Tag Archives: Walt Kelly

“The Peasants Are Revolting” “You Can Say That Again”

Brant Parker? Johnny Hart? L. Frank Baum? Walt Kelly? Allan Sherman? Mel Brooks? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: I vaguely recall seeing a comic strip with a clever joke based on two different senses of the word “revolting”. An advisor warned a monarch about an uprising, and he replied acerbically:

Advisor: The peasants are revolting.
Monarch: Yes, they are appalling, but I love them anyway.

Would you please explore the history of this wordplay?

Quote Investigator: With the publication of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” in 1900 L. Frank Baum initiated a beloved fantasy series. The 1904 sequel was titled “The Marvelous Land of Oz: Being an Account of the Further Adventures of the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman”. During one episode in the book a character named General Jinjur led an army of young women with the goal of capturing the Emerald City. Baum included an instance of the wordplay. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

“Still, you must surrender!” exclaimed the General, fiercely. “We are revolting!”

“You don’t look it,” said the Guardian, gazing from one to another, admiringly.

“But we are!” cried Jinjur, stamping her foot, impatiently; “and we mean to conquer the Emerald City!”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. 1904, The Marvelous Land of Oz: Being an Account of the Further Adventures of the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman by L. Frank Baum, Quote Page 92, The Reilly and Britton Company, Chicago, Illinois. (Google Books Full View) link

We Are Confronted by an Insurmountable Opportunity

Walt Kelly? Don Mitchell? Fred W. Bewley? Leon Shimkin? A. C. Monteith? W. Willard Wirtz? Hubert Humphrey? Howard J. Samuels? George H. W. Bush? W. C. Fields? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Walt Kelly authored the magnificent comic strip “Pogo” featuring hilarious wordplay. He has been credited with the following oxymoronic phrase:

Our problem is an insurmountable opportunity.

I have been unable to find a solid citation, and now I am unsure about this ascription. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: QI has not found this saying in Walt Kelly’s oeuvre, and based on current evidence QI would not credit Kelly. However, the comic strip text has not been fully digitized, and this judgment is not definitive.

The earliest match for this joke located by QI appeared in the proceedings of a conference on advertising in 1956. Don Mitchell of the Creative Education Foundation in Buffalo, New York delivered the line while conversing with a staff member of the General Electric Company. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Mr. Mitchell: Thank you, Ed, very much. You talked about GE having opportunities. I think we ought to tell the folks that GE call their problems opportunities, but there are quite a few people who feel there are some insurmountable opportunities around.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. 1956, Proceedings of the Thirteenth Annual Advertising and Sales Promotion Executive Conference, Held at The Ohio Union, The Ohio State University Campus on October 26, 1956, Brainstorming–It’s Application to Creative Advertising by Don Mitchell (Associate Director, Creative Education Foundation, Buffalo, New York), Start Page 4, Quote Page 19, Ohio State University, College of Commerce and Administration, Columbus, Ohio. (Verified with scans; thanks to the library system of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

Pogo Comic on Extraterrestrials: Either Way, It’s a Mighty Soberin’ Thought

Pogo? Porky Pine? Walt Kelly? Timothy Ferris? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The comic strip “Pogo” by Walt Kelly combined beautiful artwork with entertaining wordplay and satire. Kelly also expressed a delightful sense of wonder as in the following supposed remark about the possibility of extraterrestrial life:

Thar’s only two possibilities: Thar is life out there in the universe which is smarter than we are, or we’re the most intelligent life in the universe. Either way, it’s a mighty sobering thought.

I have been unable to find a strip containing this text. The word “thar” does not accord with the speech patterns of the denizens of Okefenokee Swamp. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: This was a difficult question because QI knows of no comprehensive databases containing the text of Walt Kelly’s oeuvre. Also, the computer algorithms that convert the dialog in daily comic strip bubbles into searchable text do not work well. Nevertheless, QI has located the most likely origin of this quotation.

On June 20, 1959 the syndicated “Pogo” strip published three panels showing the characters Porky Pine and Pogo the Possum. Porky Pine speculated about beings on other planets: 1

Porky Pine: I BEEN READIN’ ‘BOUT HOW MAYBE THEY IS PLANETS PEOPLED BY FOLKS WITH AD-VANCED BRAINS.

Pogo: UM

Porky Pine: ON THE OTHER HAND, MAYBE WE GOT THE MOST BRAINS…MAYBE OUR INTELLECTS IS THE UNIVERSE’S MOST AD-VANCED.

Porky Pine: EITHER WAY, IT’S A MIGHTY SOBERIN’ THOUGHT.

The overall semantics and the punchline matched the modern statement, and QI conjectures that a flawed memory of Porky Pine’s monologue led to the creation of a misquotation.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. 1959 June 20, The Honolulu Advertiser, Pogo Comic Strip by Walt Kelly, Quote Page B3, Honolulu, Hawaii. (Newspapers_com)