Carrie Fisher? Nelson Mandel? Malachy McCourt? Emmet Fox? Bert Ghezzi? Susan Cheever? Alan Brandt? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: A vivid simile depicts the self-destructiveness of a common bitter emotion. Here are two versions:
Resentment is like swallowing poison and expecting the other person to die.
Resentment is like drinking poison and hoping it will kill someone else.
This figurative language has been credited to the actress Carrie Fisher, the statesman Nelson Mandela, the author Malachy McCourt, and others. What do you think?
Quote Investigator: The earliest strong match located by QI appeared in the 1980 book “The Angry Christian” by Bert Ghezzi 1
Resentment is like a poison we carry around inside us with the hope that when we get the chance we can deposit it where it will harm another who has injured us. The fact is that we carry this poison at extreme risk to ourselves.
This simile is not identical, but it shares key elements with the target saying. QI believes that this figurative framework evolved over time.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
1980, The Angry Christian by Bert Ghezzi, Quote Page 99, Servant, Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Verified with scans; thanks to the B.L. Fisher Library of the Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky) ↩
Stephen R. Covey? Thomas Merton? Allen Raine? Anne Adaliza Evans? Mae Maloo? H. Jackson Brown? Sarah Frances Brown? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: The metaphorical notion of climbing a ladder of success was in use by writers in the nineteenth century. Here is an intriguing cautionary twist about faulty objectives:
When you get to the top of the ladder you may find it is propped against the wrong wall.
This thought has been credited to the educator and best-selling author Stephen R. Covey and to the theologian and activist Thomas Merton. What do you think?
Quote Investigator: Tracing this expression has been difficult because of its variability. The earliest evidence found by QI appeared in “The Brooklyn Daily Eagle” of New York in 1915. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
“You may get to the very top of the ladder, and then find it has not been leaning against the right wall.”—Allen Raine.
This quotation did not explicitly mention a “ladder of success”, but the allusion was clear. “Allen Raine” was the pseudonym of a popular Welsh novelist named Anne Adaliza Evans, but QI is not certain whether the newspaper intended to attribute the quote to her or to some other Allen Raine.
The citation above reveals that neither Thomas Merton who was born in 1915 nor Stephen R. Covey who was born in 1932 originated this extended metaphor. In fact, QI has not yet found any substantive evidence linking the notion to Merton. On the other hand, Covey did employ it.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
Aristotle? Dale Carnegie? J. H. Jowett? Fred E. Marble? Royal Meeker? Henry Koster? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: For many years I have been encouraged to split my speeches into three parts. Here are two versions of the guidance:
[A] Tell the audience what you’re going to say, say it; then tell them what you’ve said.
[B] Tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em; then tell ’em; then tell ’em what you told ’em.
This popular advice allows speakers to hammer their points with repetition, but I wonder how many members of the audience will remain awake. Do you know who originated this tripartite template? I have seen it credited to the ancient philosopher Aristotle and the self-help pioneer Dale Carnegie.
Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence located by QI appeared in 1908 in a short piece titled “Three Parts of a Sermon” published in the “Northern Daily Mail” of Durham, England. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
Mr. Jowett, of Birmingham, tells of a lay preachers’ conference, in which a veteran described his method of sermon preparation. “I take my text,” he said, “and divide my sermon into three parts. In the first part I tell ’em what I am going to tell ’em; in the second part—well, I tell ’em; in the third part I tell ’em what I’ve told ’em.”—The “Sunday Strand.”
A later citation expanded the name of the religious figure to “J. H. Jowett”. Interestingly, Jowett disclaimed credit and assigned the saying to an unnamed “veteran” preacher. Also, the “Northern Daily Mail” acknowledged the “Sunday Strand”.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
Mohandas Gandhi? Jean Cocteau? Robbie Williams? Julian Beck? Earl B. Morgan? Tony Benn? Peter D. Jones? Louis Agassiz? Arthur Schopenhauer?
Dear Quote Investigator: Mahatma Gandhi famously employed nonviolent strategies during the struggle for Indian independence. A quotation often attributed to him asserts that popular movements pass through four stages:
First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they attack you. Then you win.
I have been unable to find a good citation. Are these really the words of Gandhi?
Quote Investigator: Several researchers have attempted to find these words in Gandhi’s oeuvre without success. The saying was ascribed to him by 1982, but Gandhi died decades earlier in 1948.
The earliest known substantive match occurred in a speech delivered by Nicholas Klein at a convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America in 1918. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
And my friends, in this story you have a history of this entire movement. First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you.
And that is what is going to happen to the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America.
Typically, a successful social movement is based on a proposition extolled as a truth. For example, the Gandhian movement was based on the assertion that India should be an independent nation. These propositions face opposition and a harsh reception. QI believes that the saying under analysis fits into a large and evolving family of statements about the multi-stage difficulties obstructing new ideas and truths.
1918, Documentary History of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America: 1916-1918, Proceedings of the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, (Held in Baltimore, Maryland on May 13 to May 18, 1918), Address given in Fourth Session on Wednesday, May 15, 1918, Address of Nicholas Klein, Start Page 51, Quote Page 53, Published by Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. (Special note on dating: The dating on the document was confusing. In some locations the year 1919 was listed. In other locations 1918 was listed. I checked the day of the week for May 15, 1918 and May 15, 1919 and only the earlier date matched the specified weekday of Wednesday) (Google Books Full View) link↩
Vince Lombardi? Bobby Knight? Fielding H. Yost? John Cooper? Joe Paterno? Vernon Law? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: A popular sports maxim highlights the importance of preparation. Here are three versions:
The will to win is important; the will to prepare to win is vital.
The will to win is not nearly as important as the will to prepare to win.
The will to win is not worth a nickel unless you have the will to prepare.
This saying has been attributed to several prominent coaches including: Bobby Knight who led the Indiana Hoosiers basketball team, Vince Lombardi who led the Green Bay Packers football team, Fielding H. Yost who led the Michigan Wolverines football team, and Joe Paterno who led Penn State Nittany Lions football team. Who should receive credit?
Quote Investigator: Fielding H. Yost was the head football coach at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor for 25 seasons at the beginning of the twentieth century. His remarkably successful squads dominated opponents and won several national championships. During the 1929-30 academic year Yost delivered a speech to teachers in the Public Schools Athletic League of New York City. His “Wingate Memorial Lecture” included a prolix version of the athletic adage. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
The will to win. We hear a lot about that. The will and the wish to win, but there isn’t a chance for either one of them to be gratified or to have any value unless there has been a will to prepare to win: the will to prepare for service, to do the things that build and develop our capacity, physical, mental, and moral.
Yost reiterated this notion during several speeches, and QI believes he was primarily responsible for its popularization although the phrasing he employed was variable. During the ensuing decades other coaches adopted the saying.
1930, Intimate Talks by Great Coaches: Wingate Memorial Lectures 1929-1930, Edited by E. Dana Caulkins, Lecture Title: Fundamentals of Football Coaching by Fielding H. Yost (University of Michigan), Start Page 3, Quote Page 18, Wingate Memorial Fund Inc., New York. (HathiTrust Full View) link↩
William Butler Yeats? Will Rogers? Edgar Guest? Margaret Lee Runbeck? Dorothy C. Wegner? Roberta Lieberman? Mitch Albom? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: The Nobel Prize winning Irish poet William Butler Yeats often receives credit for the following sentiment:
There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t yet met.
Is this ascription accurate?
Quote Investigator:QI has been unable to find substantive support for the linkage to Yeats. The popular poet Edgar Guest included a similar statement in a widely distributed 1915 poem called “Faith”. Here are the first two verses. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
I believe in the world and its bigness and splendor,
That most of the hearts beating round us are tender;
That days are but footsteps and years are but miles
That lead us to beauty and singing and smiles;
That roses that blossom and toilers that plod
Are filled with the glorious spirit of God.
I believe in the purpose of everything living,
That taking is but the forerunner of giving; That strangers are friends that we some day may meet,
And not all the bitter can equal the sweet;
That creeds are but colors, and no man has said
That God loves the yellow rose more than the red.
The Davenport Democrat” of Iowa and other newspapers reprinted Guest’s work with an acknowledgement to “The Detroit Free Press” of Michigan. 2
QI conjectures that the quotation evolved from the line written by Guest.
Dear Quote Investigator: Hollywood legend Elizabeth Taylor was paired with many high-profile costars such as Paul Newman, Richard Burton, Montgomery Clift, Rock Hudson, and James Dean during her long career. Nevertheless, she humorously once said that her best leading men were animals, e.g., dogs and horses. Would please help me to find a citation?
Quote Investigator: In 1981 “The Times” of London published an interview with Elizabeth Taylor conducted by John Higgins who mentioned two of her popular early movies. “Lassie Come Home” told the tale of a determined and resourceful dog. “National Velvet” featured a horse who participated in the Grand National steeplechase. Taylor commented on the films. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
Miss Taylor liked both those films. “Did you know that Lassie was a he and not a she?” No, I did not. The question did not cross my mind when I was moved to childish tears on first seeing the picture. “Well, Lassie was a he. And, on reflection, I reckon some of my best leading men have been dogs and horses.”
Aldous Huxley? William C. Hunter? Jacob Feuerring? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: When Aldous Huxley, the author of the famous dystopian novel “Brave New World”, was young he was eager to change the world. Yet, as he grew older he concluded that he could only change himself with any confidence. Would you please help me to find his statement on this topic?
Quote Investigator: In July 1961 “The Observer” newspaper of London printed a set of quotations under the title “Sayings of the Week” which included the following. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
I wanted to change the world. But I have found that the only thing one can be sure of changing is oneself. Mr. Aldous Huxley.
This citation is not ideal because the quotation did not appear directly in an interview or article by Huxley; however, currently it is the best evidence located by QI. Huxley died a couple years later in November 1963 when he was 69 years old.
Dear Quote Investigator: The prominent French writer Jean Cocteau has been credited with the following humorously skewed definition. Here are three versions:
A great literary masterpiece is simply a dictionary in disorder.
The greatest masterpiece in literature is only a dictionary out of order.
Masterpieces of literature are nothing more than the alphabet in disorder.
Would you please help me to find the original citation in French?
Quote Investigator: The statement appeared twice in the Cocteau’s 1924 work “Le Potomak, 1913-1914: Précédé d’un Prospectus 1916”. The section “Première Visite au Potomak” contained this text: 1
Si Hugo vous avait confié son oeuvre inédite, sans doute lui eussiez-vous rendu le dictionnaire Larousse, car, songez-y, Argémone, un chef-d’oeuvre de la littérature n’est jamais qu’un dictionnaire en désordre.
The section “Prospectus” referred to the text above: 2
Mes poètes furent: Larousse, Chaix, Joanne, Vidal de La Blache. Mes peintres: l’afficheur. La moindre impulsion suffisant à ma paresse de goinfre. A cette date, je notais (POTOMAK, p. 244): « Le plus grand chef-d’oeuvre de la littérature n’est jamais qu’un dictionnaire en désordre »
Winston Churchill? Henry Ward Beecher? Professor Matthews? Elias J. MacEwan?
Dear Quote Investigator: According to legend a young Member of Parliament approached Winston Churchill with a copy of an address he was planning to deliver and asked him how he could put more fire into it. Churchill responded:
Put fire into this speech? I suggest you put this speech into the fire.
Would you please explore this anecdote?
Quote Investigator:QI has found no substantive evidence that this tale about Churchill is genuine. He died in 1965, and a version of the punchline was attributed to him by 1988.
The humor of the statement under analysis is heightened by the use of antimetabole: a clause is repeated with the key words “fire” and “speech” transposed. The first instance of this antimetabole located by QI was published in a Crown Point, Indiana newspaper in 1879. Extracts from a speech about oration by a person identified as Professor Matthews contained the following. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
“The man who can’t put fire into his speeches, should put his speeches into the fire.”
“The speaking eye, the apt gesture, the written word, and the sculptured or pointed image are comparatively dead things; it is the voice that has life—the power to thrill, to exalt, to melt, to persuade, and to appal.”
This expression was not identical to the one being explored, but the rhetorical technique was the same. This passage also appeared in other Indiana newspapers in 1879 such as the one in North Manchester. 2