Albert Einstein? Philippa? Fluffy Flapper? James Russell? Apocryphal? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: The modern traveler may encounter dangerous drivers who are texting while driving. But another risky behavior has been occurring on roadways for many decades: kissing while driving. The brilliant physicist Albert Einstein supposedly said:
Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.
I think this ascription is unlikely. Would you please examine the history of this saying?
Quote Investigator: There is no substantive evidence that Einstein wrote or spoke the statement above. It is listed within a section called “Probably Not By Einstein” in the comprehensive reference “The Ultimate Quotable Einstein” from Princeton University Press: 1 Einstein died in 1955, and the phrase was implausible attributed to him many years later in a book called “More Sex Talk” in 2002. Details are given further below.
The earliest pertinent match known to QI appeared as a short item in multiple U.S. newspapers starting in 1923. The joke employed a dialog format, and its creator was unidentified. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 2 3
Dorcas—”Do you ever allow a man to kiss you when you’re out motoring with him?”
Philippa—”Never, if a man can drive safely while kissing me he’s not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.”
Many thanks to top researcher Bonnie Taylor-Blake who located and shared several valuable citations via a message at the Snopes website.
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 2010, The Ultimate Quotable Einstein, Edited by Alice Calaprice, Section: Probably Not By Einstein, Quote Page 482, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. (Verified on paper) ↩
- 1923 December 17, Hamilton Daily News, Smiles, Quote Page 15, Column 7, Hamilton, Ohio. (NewspaperArchive) 4 5 1924 January 17, The Davenport Democrat and Leader, Safety First (Freestanding filler item), Quote Page 13, Column 4, Davenport, Iowa. (Newspapers_com) ↩
- 1924 January 23, Harrisburg Telegraph, Safety First (Freestanding filler item), Quote Page 8, Column 6, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com) ↩