Tag Archives: George Carlin

Do You Want Six or Eight Slices of Pizza?

Yogi Berra? Ken Thompson? Bobby Bragan? Muriel Vernick? Danny Osinski? Andy Wimpfheimer? George Carlin? Anonymous?

pizza08Dear Quote Investigator: There is a comical tale about whether a pizza should be cut into six or eight slices. The punchline is typically attributed to an athlete such as Yogi Berra. Are you familiar with this joke? Would you please explore its history?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence of this anecdote located by QI was published on June 17, 1965 in a Nebraska newspaper which acknowledged a Wisconsin newspaper: 1

Ken Thompson stopped in at Dick McDaniels’ Pizza Palace the other night and ordered a pizza. When it was ready, Dick asked Ken if he wanted it cut in six or eight pieces.

Ken thought a while, and then said, “Better make it six pieces. I could never eat eight.”—Weyauwega (Wis.) Chronicle.

A variety of citations appeared in 1965 with several different ascriptions. Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 1965 June 17, Omaha World Herald, Quick Reading: A Smile or Two, Quote Page 24, Column 2, Omaha, Nebraska. (GenealogyBank)

Life Is Not Measured By the Number of Breaths We Take, But By the Moments That Take Our Breath Away

George Carlin? Maya Angelou? Vicki Corona? Hilary Cooper? Kevin Bisch? Will Smith? Philip James Bailey?

yoga08Dear Quote Investigator: The following inspirational quotation has been attributed to a wide variety of people:

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

I doubt that this was coined by George Carlin or Maya Angelou though I have seen those ascriptions. Who do you think should be credited?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence known to QI appeared in 1989 in a book for dancers titled “Tahitian Choreographies” by Vicki Corona: 1

Yes, there are so many grueling details and rehearsals to agonize over, but the dances and music of Tahiti add a happy, healthy dimension to our lives! Remember that life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away! Dancing can do that for you!

The above citation was uncovered by the author Phil Bolsta who was writing a book which included a large number of quotations. Bolsta admirably performed extensive research attempting to pin down the sources for the quotations in his book. Bolsta stated on his blog that he contacted Vicki Corona directly to explore the origin of the saying in her book: 2

I was shocked to find this popular quote in a 1989 thirty-two-page booklet on Tahitian dance. I called Vicki Corona on April 17, 2012, and she said that, to the best of her knowledge, the quote was hers because she always wrote original material for the series of dance booklets she produced. However, she acknowledged in a follow-up e-mail: “While I doubt it, there is a possibility that I may have heard that verbiage before and simply went with it, or maybe it just came out from the labyrinths of my mind. Since you’re a writer, also, you know how that works when you’re in the ‘zone’.”

Hence, there is some uncertainty about the origin of this quotation in the mind of the person who employed it in 1989.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 1989, Tahitian Choreographies by Vicki Corona, Volume 11, Book 18, Page 36, Dance Fantasy Productions, Printed by Dennis Bolton Enterprises, North Hollywood, California. (Google Books Preview) link
  2. Website: Triumph of the Spirit: Finding Peace and Purpose in a Troubled World, Article title: “Through God’s Eyes”—Sources of Quotes, Webpage description: Source notes for the quotations appearing in the book “Through God’s Eyes” by Phil Bolsta, Date on website: Entry posted in May 10, 2012, Website description: Blog of the author Phil Bolsta. (Accessed bolstablog.wordpress.com on December 16, 2013) link

Military Intelligence is a Contradiction in Terms or an Oxymoron

Groucho Marx? George Carlin? John Charteris? Theodor Reik? Doctor Who? Shirley Hazzard? Niall MacDermot? Sam Ervin? Anonymous?

carlin02Dear Quote Investigator: The famous comedians Groucho Marx and George Carlin are both credited with a joke that can be expressed in many ways. Here are some examples:

Military Intelligence is an oxymoron.
Military Intelligence is a contradiction in terms.
Military Intelligence are two mutually exclusive words.
Military Intelligence are two terms that do not go together.

Did either of these well-known humorists make a remark of this type?

Quote Investigator: There is good evidence that both Groucho Marx and George Carlin employed a version of this quip. However, the earliest evidence located by QI points to a surprising person. John Charteris was a British Brigadier-General and the primary intelligence officer for Field Marshal Douglas Haig, the leader of the British Expeditionary Forces during World War I. 1

In 1931 Charteris wrote “At G.H.Q.” which described his experiences at the military general headquarters during the war. Charteris employed an instance of the expression when he recounted the dismissive attitude of a statesman toward information obtained via intelligence work. Boldface has been added to excerpts below: 2

Curzon did not give much time to Intelligence work. I fancy Military Intelligence to him is a contradiction in terms.

The entry containing the text above appeared in a section dated February 5, 1916, but it may have been updated and amplified later, sometime between 1916 and 1931.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Entry: John Charteris, (1877–1946) by J. M. Bourne, Oxford University Press. (First published 2004; online edition dated October 2008) (Accessed oxforddnb.com on June 20 2012) link
  2. 1931, At G.H.Q. by John Charteris, (Diary entry is dated February 5, 1916 but the content may have been amplified at a later date), Quote Page 135 and 136, Cassell and Company, Ltd., London. (Verified on paper; Thanks to the librarians at Denison University)

Those Who Dance Are Considered Insane by Those Who Can’t Hear the Music

Friedrich Nietzsche? Megan Fox? Anne Louise Germaine de Staël? John Stewart? Norman Flint? Science Fiction fans? Angela Monet? Rumi? George Carlin? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The following statement is credited to the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche:

And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.

Yet, I have never seen a precise pointer that stated where in the works of Nietzsche this quotation appeared. I know that Nietzsche suffered a mental breakdown, so he may have been sympathetic to individuals who were labeled insane. I also know that music was very important in his thoughts and philosophy.

The quotation is so popular that the actress and supermodel Megan Fox decided to get the words tattooed across her back and side. Astutely, Fox did not include an attribution for her tattoo. If she wanted to append a credit whose name should be rendered in ink?

Quote Investigator: QI has not yet located substantive evidence that Nietzsche wrote or said the statement given above. In 2003 a message in the large distributed discussion system called Usenet attributed the quote to Nietzsche. The message appeared in the alt.quotations newsgroup. 1 But Nietzsche died in 1900, so 2003 is an extremely late date.

A precursor to this statement appeared in the early Nineteenth century. In 1813 the influential writer Anne Louise Germaine de Staël published the work “De l’Allemagne” in French. The English title was “Germany”, and in 1814 an excerpt was printed in “The Universal Magazine”. Madame de Staël envisioned herself watching a ballroom filled with dancers, and she imagined her reaction if she had been unable to hear the music: 2

… sometimes even in the habitual course of life, the reality of this world disappears all at once, and we feel ourselves in the middle of its interests as we should at a ball, where we did not hear the music; the dancing that we saw there would appear insane.

This figurative language was employed powerfully to illustrate an episode of dissociation. Madame de Staël was temporarily alienated from the normal rush of living, and the actions of those around her seemed purposeless and absurd.

In 1927 a version similar to the common modern examples was printed in “The Times” newspaper of London where it was labelled an old proverb. This concise instance used the word “mad” instead of “insane”: 3

They who dance are thought mad by those who hear not the music. The truth of the old proverb was never more surely borne out that it is just now.

This phrasing is distinct, but the core idea is the same. In recent times, the comedian George Carlin helped to popularize the phrase as shown further below.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 2003 August 28, Usenet Newsgroup: alt.quotations, Subject: IM Friedrich Nietzsche, From: dougk. (Google Usenet groups archive; Accessed June 5, 2012) link.
  2. 1814 April, The Universal Magazine, “On the Moravian Mode of Worship by Madame De Stael [From her ‘Germany’]”, Start Page 296, Quote Page 296, Column 2, Printed for Sherwood, Neely, and Jones, London. (Google Books full view) [Thanks to poster RobotWisdom who shared this cite at the “Shortcuts” blog of the Guardian newspaper here] link
  3. 1927 February 16, The Times (UK), The Dance, Page 15, Column 4, London, England. (Times Digital Archive GaleGroup)

Writing About Music is Like Dancing About Architecture

Laurie Anderson? Steve Martin? Frank Zappa? Martin Mull? Elvis Costello? Thelonius Monk?

Dear Quote Investigator: I have a difficult riddle for you. A mailing list I belong to has discussed the following quotation several times during the past ten years, and the question of its origin has never been satisfactorily resolved.

Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.

Laurie Anderson, Steve Martin, Frank Zappa, Martin Mull, Elvis Costello, Thelonius Monk, Clara Schumann, Miles Davis, George Carlin and several other people have been credited with concocting this extraordinarily popular and enigmatic simile. There is another common version of the quote: “Talking about music is like dancing about architecture.” Is there any chance that you could attempt to trace this famous saying?

Quote Investigator:  With the help of some wonderful music librarians and an individual who left a comment on this blog post QI can report some revealing citations. The first cite known to QI appears in a magazine dedicated to the history of rock and roll called “Time Barrier Express”. The September-October 1979 issue contains a profile of the group Sam & Dave by Gary Sperrazza in which he discusses the interplay and rapport of the duo [TBEM]:

All quick, very natural, and captured on vinyl. It’s so hard to explain on paper, you’ll just have to find the records and listen for yourself (because I truly believe — honest — that writing about music is, as Martin Mull put it, like dancing about architecture).

The second earliest cite was found by Mike Kuniavsky who presented a pointer to its location in a comment. In December 1979 “Arts Magazine” published an article about the painter Michael Madore by the critic Thomas McGonigle. The saying is attributed to Martin Mull; however, the domain of the quotation is knowingly transformed to painting. Even in 1979 McGonigle refers to the expression as a “famous dictum” [AMTM]:

So with Madore we have the classic situation: no limits, thus all limits, or to slightly alter the famous Martin Mull dictum: Writing about painting is like dancing about architecture.

Based on current evidence QI believes that Martin Mull is the most likely originator of this expression. It is not clear how Gary Sperrazza and Thomas McGonigle heard or read about the quotation. Mull did release several albums combining comedy and music in the 1970s. He also appeared in the television soap opera parody “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman”, and the talk show parody “Fernwood 2 Night” (later renamed “America 2-Night”). It is possible that he used the phrase in one of these venues, or perhaps he said it during a stage performance or interview.

Researchers have been attempting to trace this well-known saying for many years. It is a recurrent topic in discussion forums and on mailing lists. Alan P. Scott was the key pioneer in this endeavor, and he has created a wonderful webpage that records his gleanings and includes a comprehensive list of people that have been credited with the quotation [APSM].

The clever maxim was probably not created ex nihilo. QI has found similar expressions that date back to 1918. There is a family of related sayings that comment about such difficult exertions as: writing about music, talking about music, writing about art, and talking about art. This backstory helps to illuminate the aphorism, and it begins with a remark involving “singing about economics.”

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