Tired of Buttoning and Unbuttoning

Englishman? Frenchman? Lord Byron? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The quotidian activities of life induce lassitude and even despondency in some people. I have heard that an eighteenth century suicide note placed blame upon the following perpetual exercise:

I weary of all this buttoning and unbuttoning.

Is this tale genuine or apocryphal?

Quote Investigator: In 1758 “The Public Advertiser” of London printed a piece titled “On Life” by G. S. that highlighted the stupefying task of manipulating buttons. Emphasis added to excerpts: 1

Life as a repetition of the same dull, insipid routine of insignificant actions of buttoning and unbuttoning, of sleeping and waking, of eating, and hunger returning, and these ditto, ditto repeated…

The article recommended spiritual faith and thoughts of Heaven to overcome unhappiness.

In 1792 a collection of anecdotes and wit published in London titled “Scrapeana: Fugitive Miscellany” edited by John Croft included a claim about a suicide note. The name of the deceased was omitted: 2

Colonel _______ shot himself, and left a paper on the table expressing that he was grown weary of life, and tired of buttoning and unbuttoning, adding this verse:

The very best remedy after all,
Is a good resolution and a ball.

The “ball” was probably a reference to early bullets which were spherical in that time period. QI does not know whether this story was based on an actual event or simply a morbid joke.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Tired of Buttoning and Unbuttoning

Notes:

  1. 1786 October 23, The Public Advertiser, For the Public Advertiser: On Life by G. S., Quote Page 1, Column 3 and 4, London, England. (Newspapers_com)
  2. 1792, Scrapeana: Fugitive Miscellany, Editor: John Croft, Quote Page 97, Sans Souci, London. (Google Books Full View) link

Books Aren’t Written, They’re Rewritten. Including Your Own

Michael Crichton? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Michael Crichton wrote numerous popular books and screenplays including: Jurassic Park, The Andromeda Strain, Westworld, Congo, Sphere, and The Lost World. Yet, each work entailed strenuous effort and required multiple drafts. Apparently, he offered the following advice to aspiring authors:

Books aren’t written, they’re rewritten. Including your own.

Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI occurred in the September 1986 issue of “Writer’s Digest”. The managing editor Thomas Clark published “174 Tips From Bestselling Writers”. The article introduction suggested that inquiries were sent to a large group of writers, and the responses were gathered and edited by Clark: 1

We asked some of today’s bestselling authors for such scouting reports: for opinions on the difficult realities writers face, for the most valuable advice they received from mentors and other guides; for the suggestions they wish they’d received at the start of their careers.

Here are three items from the collection. The ellipsis occurred in the original text. Emphasis added to excerpts: 2

Treat it as a job—not a mystical calling. Then you’ll get up every morning and go “to work” instead of waiting for the muse to attend you.
—Jean Brody
A Coven of Women

Books aren’t written, they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it. . . .
—Michael Crichton

One must develop his or her individual voice—that’s what we call style, the name of the writing game.
—Judith Crist

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Books Aren’t Written, They’re Rewritten. Including Your Own

Notes:

  1. 1986 September, Writer’s Digest, 174 Tips From Bestselling Writers, Compiled by Thomas Clark (Managing Editor of Writer’s Digest), Start Page 24, Quote Page 24, Writer’s Digest, Cincinnati, Ohio. (Verified with hardcopy)
  2. 1986 September, Writer’s Digest, 174 Tips From Bestselling Writers, Compiled by Thomas Clark (Managing Editor of Writer’s Digest), Start Page 24, Quote Page 28, 30, and 33, Writer’s Digest, Cincinnati, Ohio. (Verified with hardcopy)

The Day the Child Realizes That All Adults Are Imperfect He Becomes an Adolescent

Alden Nowlan? John Robert Colombo? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Young children often view adults with awe. Even disobedient ones fear the deity-like powers of adults. Yet, over time the cracks in the façade of authority grow. Some author has stated:

The day the child realizes that all adults are imperfect he becomes an adolescent.

Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1971 the prominent Canadian poet Alden Nowlan published the collection “Between Tears and Laughter” containing the work “Scratchings”. The fourth stanza described a mental voyage. Emphasis added to excerpts: 1

The day the child realizes that all adults are imperfect he becomes an adolescent; the day he forgives them, he becomes an adult; the day he forgives himself he becomes wise.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Day the Child Realizes That All Adults Are Imperfect He Becomes an Adolescent

Notes:

  1. 1971, Between Tears and Laughter by Alden Nowlan, Poem: Scratchings, Start Page 102, Quote Page 102, Clarke Irwin, Toronto, Canada. (Verified with scans; thanks to Middleton Library, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana)

We Must Be Willing To Change Our Belief System, Let the Past Slip Away, Expand Our Sense of Now, and Dissolve the Fear in Our Minds

William James? Gerald G. Jampolsky? Judy J. Johnson? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Recently, I came across a quotation attributed to the famous philosopher and psychologist William James about the difficult task of changing one’s belief system. He stated that one must let the past slip away, and one must dissolve fears. I do not recall where I read this statement, and now I am not sure it was really from James. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive evidence that William James authored a matching quotation, and QI conjectures that the common misattribution is due to an error in a 2009 book. Details are given further below.

In 1979 psychiatrist and bestselling author Gerald G. Jampolsky published “Love Is Letting Go of Fear” which included the following passage. Emphasis added to excerpts: 1

The world we see that seems so insane is the result of a belief system that is not working. To perceive the world differently, we must be willing to change our belief system, let the past slip away, expand our sense of now, and dissolve the fear in our minds. This changed perception leads to the recognition that we are not separate, but have always been joined.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading We Must Be Willing To Change Our Belief System, Let the Past Slip Away, Expand Our Sense of Now, and Dissolve the Fear in Our Minds

Notes:

  1. 1981 (1979 Copyright), Love Is Letting Go of Fear by Gerald G. Jampolsky M.D., Chapter: Introduction, Quote Page 13, (Same text as 1979 Celestial Arts edition), Bantam Books, Toronto and New York. (Verified with scans)

Your Margin Is My Opportunity

Jeff Bezos? Adam Lashinsky? Om Malik? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Business leaders often boast about the profit margins of their corporations, and some stock analysts praise companies which maximize that metric. Yet, a self-satisfied attitude attracts dangerous competitors. Jeff Bezos, the entrepreneurial founder of the Amazon juggernaut, has received credit for this trenchant remark:

Your margin is my opportunity.

Is this quotation authentic? Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match found by QI appeared in November 2012 on the website of business magazine “Fortune” within a lengthy cover article titled “Amazon’s Jeff Bezos: The Ultimate Disrupter” by journalist Adam Lashinsky. The piece contrasted the approaches of Amazon versus Apple and asserted that Amazon followed a low-price and low-margin strategy. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

A favorite Bezos aphorism is “Your margin is my opportunity.” In fact, whereas Apple has long prided itself for premium prices—with the operating margins to show for it: 31% in 2011, vs. 2% for Amazon—Amazon sells at the bare minimum needed to break even, on the assumption it will make money elsewhere.

The quotation may have come from an interview of Bezos conducted by Lashinsky although the phrase “your margin” does not quite fit when addressing a journalist. Some other quotations in the article appear to have been gathered during an interview.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Your Margin Is My Opportunity

Notes:

  1. Website: Fortune Magazine, Article title: Amazon’s Jeff Bezos: The Ultimate Disrupter, Article author: Adam Lashinsky, Date on website: November 16, 2012, Note: Story from December 3, 2012 issue of Fortune, Website description: Business magazine headquartered in New York City. (Accessed fortune.com on January 13, 2019) link

It Has Yet To Be Proven That Intelligence Has Any Survival Value

Arthur C. Clarke? Paraphrase? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The intelligence of humanity has enabled its absolute dominance of the biosphere; however, this trait has also generated frightening existential risks such as the danger of nuclear warfare. Science fiction luminary Arthur C. Clarke has received credit for the following remark:

It has yet to be proved that intelligence has any survival value.

The references that list this statement do not provide a citation. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: QI has been unable to find a precise match for the expression above in the writings of Arthur C. Clarke.

He did contemplate whether intelligence provided any survival value for humankind in a 1968 essay titled “When Earthman and Alien Meet” published in “Playboy” magazine. Clarke believed that contact with an intelligent starfaring group of beings would provide powerful evidence that the perils inherent in high-levels of cognition were surmountable, and a clever species would be able to endure. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

And, above all, knowledge that other beings had safely passed their nuclear crises would give us renewed hope for our own future. It would help dispel present nagging doubts about the survival value of intelligence. We have, as yet, no definite proof that too much brain, like too much armor, is not one of those unfortunate evolutionary accidents that lead to the annihilation of its possessors.

If, however, this dangerous gift can be turned to advantage, then all over the Universe there must be races who have been gathering knowledge, and perfecting their technologies, for periods of time that may be measured in millions of years.

The passage above provides a semantic match and a partial syntactic match for the target quotation. Thus, it is plausible that Clarke did employ the quotation during an interview, but researchers have not yet located it.

There is an alternative conjecture. The two sentences highlighted above may have been condensed to achieve compact quotability, and the result may have been assigned directly to Clarke.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading It Has Yet To Be Proven That Intelligence Has Any Survival Value

Notes:

  1. 1968 January, Playboy, Volume 15, Number 1, When Earthman and Alien Meet by Arthur C. Clarke, Start Page 118, Quote Page 126, Column 3, HMH Publishing Company, Chicago, Illinois. (Verified with scans)

Some Day, You’ll Have a Telephone with a Screen and You’ll Be Able To Dial a Book

Fred Bass? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The host of a video on YouTube mentioned a remarkably prescient quotation from a New York book dealer in the 1960s who predicted that telephones would have screens, and people would read books on those screens selected from a large electronic library. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: In September 1969 “The New York Times” published a piece about a group of bookstores in the Manhattan located south of Union Square. The viability of the businesses was threatened by pending rent increases.

The reporter spoke to Fred Bass who was one of the owners of “The Strand”, a large book emporium which has continued operating successfully to the present day. Bass predicted that ebooks would be available on cellphones although he did not use that terminology. Emphasis added by QI: 1

Though his own business is booming now, Mr. Bass conceded that “the printed book is becoming obsolete” and noted that antique stores were increasing in the area, while bookstores were decreasing.

“Some day, you’ll have a telephone with a screen, and you’ll be able to dial a book.” he said. “They’ll put you in instant contact with thousands and thousands of books.”

What then? he was asked. “Then I go into the antiques business — books will be antiques,” Mr. Bass said.

In conclusion, Fred Bass should receive credit for the insightful comments he made in 1969.

Image Notes: Picture of cellphone from Free-Photos at Pixabay.

Notes:

  1. 1969 September 30, New York Times, Dealers on Book Row Fear Rent Rises Will End an Era by McCandlish Phillips, Start Page 49, Quote Page 72, Column 4, New York. (ProQuest)

Pray for the Dead and Fight Like Hell for the Living

Mother Jones? Mary Harris Jones? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A rallying cry employed by protesters apparently began with labor activist Mary Harris Jones who is better known as Mother Jones:

Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.

Would you please trace this expression?

Quote Investigator: Mother Jones described in her 1925 autobiography a visit she made to a group of miners. They were holding a union meeting in a church which they had rented, and when Jones arrived, she told them to leave the building: 1

“Boys,” I said, “this is a praying institution. You should not commercialize it. Get up, every one of you and go out in the open fields.”

The union meeting was held outside, but Jones noticed a school nearby, and she told the audience members to consult with the school board and hold future meetings in the school building to which they held a rightful share. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI:

Your organization is not a praying institution. It’s a fighting institution. It’s an educational institution along industrial lines. Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living!

Mother Jones should be credited with this statement which she included in her autobiography.

Image Notes: Public domain portrait of Mother Jones (Mary Harris Jones) circa 1902 from the Bain Collection via the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division.

Notes:

  1. 1925, Autobiography of Mother Jones by Mother Jones (Mary Harris Jones), Edited by Mary Field Parton, Chapter VI: War in West Virginia, Quote Page 40 and 41, Charles H. Kerr & Company, Chicago, Illinois. (Verified with scans)

Once You Have Tasted Flight You Will Walk the Earth With Your Eyes Turned Skyward

Leonardo da Vinci? John H. Secondari? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The famous Renaissance figure Leonardo da Vinci has been given credit for a remark about the experience of flight:

Once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward.

How could Leonardo know something like this? I am skeptical of this ascription. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: In 1965 an educational film titled “I, Leonardo da Vinci” with a script written by John H. Secondari was created. The audio track included the thoughts and ideas of Leonardo presented as exposition for the viewer. This speculative synthesized material was authored by Secondari based on biographical information about Leonardo’s life. Professor Carlo Pedretti of the University of California, Los Angeles acted as the consultant historian. One scene in the film depicted Leonardo concluding that humans supplemented with bat-like wings would be able to fly: 1

I became convinced that man too can fly. I set out to build him wings. For the bird is a living machine as all living bodies are machines, marvelously designed for natural movement. The bird is adapted to the laws of the wind and the air. It moves effortlessly. It soars. It curves. It flows.

Secondari’s fanciful version of Leonardo da Vinci dreams of constructing such wings and encouraging a novice flyer to jump off the edge of a precipice:

At the edge spring unafraid into the void. The current holds you. The earth stretches limitless below you. Be not afraid. Your wings are your salvation even should you plummet; the hurts will be slight, I know.

And once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward; for there you have been, and there you would return.

Researchers have been unable to find the quotation above in the writings of Leonardo; hence, it probably was constructed by Secondari. The words embodied Secondari’s notion of Leonardo contemplating the wistful thoughts of an imaginary neophyte flyer who had successfully employed the wings he had sketched.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Once You Have Tasted Flight You Will Walk the Earth With Your Eyes Turned Skyward

Notes:

  1. 1965 Copyright, Series: The Saga of Western Man, Film Title: I, Leonardo da Vinci, Film Writer: John H. Secondari, Film Producers: John H. Secondari and Helen Jean Rogers, Reel Number: 2, Quotation Timestamp: 16 minutes 20 seconds, Publisher: CRM Films 2215 Faraday Ave, Carlsbad. California. Summary: Explores Leonardo’s intellectual and artistic interests and talents. Depicts the Renaissance period. (Internet Archive archive.org) link

“What’s Your Opinion of Civilization?” “It’s a Good Idea. Somebody Ought To Start It”

George Bernard Shaw? Albert Schweitzer? Life Magazine? Mohandas Gandhi? Ferdinand Pecora? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Some thinkers believe that humanity has not yet achieved an advanced society worthy of the name “civilization”. This notion has been expressed with the following dialog:

“What’s your idea of civilization?”
“It’s a good idea. Somebody ought to start it.”

This acerbic reply has been attributed to playwright George Bernard Shaw and humanitarian Albert Schweitzer, Yet, I have been unable to find any solid citations. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared as a filler item in the humor magazine “Life” in March 1923. The creator was unidentified. Emphasis added to excerpts: 1

“What’s your opinion of civilization?”
“It’s a good idea. Somebody ought to start it.”

The quip has been ascribed to a series of individuals over the decades including: lawyer Ferdinand Pecora in 1933, the Prince of Wales (Edward VIII) in 1934, George Bernard Shaw in 1977, and Albert Schweitzer in 1988. In addition, a variant was attributed to Mohandas Gandhi in 1967. Yet, these citations occurred long after the joke was circulating; hence, the value of this evidence is low.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading “What’s Your Opinion of Civilization?” “It’s a Good Idea. Somebody Ought To Start It”

Notes:

  1. 1923 March 29, Life, Volume 81, Issue 2108, (Filler item), Quote Page 33, Column 1, Life Publishing Company, New York. (ProQuest American Periodicals)