Quote Origin: Behave Like a Duck, Stay Calm On the Surface But Paddle Like Crazy Underneath

Michael Caine? Raymond Clapper? Stephen Tallents? Bing Crosby? Japanese Saying? Anonymous?

Picture of a duck paddling from Unsplash

Question for Quote Investigator: The following memorable advice uses a vivid simile:

Behave like a duck—keep calm and serene on the surface but paddle like crazy underneath.

British actor Michael Caine has received credit for this saying. Would you please explore the provenance of this clever figurative language?

Reply from Quote Investigator: This engaging simile is difficult to trace because it can be expressed in many ways. Michael Caine has used it, but he did not create it. The earliest match located by QI appeared in November 1934 within an article by widely distributed U.S. columnist Raymond Clapper. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:1

Some New Dealers suspect that the captains of industry who are now singing belated hallelujahs to Mr. Roosevelt are practicing what the Japanese call “duck diplomacy.”

Duck diplomacy in Japan means that you float along placidly on the surface, but underneath you are paddling like the dickens with your feet.

Based on current evidence the simile originated in Japan, and the creator remains anonymous. A variant expression refers to a swan instead of a duck. Here is an overview with dates:

1934 Nov: Diplomacy in Japan – duck – float along placidly on the surface, but underneath you are paddling like the dickens with your feet

1935 Oct: Politicians – duck – appear to be sitting calmly on the water, inactive, but underneath they are paddling like the dickens

1938 May: International policy of Japan – duck – unruffled above water, but paddling like the devil below it

1939 Jun: Japanese politicians – duck – calm on the surface, but paddling like the deuce below

1955 Jun: Bing Crosby – duck – keep calm and unruffled on the surface but paddle like the devil underneath

1956 Feb: Harrods department store – duck – gliding over the surface with dignity and calm, but paddling like hell underneath

1973 Oct: School board – swan – unruffled, complacent on the surface, but paddling like the very dickens underneath

1976 May: Michael Caine on acting – duck –  calm on the surface, but paddling like hell underneath

1983 Apr: Royal servant – swan – gliding on the lake . . . underneath, they’re paddling like crazy

Detailed citations are presented below.

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Quote Origin: All Art Is Propaganda

Upton Sinclair? W. E. B. Du Bois? George Orwell? George Bernard Shaw? Ann Petry? Morris Edmund Speare? Richard Hunt? Ludwig Lewisohn? Edmund Wilson? Anonymous?

Illustration of two megaphones from Unsplash

Question for Quote Investigator: Advocates often extoll their visions with strong-willed certainty. Insistent artists are accused of preaching and propagandizing. Yet, this criticism is sometimes provocatively embraced. Here are three assertions:

(1) All art is propaganda.
(2) All great art and literature is propaganda.
(3) All truly great art is propaganda.

This first adage has been attributed to muckraking U.S. activist Upton Sinclair, pioneering U.S. sociologist W. E. B. Du Bois, and influential English writer George Orwell. The second adage has been credited to Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw. The third adage has been ascribed to U.S. novelist Ann Petry. I am having trouble tracing the provenance of these sayings. Would you please help me to find solid citations?

Reply from Quote Investigator: Upton Sinclair, W. E. B. Du Bois, and George Orwell did employ the first saying. Also, George Bernard Shaw and Ann Petry did use the second and third sayings, respectively. Detailed citations for this group are given further below. However, the origin of this family of statements is older.

The earliest match found by QI appeared in “The National Magazine: An Illustrated American Monthly” of Boston, Massachusetts in 1916.  The periodical printed a letter from Richard Hunt who was a poet and poetry magazine editor. Hunt favored poetry that was uplifting and highlighted beauty and happiness. In the following passage the phrase “an Eastman kodak” referred to a photograph. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:1

An Eastman kodak can show us the picture of a ragged child with starvation and joylessness on its face—and so can poetry. But poetry can do more; it can show the child’s soul as it leaps up laughing, free from the ugliness of poverty and the life that has no happiness. People have a right to be happy!

They have a right to everything which can make them happy. But how can they be happy till they see each other as poetry, instead of as an Eastman kodak sees them? Poetry, like all art, is propaganda; it keeps showing more and more people pictures of the part of them where their aspirations are.

I work with poetry because I feel that here is a thing which will eventually free me and all other people from the misery and oppression of ugliness.

Thus, Richard Hunt viewed poetry and all art as a vehicle for positive propaganda which would lead to the betterment of humankind.

A wide variety of people have used the saying under examination. Here is an overview with dates:

1916: Poet and editor Richard Hunt
1923: Professor of English Morris Edmund Speare
1924: Literary critic Ludwig Lewisohn
1925: Political activist Upton Sinclair
1926: Sociologist and activist W. E. B. Du Bois
1932: Poet and literary scholar William Ellery Leonard
1933: Playwright George Bernard Shaw (All great art and literature is propaganda)
1939: Novelist and essayist George Orwell
1950: Novelist and journalist Ann Petry (All truly great art is propaganda)

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Quote Origin: If Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade

Elbert Hubbard? Dale Carnegie? Julius Rosenwald? Robert M. Hutchins? Anonymous?

Illustration of a sliced lemon from Unsplash

Question for Quote Investigator: In the early 1900s the slang expression “handed a lemon” emerged. It referred to experiencing a setback or failure.  The term “lemon” meant  something which was bad, undesirable, or sub-standard. A humorous expression evolved as a counterpoint. Here are two versions:

(1) If you are handed a lemon then just make lemonade.
(2) When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

This notion has been attributed to U.S. aphorist Elbert Hubbard and to U.S self-help author Dale Carnegie. However, I have been unable to find a solid citation. Would you please explore the provenance of this saying?

Reply from Quote Investigator: Both Elbert Hubbard and Dale Carnegie did employ statements in this family of sayings, but neither originated the family. The earliest instances located by QI were anonymous. Here is an overview with dates:

1907 May: And if you get a lemon, why just make the lemonade. (Anonymous)

1907 Dec: An optimist is now defined as a man who can make lemonade out of all the lemons handed him. (Anonymous)

1908 Jun: If life hands you a lemon, adjust your rose colored glasses and start to selling pink lemonade. (Anonymous)

1908 Jul: He is a great man who accepts the lemons that Fate passes out to him and uses them to start a lemonade stand. (Elbert Hubbard)

1944 May: When life hands you a lemon, add some sugar and make lemonade. (Attributed to Elbert Hubbard)

1948: When you have a lemon, make a lemonade. (Attributed to  Julius Rosenwald by Dale Carnegie)

1971 Oct: When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade. (Bumper Sticker)

Below are details for selected citations in chronological order.

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Quote Origin: Basically Dogs Think Humans Are Nuts

John Steinbeck? Charley? Apocryphal?

Picture of an inquisitive poodle from Unsplash

Question for Quote Investigator: A U.S. novelist who won a Nobel Prize in Literature apparently once said that “dogs think humans are nuts”, and occasionally dogs display a look of “amazed contempt”. These thoughts have been attributed to John Steinbeck. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Reply from Quote Investigator: In 1960 John Steinbeck took a long road trip around the United States in a camper truck with a poodle named Charley. In 1962 he described his experiences in a book titled “Travels with Charley: In Search of America”. He made the following comparison between Charley and humans:1

He doesn’t belong to a species clever enough to split the atom but not clever enough to live in peace with itself.

Steinbeck also made this remark about dogs in the same passage. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:

I’ve seen a look in dogs’ eyes, a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt, and I am convinced that basically dogs think humans are nuts.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Quote Origin: There Is No Bad Weather, Only Inappropriate Clothing

Elisabeth Woodbridge? Charlotte V. Gulick? Ranulph Fiennes? Alfred Wainwright? Anonymous?

Silhouette of a person in golden sunlight from Unsplash

Question for Quote Investigator: With the proper clothing a person is capable of adapting to almost any type of weather. Here is an adage reflecting this attitude:

There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.

Would you please explore the provenance of this saying?

Reply from Quote Investigator: This maxim is difficult to trace because it can be expressed in many ways. The earliest match known to QI appeared in a story by Elisabeth Woodbridge published in “The Outlook” magazine of New York in 1911. The author signaled that the saying was already in circulation, thus the ascription was anonymous. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:1

“Don’t you think it’s rather poor weather for walking?”
“This was what I had been waiting for, and I responded glibly, “Some one has said there is no such thing as bad weather, there is only good clothes.”

This above instance employed the phrase “good clothes” instead of “bad clothes”. The adage encouraged readers to wear carefully selected clothing attuned to the weather.

Here is an overview with dates

Precursor 1830: There is no such thing in nature as bad weather (John Wilson)

Precursor 1883: There was no such thing as bad weather, but only different kinds of pleasant weather (John Ruskin)

1911: There is no such thing as bad weather, there is only good clothes (Anonymous attribution by Elisabeth Woodbridge)

1915: There is no such thing as bad weather if one is dressed properly (Charlotte V. Gulick of Camp Fire Girls)

1935: There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad dressing for the weather. (Anonymous attribution by Helen Johnson Keyes)

1941: There is no bad weather, only bad clothes (Anonymous attribution in Vogue)

1960: There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes (Anonymous attribution by Duchess of Windsor)

1962: There’s no bad weather, only unsuitable clothing (Margot Benary-Isbert)

1974: There is no bad weather for bikes, only bad clothing (Attributed to Swedes)

1977: There is no such thing as bad weather—only inadequate clothing (Comical attribution to Freud in Punch)

1978: There is no inclement weather, only inappropriate clothing (Anonymous attribution in Wisconsin State Journal)

1985: There’s no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothing (Anonymous in Cruising World)

2006: There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing (Attribution to Ranulph Fiennes)

2009: There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing (Attribution to Alfred Wainwright)

Below are selected citations with details in chronological order.

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Quote Origin: No Such Thing As Bad Weather, But Only Different Kinds of Pleasant Weather

John Ruskin? Ettrick Shepherd? Christopher North? John Wilson? Elisabeth Woodbridge? George Gissing? John Lubbock? Anonymous?

Public domain drawing of Aiguille de Blaitière by John Ruskin

Question for Quote Investigator: Cold, wet, and windy weather is often considered unsatisfactory, but several thinkers contend that there is no such thing as bad weather. All weather is pleasant when examined from the appropriate perspective. Precipitation and fluctuating temperatures are required for the flourishing of plants and animals. Also, stormy weather is aesthetically pleasing to landscape painters.

This notion has been attributed to English writer and art critic John Ruskin, popular English novelist George Gissing, English banker and scientist John Lubbock, and University of Edinburgh Professor of Moral Philosophy John Wilson. Would you please explore this topic?

Reply from Quote Investigator: John Ruskin delivered this counter intuitive remark about pleasant weather during a lecture at the University of Oxford which was printed in “The Pall Mall Gazette” of London in 1883.

Ruskin praised an artwork by English painter Copley Fielding which depicted drovers working in the rain. Ruskin displayed the painting in the back parlor of his home, but a visitor criticized the picture. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:1

“An undergraduate friend, fresh from Eastern travel, was staying with us, and came into the room to see the cause of our ravishment. He looked at the cheerless scene and remarked, ‘But, Ruskin, what is the use of painting such very bad weather?’ To which question I could only make the reply that there was no such thing as bad weather, but only different kinds of pleasant weather—some demanding, indeed, courage and patience for their enjoyment, but all of them fittest in their seasons—best for the hills, for the cattle, the drovers, my master and me!”

Ruskin continued with comments about other artists:

“The weather might be bad for Greek or Saracen, but for us these simple pictures of mountain mist were more precious than Titian’s blue skies or Angelico’s gold rings of Paradise.”

Interestingly, Ruskin was not the first person to assert the non-existence of bad weather as shown below.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Quote Origin: Time Is the Coin of Your Life. It Is the Only Coin You Have

Carl Sandburg? Ralph McGill? Apocryphal?

Illustration of a plant growing from coins from Unsplash

Question for Quote Investigator: It is too easy to waste time on frivolous, foolish, or self-destructive pursuits. Apparently, a prominent literary figure once equated time to a valuable coin which each person must spend wisely. Would you please help me find the correct phrasing and a citation?

Reply from Quote Investigator: Ralph McGill was a well-known journalist, editor, and publisher of “The Atlanta Constitution” newspaper in Georgia. In October 1959 McGill wrote a column in which he recalled a discussion he held with the popular poet and biographer Carl Sandburg. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:1

I keep remembering a conversation with Carl Sandburg.

“Time,” he said, “is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have and only you can determine how to spend it. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.”

The accuracy of this quotation is dependent on the memory and veracity of Ralph McGill.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Quote Origin: Definition of a Classic—Something That Everybody Wants To Have Read and Nobody Wants To Read

Mark Twain? Caleb Thomas Winchester? Frank Norris? Otto F. Ege? Apocryphal?

Book shelf filled with classic works of literature from Unsplash

Question for Quote Investigator: Classic works of literature are sometimes difficult or tedious to read. Apparently, a humorist once said something like the following:

(1) Definition of a classic—something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read.

(2) A classic is something that everyone wants to have read and no one wants to read.

This notion has been credited to Mark Twain, but I have not yet seen a precise citation, and I am unsure of the phrasing. Would you please explore this topic?

Reply from Quote Investigator: In 1900 Mark Twain delivered a speech at the Nineteenth Century Club in New York, and he employed this quip; however, he did not take credit for the line. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:1

Professor Winchester also said something about there being no modern epics like Paradise Lost. I guess he’s right. He talked as if he was pretty familiar with that piece of literary work, and nobody would suppose that he never had read it. I don’t believe any of you have ever read Paradise Lost, and you don’t want to.

That’s something that you just want to take on trust. It’s a classic, just as Professor Winchester says, and it meets his definition of a classic—something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read.

Twain attributed the joke to Caleb Thomas Winchester who was a Professor of English Literature at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.2

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Quote Origin: One of the Great Mistakes Is to Judge Policies and Programs by Their Intentions Rather Than Their Results

Milton Friedman? Apocryphal?

Series of dominoes from Unsplash

Question for Quote Investigator: Economic policies are typically promulgated and enacted with high purposes and goals, yet sometimes the results are inadvertently deleterious. A prominent economist once said:

One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.

These words have been credited to U.S. economist Milton Friedman. I have not been able to find a citation, Would you please help determine if this attribution is accurate?

Reply from Quote Investigator: In 1975 Milton Friedman appeared on the television show “The Open Mind”, and he was interviewed by the host Richard Heffner. Friedman employed the quotation. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:1

One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results. We all know a famous road that is paved with good intentions.

The people who go around talking about their soft heart — I share their — I admire them for the softness of their heart, but unfortunately, it very often extends to their head as well, because the fact is that the programs that are labeled as being for the poor, for the needy, almost always have effects exactly the opposite of those which their well-intentioned sponsors intend them to have.

Friedman was referring to the proverb “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Quote Origin: Social Media Gives the Right To Speak To Legions of Imbeciles Who Previously Only Spoke in Bars After Drinking

Umberto Eco? Dery Dyer? Apocryphal?

Illustration of a jester’s hat from Pixabay

Question for Quote Investigator: A prominent intellectual once denounced social media because it amplified the voices of imbeciles who in the past only propounded their opinions at local bars after drinking.

This notion has been attributed to the Italian semiotician and novelist Umberto Eco who wrote “Il Nome Della Rosa” (“The Name of the Rose”) and “Il Pendolo di Foucault” (“Foucault’s Pendulum”). Would you please help me to find a citation and determine the correct phrasing of Eco’s remark?

Reply from Quote Investigator: In 2015 Umberto Eco received an honorary degree in “Comunicazione e Cultura dei media” (“Communication and Media Culture”) from the University of Turin. The Italian newspaper “La Stampa” (“The Press”) reported that Eco spoke to journalists after the conferral, and he delivered the following harsh judgment in Italian. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:1

«I social media danno diritto di parola a legioni di imbecilli che prima parlavano solo al bar dopo un bicchiere di vino, senza danneggiare la collettività. Venivano subito messi a tacere, mentre ora hanno lo stesso diritto di parola di un Premio Nobel. È l’invasione degli imbecilli».

Here is one possible translation into English:

“Social media gives the right to speak to legions of imbeciles who previously only spoke at the bar after a glass of wine, without damaging the community. They were immediately silenced, but now they have the same right to speak as a Nobel Prize winner. It’s the invasion of imbeciles.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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