” that playfully modified adages. The fifth stanza was the following. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 2

If laughter be an aid to health,
Then logic of the strongest
Impels us to the cheerful thought
That he who laughs lasts longest.

The above citation was located by top researcher Stephen Goranson, and W. E. Nesom may have been the originator of this proverbial twist. Currently, this is the earliest evidence known to QI.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 1938, A Glass Eye at a Keyhole by Mary Pettibone Poole, Section: Beggars Can’t Be Losers, Quote Page 40, Published by Dorrance and Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Verified with scans; thanks to Dennis Lien and the University of Minnesota library system)
  2. 1917 November 3, Judge, Poem: Perverted Proverbs by W. E. Nesom (Fifth stanza), Unnumbered Page (2 pages away from back cover), Column 3, Published by Leslie-Judge Company, New York. (HathiTrust Full View) link link