Tag Archives: Theodor Seuss Geisel

Don’t Cry Because It’s Over; Smile Because It Happened

Theodor Seuss Geisel? Ludwig Jacobowski? Christopher Roche? Gabriel García Márquez? Anonymous?

smile09Dear Quote Investigator: If you have ever been part of a group with camaraderie that accomplished some worthwhile goal then you know about the sadness experienced when the group finally dissolved. Here are two versions of a saying that offers consolation:

  1. Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.
  2. Don’t cry because it’s ending, smile because it happened.

These words have been attributed to Theodor Geisel who was better known as Dr. Seuss, the famous author of children’s literature; however, I have been unable to locate a good citation. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: QI and other researchers have been unable to locate any substantive evidence that Dr. Seuss employed this saying. He died in 1991, and it was assigned to him by 2002.

The earliest close match located by QI appeared in a work by the German poet Ludwig Jacobowski titled “Leuchtende Tage” published in the August 1899 issue of a literary journal. The title could be rendered as “Bright Days” or “Radiant Days”. One verse rhapsodized about the bright days of the past, and the next verse began with these two lines, Boldface has been added to excerpts:

Nicht weinen, weil sie vorüber!
Lächeln, weil sie gewesen!

English translation:
Do not cry because they are past!
Smile, because they once were!

The journal was called “Das Magazin für Litteratur”, 1 and the piece was also published in a 1901 analytical work about the poet titled “Ludwig Jacobowski: Ein modernes Dichterbild”. These were the two full verses: 2

Ach, unsre leuchtenden Tage
Glänzen wie ewige Sterne.
Als Trost für künftige Klage
Glüh’n sie aus goldener Ferne.

Nicht weinen, weil sie vorüber!
Lächeln, weil sie gewesen!
Und werden die Tage auch trüber,
Unsere Sterne erlösen!

Special thanks to top researcher Barry Popik who first identified German instances of the expression and performed pioneering research.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. August 1899, Das Magazin für Litteratur, Article: Ludwig Jacobowskis “Leuchtende Tage” by Rudolf Steiner, Start Column 745, Quote Column 747, Published by Siegfried Cronbach, Berlin, Germany. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1901, Ludwig Jacobowski: Ein modernes Dichterbild by Professor Dr. Hermann Friedrich, Quote Page 65, Published by Siegfried Cronbach, Berlin, Germany. (Google Books Full View) link

You’re Never Too Old, Too Wacky, Too Wild, To Pick Up a Book, and Read to a Child

Theodor Seuss Geisel? Anita Merina? Anonymous?

reading08Dear Quote Investigator: There is an enthusiastic quotation about reading that has been attributed to the famous children’s author Dr. Seuss:

You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book & read to a child.

I haven’t been able to track down the precise book in which this was written. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: This verse was written in a style reminiscent of Dr. Seuss, the pen name of Theodor Seuss Geisel. However, QI believes that it was not actually constructed by him.

In March 1998 a guest columnist in “The Augusta Chronicle” printed a poem containing the lines above and credited Anita Merina who was a staff member of the National Education Association (NEA). Merina’s poem was part of a campaign called “Read Across America” designed to encourage children and adults to read: 1

It’s never too cold, too wet or too hot
To pick up a book, and share what you’ve got
You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild
To pick up a book, and read to a child.
In churches and chambers, let’s gather round
Let’s pick up a book, let’s pass it around
There are children around you, children in need
Of someone who’ll hug, someone who’ll read
So join us March 2nd in your special own way
And make this America’s read to Kids Day.

—Anita Merina, 1997

This poem says it all! The members of the Richmond County Association of Educators, the student Georgia Association of Educators and the National Education Association invited everyone to join a nationwide reading effort on March 2 to celebrate the birthday of the late, beloved Dr. Seuss.

The nationwide effort, called “Read Across America,” originated with NEA’s collaboration with Dr. Seuss’ widow to focus America’s attention on the importance of reading in our children’s lives. It was a great success.

The poem has been closely associated with the name of Dr. Seuss as shown in the excerpt above; hence, confusion and misattribution were understandable.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 1998 March 9, Augusta Chronicle, Guest Column: National event celebrated importance of reading, by Gretchen Simpson of Augusta (National Education Association director of Georgia), Quote Page 5A, Column 1, Augusta, Georgia. (GenealogyBank)

We Fall Into Mutually Satisfying Weirdness and Call It Love

Quotation for Valentine’s Day

Dr. Seuss? Theodor Geisel? Robert Fulghum? Anonymous?

love09Dear Quote Investigator: I hope you will be able to trace a quotation for Valentine’s Day. The statement is usually attributed to Theodor Geisel who is better known as Dr. Seuss, and it begins as follows:

We are all a little weird and life’s a little weird…

I have been unable to find this in any of the books written by Dr. Seuss. Did he really say it?

Quote Investigator: Probably not. There is no substantive evidence that Theodor Geisel who died in 1991 spoke or wrote this expression.

The quotation should be credited to the minister, painter, and top-selling author Robert Fulghum who is best known for the collection of essays “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”. However, this quote appeared in another 1997 book “True Love: Stories Told To and By Robert Fulghum” in a section called “Perspective”. The volume presented a variety of stories about love, and after recounting one eccentric amorous escapade Fulghum commented:

That’s weird. That’s really weird.
I would be surprised if you didn’t think that at least a couple of times while reading these stories. I did.

Yet, Fulghum adapted a stance of acceptance and asserted the universality of weirdness. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

You want my opinion? We’re all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness—and call it love—true love.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 1997, True Love: Stories Told To and By Robert Fulghum by Robert Fulghum, Section: Perspective, Start Page 96, Quote Page 98, HarperCollins Publishers, New York. (Verified on paper)

Those Who Mind Don’t Matter, and Those Who Matter Don’t Mind

Theodor Seuss Geisel? Mark Young? Bernard Baruch? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: I am trying to validate a quotation that is credited to Theodor Geisel who is better known as Dr. Seuss, the popular author of children’s books. I have been unable to determine where the quote appeared. The task is complicated because there are so many different versions. Here are four examples:

  1. Do what you want to do, say what you want to say, because those who matter don’t mind, and those who do mind don’t matter.
  2. Say what you want and be who you are, because those who matter don’t mind, and those who matter don’t mind.
  3. Always do what you want, and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.
  4. Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.

Some skeptical commentators say that Seuss never wrote it. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: There is no substantive evidence that Theodor Seuss Geisel wrote or said this expression. Researchers have been unable to locate the statement in any of his books. The second part of the statement was in circulation by the 1930s. The earliest instance located by QI was printed in 1938 in a journal based in London and written for municipal and county engineers. The phrase was used comically to discount the criticisms directed at housing designs. The words were enclosed in quotation marks suggesting that the quip was already known in 1938: 1

Mr. Davies himself admitted that it was highly controversial and open to criticism; but criticism concerned both mind and matter. “Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind!”

The repetition of clauses together with the reversal of key words embodied a rhetorical technique called antimetabole. In this case, the positions of the words “mind” and “matter” were exchanged.

Starting in the 1940s the expression was used in two popular anecdotes about seating arrangements at parties. The first tale was published in the Canadian periodical “Empire Digest” in February 1946 and featured Sir Mark Young who was at that time the Governor of Hong Kong. In the following excerpt the term “A.D.C.” was used for “aide-de-camp”, a personal assistant: 2

He is the hero of many stories illustrating a rapier-like wit. One of the best is that of the lady, lunching at Government House, who was aggrieved to find herself on Sir Mark’s left instead of his right. She approached her grievance obliquely—but made it fairly obvious. Finally she remarked: “I suppose it is really very difficult for your A.D.C. always to put your guests in their right places?”
“Not at all,” said Sir Mark blandly, “for those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter.”

In March 1946 this story was reprinted in the “Lethbridge Herald” newspaper of Alberta, Canada with an acknowledgement to Empire Digest. 3

In May 1946 the anecdote was retold in the “Omaha World Herald” newspaper of Omaha, Nebraska. The setting and participants were the same. Yet, the dialog was somewhat different. The thrust of the punchline was preserved: 4

One day, at a luncheon in the Government House, a lady prominent in society was vexed to discover that she had been seated at the end of the table, instead of next to the host.
This was, of course, a great blow to her prestige. At the end of the meal, she approached Sir Mark and said rather tartly:
“Apparently you don’t care where you seat your guests.”
Piqued by her hauteur, he replied:
“Madam, those who really matter, don’t mind where they are seated. And those who mind,” he added, “don’t usually matter.”

In August 1946 an alternate version of the anecdote was printed, and the punchline of the joke was credited to a different prominent person named Bernard Baruch. Baruch was an influential American financier who acted as an advisor to U.S. Presidents. A gossip columnist named Igor Cassini was acknowledged for telling the story and for participating in the dialog: 5

B. Baruch, who entertains so many notables, was recently asked by Igor Cassini how he managed the seating arrangements at his soirees. “I suppose it’s really very difficult to put the guests in their correct places.” commented Mr. C. “Not at all,” stated the elder statesman. “Those who matter, don’t mind. Those who mind—don’t matter!”

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading

Notes:

  1. 1938 February 1, The Journal of the Institution of Municipal & County Engineers, Volume 64, Number 16, Discussion, [Quotation is contained in the remarks of “Mr. Percy Morris (Wakefield)”], Quote Page 1277, Published at the Offices of the Institution of Municipal & County Engineers, London. (Verified with scans; Thanks to Dennis Lien and the University of Minnesota library system)
  2. 1946 February, Empire Digest, Volume 3, Number 5, Rapier Retort, [Freestanding short anecdote], Quote Page 17, Published by Empire Information, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Verified with scans; Thanks to John McChesney-Young and the University of California, Berkeley library system)
  3. 1946 March 23, Lethbridge Herald, Rapier Retort, Page 16 [Back Page], Column 3, [Acknowledgement to Empire Digest], Lethbridge, Alberta. (NewspaperArchive)
  4. 1946 May 6, Omaha World Herald, Anecdotes of the Famous: Propriety, Page 12, Column 1, Omaha, Nebraska. (GenealogyBank)
  5. 1946 August 9, Long Island Star-Journal, Going To Town by Hal Eaton, Page 21, Long Island City, New York. (Old Fulton)