There Will Be Prayers in Our Schools as Long as There Are Final Exams

Ronald Reagan? Ashley Cooper? Frank Bunker Gilbreth Jr.? David Condon? The Farmer’s Daughter? Norine Carman? Sam Levenson? Charles Rose? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The topic of prayers in schools in the U.S. has been controversial for many years. Humorists have reacted with quips such as:

  • As long as algebra is taught in school, there will be prayer in school.
  • As long as there are final exams, there will be prayers in our schools.

Apparently, U.S. President Ronald Reagan employed this joke. Would you please explore this remark?

Quote Investigator: In 1962 and 1963 the U.S. Supreme Court delivered landmark decisions concerning school prayer. The judges restricted compulsory prayers in school.

Versions of the jest under analysis began to circulate after these key events; however, the quip can be expressed in many ways which makes it difficult to trace. The earliest instance known to QI appeared in a column by Ashley Cooper in the “The News and Courier” of Charleston, South Carolina in May 1964. The scribe referred to himself comically as “Lord Ashley”. Ashley Cooper was a pseudonym for the bestselling author Frank Bunker Gilbreth Jr. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

The Supreme Court may try to ban prayers in school, but there’s no way to ban the silent ones. Lord Ashley predicts that as long as there are final examinations in school, there will be prayers.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading There Will Be Prayers in Our Schools as Long as There Are Final Exams

Notes:

  1. 1964 May 6, The News and Courier, Doing the Charleston by Ashley Cooper, Quote Page 8A, Column 4, Charleston, South Carolina. (GenealogyBank)

I Had More Fun Doing News Reporting Than in Any Other Enterprise. It Is Really the Life of Kings

H. L. Mencken? Theo Lippman Jr.? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Newspaperman H. L. Mencken is famous for his insightful and acerbic commentaries, but he also spent the early years of his career as a reporter, and he looked back upon that period with fondness. Apparently, he nostalgically described reporting as “the life of kings” and “fun”. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1946 Stanley Walker who had been a reporter and editor at the “New York Herald Tribune” for many years wrote a piece titled “What Makes a Good Reporter?” which included strong praise for Mencken. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

The name H. L. Mencken to most Americans doubtless means either the scholarly “Sage of Baltimore,” or the iconoclast, or the expert on the American language. Actually, whenever he has turned his hand to it, he has produced some of our finest reporting.

Walker extolled Mencken’s reportage during the Scopes Trial in 1925, and he spoke highly of several other journalists. Yet, the article ended with melancholy words about the upcoming generation of reporters:

They do not seem to have much fun, and newspaper work for them is hardly the high adventure that we used to fancy it. But maybe they are right and maybe we were wrong.

In 1946 Mencken read the article, and he sent a letter to Walker containing recollections of happiness: 2

I needn’t tell you that I was delighted by your Christian mention of me in “What Makes a Good Reporter”. As I look back over a misspent life I find myself more and more convinced that I had more fun doing news reporting than in any other enterprise. It is really the life of kings.

A tweet on August 10, 2018 from the account of “The Baltimore Sun” included an image showing the full text of the 1946 letter from Mencken to Walker. 3

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Had More Fun Doing News Reporting Than in Any Other Enterprise. It Is Really the Life of Kings

Notes:

  1. 1946 February, The American Mercury, What Makes a Good Reporter? by Stanley Walker, Start Page 207, Quote Page 209 and 213, The American Mercury, Inc., New York. (Unz)
  2. Letter, Date: January 30, 1946, From: H. L. Mencken, To: Stanley Walker of New York Herald Tribune, New York City, Provenance: H.L. Mencken papers, Manuscripts and Archives Division, New York Public Library; Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations; Courtesy of the Enoch Pratt Free Library/State Library Resource Center Mencken Collection, Image of letter was attached to a tweet, Tweet from The Baltimore Sun on August 10, 2018. (Accessed on twitter.com on August 13, 2018) link
  3. Tweet, From: The Baltimore Sun @baltimoresun, Tweet Time: 11:19 PM, Tweet Date: August 10, 2018, Text of tweet: We’ve published Mencken’s letter, dated Jan. 30, 1946, here for the first time, to set the record straight once and for all. Just in time, as we leave Calvert Street for Sun Park in Port Covington. On to the next chapter. (Accessed on twitter.com on August 13, 2018) link

Our Little Terraqueous Globe Here Is the Madhouse of Those Hundred Thousand Millions of Worlds

Voltaire? Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle? Edward Young? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The famous French philosopher and satirist Voltaire apparently wrote a story in which the universe consisted of millions of worlds, and Earth was designated a peculiar place:

Our little globe is the lunatic ward of the universe.

Would you please help me to find this story and determine precisely what Voltaire wrote?

Quote Investigator: Voltaire wrote a story “Memnon ou La Sagesse Humaine” (“Memnon or Human Wisdom”) in the late 1740s and published it by 1749. The main character Memnon decides to become a great/perfect philosopher. Sadly, his quest results in a series of disasters that leave him impoverished and physically injured. He then meets an extraterrestrial being who gives him advice and insight. The being tells Memnon to stop his philosophical quest, and he discusses Earth’s place in the universe. Here is an English translation from 1807. Emphasis added to excerpts: 1

“Is it then impossible?” said Memnon.

“As impossible as to be perfectly wise, perfectly strong, perfectly powerful, perfectly happy. We ourselves are very far from it. There is a world indeed where all this takes place; but in the hundred thousand millions of worlds dispersed over the regions of space, every thing goes on by degrees. There is less philosophy and less enjoyment in the second than in the first, less in the third than in the second, and so forth till the last in the scale, where all are completely fools.”

“I am afraid,” said Memnon, “that our little terraqueous globe here is the mad-house of those hundred thousand millions of worlds, of which your Lordship does me the honour to speak.”

“Not quite,” said the spirit, “but very nearly: every thing must be in its proper place.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Our Little Terraqueous Globe Here Is the Madhouse of Those Hundred Thousand Millions of Worlds

Notes:

  1. 1807, Classic Tales: Serious and Lively, Volume 2, Voltaire, Story: Memnon the Philosopher; or Human Wisdom, Start Page 181, Quote Page 188 and 189, Printed and Published by and for John Hunt & Carew Reynell, London. (Google Books Full View) link

I Fell In Love the Way You Fall Asleep: Slowly, and Then All At Once

Creator: John Green (John Michael Green), American author, vlogger, and educator.

Context: John Green’s 2012 novel “The Fault in Our Stars” tells the story of two star-crossed lovers: Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters. The two agree to read each other’s favorite novels. While Waters is reading to Lancaster from her chosen book she experiences a realization: 1

As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.

In 2014 Green participated in a Question & Answer session via Reddit, and he was asked about the memorable statement: 2

Question: The line about falling in love is like falling asleep.. “slowly, then all at once”.. Why do I feel like I’ve heard it before..? More importantly- What inspired it? It’s a great line.

Reply from John Green: There’s a similarish line from Hemingway: “How did you go bankrupt?” “Two ways: Gradually, then suddenly.” So maybe there? That was my initial inspiration for the line.

Related Article: “How Did You Go Bankrupt?” “Two Ways. Gradually and Then Suddenly.”

Acknowledgement: Thanks to Jesse Sheidlower who remarked on the connection between this quotation and the words of Hemingway. Sheidlower also pointed to John’s Green’s acknowledgement of Hemingway.

Image Notes: Lovers with star background by 5187396 at Pixabay.

Notes:

  1. 2012, The Fault in Our Stars, Quote Page 125, Dutton Books: An Imprint of Penguin Group USA, New York. (Google Books Preview)
  2. Website: Reddit, Reddit Group: r/IAmA, Title: Iam John Green, bestselling author of The Fault in Our Stars and co-creator of Crash Course and Vlogbrothers. AMA!, Questions and Responses Topic for: John Green, Date on website: May 29, 2014, Website description: Discussion forum; “The front page of the internet”. (Accessed reddit.com on August 8, 2018) link

“How Did You Go Bankrupt?” “Two Ways. Gradually and Then Suddenly.”

Creator: Ernest Hemingway, U.S. author, winner of Nobel Prize in Literature

Context: The character Mike Campbell in the 1926 novel “The Sun Also Rises” was asked about his money troubles and responded with a vivid description embracing self-contradiction: 1

“How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked.

“Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly.”

“What brought it on?”

“Friends,” said Mike. “I had a lot of friends. False friends. Then I had creditors, too. Probably had more creditors than anybody in England.”

Related Article: I Fell In Love the Way You Fall Asleep: Slowly, and Then All At Once

Acknowledgement: Thanks to David Orlo who asked about this quotation.

Image Notes: Public domain photo of Ernest Hemingway by Lloyd Arnold accessed via Wikimedia Commons. Graph depicting a downturn from Mediamodifier at Pixabay.

Notes:

  1. 1954 (1926 Copyright), The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, Book II, Chapter 13, Quote Page 136, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York. (Verified with scans)

If You Are Born Poor It’s Not Your Mistake, But If You Die Poor It’s Your Mistake

Bill Gates? Muriel Strode? Ella Wheeler Wilcox? Joey Adams? Apocryphal? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, is one of the richest people in the world. A provocative remark about poverty has been ascribed to him:

If you are born poor it’s not your mistake but if you die poor it’s your mistake.

I have been unable to find a solid citation, and I am skeptical of this ascription. Would you please examine this saying?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive evidence that Bill Gates made this statement. His philanthropic endeavors via the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to reduce hunger and extreme poverty suggest that Gates is aware of the major obstacles facing many people who are born into harsh circumstances.

In 1997 a strong match appeared in a message posted to the discussion system Usenet within the newsgroup news.newusers.questions. The statement appeared in a get-rich-quick chain-letter message which used the word “fault” instead of “mistake”. No attribution was specified. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT THAT YOU WERE BORN POOR…AND IF YOU DIE POOR, IT’S YOUR BIGGEST FAULT !!!!

The remark attributed to Gates appeared as a message in the Google Group CETAA67 by 2008, but no supporting citation was provided. The word “you’re” was written as “you”: 2

If you born poor, it’s not your mistake.
But if you die poor it’s your mistake
• Bill Gates

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading If You Are Born Poor It’s Not Your Mistake, But If You Die Poor It’s Your Mistake

Notes:

  1. 1997 February 21, Usenet discussion message, Newsgroup: news.newusers.questions, From: BentAyu @pc.jaring.my, Subject: DON’T DIE POOR…….read this !!! (Google Groups Search; Accessed August 5, 2018) link
  2. 2008 June 1, Google Groups discussion message, Group: CETAA67, From: Usha Mohan @yahoo.com, Subject: Fw: Thoughts for the day, Forwarded Email From: Deepak @mcdermott.com, Forwarded Date: 2008 May 28, Forwarded Subject: Fw: Thoughts for the day. (Google Groups Search; Accessed August 2, 2018) link

Who Ya Gonna Believe Me or Your Own Eyes?

Groucho Marx? Chico Marx? Popular Song? Peggy Hopkins Joyce? Dorothy Dix? Ace Reid? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: According to legend when the wife of a famous comedian caught him in bed with another person the entertainer was unperturbed and denied that anything improper was occurring:

Who you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?

This remark has been attributed to Groucho Marx. Some say the line was employed in a movie. Would you please examine its provenance?

Quote Investigator: The 1933 movie “Duck Soup” included a scene containing a similar quip without the word “lying”. The remark was spoken by Chico Marx who was playing the character Chicolini. He was imitating the appearance of the character played by Groucho Marx causing other members of the cast to confuse their identities.

The following exchange occurred between the actress Margaret Dumont playing Mrs. Gloria Teasdale and Chico Marx. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Teasdale: Your Excellency, I thought you left.
Chicolini: Oh no. I no leave.
Teasdale: But I saw you with my own eyes.
Chicolini: Well, who ya gonna believe me or your own eyes?

QI believes that Chico’s humorous interrogative evolved over time, and the genesis can be traced back to the early 1900s. Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Who Ya Gonna Believe Me or Your Own Eyes?

Notes:

  1. YouTube video, Title: “Chico Not Groucho: Who Ya Gonna Believe, Me or Your Own Eyes – Duck Soup – Firefly Chicolini”, Uploaded on Jan 23, 2017, Uploaded by: James Schneider, Comment: Scene from 1933 movie “Duck Soup”, (Dialog starts at 9 seconds of 20 seconds) (Accessed on youtube.com on July 31, 2018) link

Don’t Aim for Success If You Want It. Just Do What You Love Doing, and It Will Come Naturally

Robert Frost? David Frost? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: While listening to a TEDx talk I heard an interesting motivational quotation attributed to the popular American poet Robert Frost:

Don’t aim for success if that’s what you want. Do what you love and believe in, and it will follow.

I doubt that the versifier of rural life said this, and I have been unable to locate a citation. Would you please help trace this statement?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive evidence that Robert Frost employed this saying. The linkage was probably caused by confusion with another person whose last name was Frost.

In 1985 a columnist in the “Courier-Post” of Camden, New Jersey published a multiple-choice quiz asking readers to identify the creators of various quotations. The answer section stated that television host and journalist David Frost authored the following. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

“I think success is a crappy, trendy word. Don’t aim for success if you want it. Just do what you love doing and it will come naturally.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Don’t Aim for Success If You Want It. Just Do What You Love Doing, and It Will Come Naturally

Notes:

  1. 1985 October 2, Courier-Post, Out of the mouths of celebrities: Name the famous folks who’ve made some infamous statements by Jerry Holderman (Special to the Courier-Post), Quote Page 11D, Column 3, Camden, New Jersey. (Newspapers_com)

A Government of Wall Street, for Wall Street, by Wall Street

Creator: Mary Elizabeth Lease, suffrage advocate, populist, author, and orator

Context: Long before the Occupy Wall Street movement the metonymic location of the stock market has been treated with hostility. In 1891 the political activist Mary Elizabeth Lease delivered a speech containing words reminiscent of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address which she transformed into a condemnation of financial power: 1

Wall Street owns the country. It is no longer a government of the people, for the people, by the people, but a government of Wall Street, for Wall Street, by Wall Street. The great common people of the country are slaves, and monopoly is the master. The west and south are bound and prostrate before the manufacturing east. Money rules and our vice-president is a London banker.

Image Notes: Bull and bear representing the Wall Street market from geralt at Pixabay.

Notes:

  1. 1891 March 31, State Journal (The Topeka State Journal), Her Strange Power, Quote Page 5, Column 2, Topeka, Kansas. (“street” was not capitalized in the original text)(Newspapers_com)

I Am Pleased To Believe That You Like the Piece Almost as Much as I Do Myself

Oscar Wilde? Louise Jopling? Hesketh Pearson? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: After the enormously successful debut of a comedy by Oscar Wilde the audience demanded that the playwright deliver a few words. His speech included a comically self-congratulatory line that was similar to the following:

You think almost as highly of the play as I do myself.

Would you please help me to locate a citation and determine precisely what Wilde said?

Quote Investigator: On February 22, 1892 “The Morning Post” of London printed a review of Oscar Wilde’s new play “Lady Windermere’s Fan” which the paper said “was received with great favour”. The curtain was “thrice raised”, and the theatergoers were eager to hear remarks from Wilde. He began as follows: 1

Ladies and Gentlemen, I believe it is the privilege of an author to allow his words to be reproduced by others while he himself remains silent. But, as you seem to wish to hear me speak, I accept the honour you are kind enough to confer upon me.

Wilde praised George Alexander who produced the show and the performers who brought the story to life. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI:

I have to thank them one and all for the infinite care they have taken to fill in every detail until the sketch has become a finished picture. I think that you have enjoyed the performance as much as I have, and I am pleased to believe that you like the piece almost as much as I do myself.

The newspaper stated that Wilde’s comments “were received with hearty laughter and applause”. Over the years different versions of Wilde’s speech have been presented, however, QI believes that this contemporaneous account probably provided the most accurate transcription.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Am Pleased To Believe That You Like the Piece Almost as Much as I Do Myself

Notes:

  1. 1892 February 22, The Morning Post, St. James’s Theatre, Quote Page 2, Column 5, London, England. (British Newspaper Archive)