That’s All Any of Us Are: Amateurs. We Don’t Live Long Enough To Be Anything Else

Charlie Chaplin? Nigel Bruce? Claire Bloom? Austin Kleon? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Before performing a new show or displaying a novel artwork it is natural to feel fear. Perhaps the audience will condemn you as an amateur. A famous comic actor crafted a brilliant remark about amateurism. It went something like this: Everyone is an amateur because life is not long enough to become anything else.

Charlie Chaplin has received credit for this insight. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: Charlie Chaplin created the story and screenplay of the 1952 movie “Limelight”. He played the starring role of a fading comedian named Calvero. An impresario decided to produce a gala benefit to honor Calvero. Many popular entertainers agreed to appear in the show. The following dialog between Calvero and the promoter occurred in the dressing room before the event. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1952, Movie: Limelight, Director: Charles Chaplin, Original Story and Screenplay: Charles Chaplin, (Quotation spoken at 1 hour 55 minutes of 2 hours 17 minutes), (Viewed via Amazon Prime Video on … Continue reading

Postant (Nigel Bruce): Every star in the business is appearing.
Calvero (Charles Chaplin): It’ll be something following all this talent.
Postant (Nigel Bruce): Don’t you worry. Tonight you’re gonna make them all look like a bunch of amateurs.
Calvero (Charles Chaplin): That’s all any of us are: amateurs. We don’t live long enough to be anything else.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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References

References
1 1952, Movie: Limelight, Director: Charles Chaplin, Original Story and Screenplay: Charles Chaplin, (Quotation spoken at 1 hour 55 minutes of 2 hours 17 minutes), (Viewed via Amazon Prime Video on August 14, 2022)

The Medium Is the Message

Marshall McLuhan? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Canadian communications theorist Marshall McLuhan contemplated the influences of different types of media on human thought and behavior. He said that television was a cool medium because it was high in participation, whereas radio was a hot medium with low participation. He formulated the adage:

The medium is the message.

Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match known to QI appeared in the Spring 1959 issue of “Daedalus: Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences” within the article “Myth and Mass Media” by Marshall McLuhan. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1959 Spring, Daedalus: Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Issue Theme: Myth and Mythmaking, Volume 88, Number 2, Myth and Mass Media by Marshall McLuhan, Start Page 339, Quote Page … Continue reading

As such, languages old and new would seem to be for participation rather than for contemplation or for reference and classification.

Another way of getting at this aspect of languages as macromyths is to say that the medium is the message. Only incidentally, as it were, is such a medium a specialized means of signifying or of reference.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Medium Is the Message

References

References
1 1959 Spring, Daedalus: Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Issue Theme: Myth and Mythmaking, Volume 88, Number 2, Myth and Mass Media by Marshall McLuhan, Start Page 339, Quote Page 340, Published by The MIT Press on behalf of American Academy of Arts & Sciences. (JSTOR) link

Art Is Anything You Can Get Away With

Marshall McLuhan? Quentin Fiore? Frank Richardson? Terence Trent D’Arby? Theodor W. Adorno?

Dear Quote Investigator: In 2019 the Italian conceptual artist and provocateur Maurizio Cattelan used duct tape to attach a banana to the wall of an art gallery. He dubbed the resultant artwork “Comedian”.

After Cattelan sold the quasi-sculpture for a lucrative price he was sued by another artist who had previously taped a banana and an orange to a green background. The presiding judge was inspired to mention a humorous definition of art from the 1960s:

Art is anything you can get away with.

The judge credited Canadian communications theorist Marshall McLuhan with this definition. Would you please explore the provenance of this remark?

Quote Investigator: The earliest close match located by QI appeared in the 1967 book “The Medium is the Massage” by Marshall McLuhan and graphic designer Quentin Fiore. The quotation was spread across five pages. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1967, The Medium is the Massage by Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore, Quote Page to 132 to 136, Bantam Books, New York. (Verified with hardcopy)

Art is anything you can get away with.

The photographs accompanying the statement showed a massive sculpture:

“The biggest and best woman in the world,” an 82-foot-long, 20-foot-high sculpture, in Moderna Museet, Stockholm. You can walk around in her.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Art Is Anything You Can Get Away With

References

References
1 1967, The Medium is the Massage by Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore, Quote Page to 132 to 136, Bantam Books, New York. (Verified with hardcopy)

You Are the Average of the Five People You Spend the Most Time With

Will Smith? Jim Rohn? Tim Ferriss? Jack Canfield? Janet Switzer? Daniel G. Amen? Loral Langemeier? Keith Cunningham? Ty Talcott? Scott Elliott? Paula Owens? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: You are deeply influenced by the actions and behaviors of your friends and companions. You consciously and unconsciously imitate what you perceive in your local environment. The following adage encapsulates this viewpoint. Here are four versions:

(1) You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
(2) Your life is going to be a reflection of the five people that you spend the most time with.
(3) You are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with.
(4) We become the combined average of the five people we hang around the most.

Would you please explore the provenance of this saying?

Quote Investigator: The earliest close match located by QI appeared in the 2005 book “The Success Principles” by Jack Canfield with Janet Switzer. Canfield is best known for co-creating the best-selling self-help series “Chicken Soup for the Soul”. The saying appeared as a chapter epigraph crediting entrepreneur and motivational author Jim Rohn. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]2007 (2005 Copyright), The Success Principles by Jack Canfield with Janet Switzer, Principle 25: Drop Out of the “Ain’t It Awful” Club…and Surround Yourself with Successful People, … Continue reading

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
JIM ROHN
Self-made millionaire and successful author

The statement attributed to Rohn followed a circuitous route:

When Tim Ferriss was 12 years old, an unidentified caller left the above Jim Rohn quote on his answering machine. It changed his life forever. For days, he couldn’t get the idea out of his mind. At only 12 years of age, Tim recognized that the kids he was hanging out with were not the ones he wanted influencing his future.

Thus, a lengthy chain produced the attribution. Canfield learned of the saying from Ferriss who heard the saying from an unidentified person who credited Rohn.

Tim Ferriss was born in 1977, and he is best known for the self-help book “The 4-Hour Workweek”. Ferriss heard the quotation circa 1989 when he was 12 years old. QI tentatively credits Rohn with the saying although the current evidence is weak, and QI believes the saying evolved over time.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading You Are the Average of the Five People You Spend the Most Time With

References

References
1 2007 (2005 Copyright), The Success Principles by Jack Canfield with Janet Switzer, Principle 25: Drop Out of the “Ain’t It Awful” Club…and Surround Yourself with Successful People, (Chapter epigraph), Quote Page 189, William Morrow: An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, New York. (Verified with scans)

Whoever Named It Necking Was a Poor Judge of Anatomy

Groucho Marx? Robert O. Ryder? Dorothy Uris? Evan Esar? Agro B. Arlo? Laurence J. Peter? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The informal term “necking” refers to kissing and caressing amorously. A comedian once said:

Whoever called it necking was a poor judge of anatomy.

Do you know who crafted this joke?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in the 1968 collection “20,000 Quips and Quotes” compiled by Evan Esar. A well-known comedian, movie star, and television personality received credit. Boldface added to excepts by QI:[1] 1968, 20,000 Quips and Quotes, Compiled by Evan Esar, Subject: Petting, Quote Page 593, Doubleday, Garden City, New York. (Verified on paper)

Whoever named it necking was a poor judge of anatomy.
—Groucho Marx

Groucho Marx (Julius Henry Marx) died in 1977. Thus, he was linked to the quip while he was still alive. Currently, Groucho is the leading candidate for creator.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Whoever Named It Necking Was a Poor Judge of Anatomy

References

References
1 1968, 20,000 Quips and Quotes, Compiled by Evan Esar, Subject: Petting, Quote Page 593, Doubleday, Garden City, New York. (Verified on paper)

Life Is Thick Sown with Thorns, and I Know No Other Remedy Than To Pass Quickly Through Them

Voltaire? Louis Mayeul Chaudon? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The famous French writer Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet) apparently said something like: Life is bristling with thorns. One must travel through them quickly to minimize the pain and harm. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: Voltaire died in 1778, and Louis Mayeul Chaudon published a biographical work in 1785. The anecdote section included the following. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1785, Mémoires Pour Servir à L’Histoire de M. de Voltaire, Editor: Louis Mayeul Chaudon, Part 2, Section: Anecdotes Sur Voltaire, Quote Page 78, Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Google Books Full … Continue reading

« La vie est hérissée d’épines, ( disoit Voltaire ) ; & je ne sçais d’autre remède, que de passer vite à travers ces broussailles. C’est donner de la consistance aux maux, que de trop s’y arrêter. »

In 1786 Chaudon’s work was translated and published under the title “Historical and Critical Memoirs of the Life and Writings of M. de Voltaire”. The text above was rendered as follows:[2]1786, Historical and Critical Memoirs of the Life and Writings of M. de Voltaire. Interspersed with Numerous Anecdotes, Poetical Pieces, Epigrams and Bon Mots, From the French of Dom Chaudon (Louis … Continue reading

Life, said Voltaire, is thick sown with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to pass quickly through them. The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater is their power to harm us.

Thus, this quotation did not appear in Voltaire’s writings; instead, it appeared in a biographical work printed posthumously. Its authenticity is dependent upon the care and diligence of Louis Mayeul Chaudon.

Below are additional selected citations.

Continue reading Life Is Thick Sown with Thorns, and I Know No Other Remedy Than To Pass Quickly Through Them

References

References
1 1785, Mémoires Pour Servir à L’Histoire de M. de Voltaire, Editor: Louis Mayeul Chaudon, Part 2, Section: Anecdotes Sur Voltaire, Quote Page 78, Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Google Books Full View) link
2 1786, Historical and Critical Memoirs of the Life and Writings of M. de Voltaire. Interspersed with Numerous Anecdotes, Poetical Pieces, Epigrams and Bon Mots, From the French of Dom Chaudon (Louis Mayeul Chaudon), Quote Page 291, Printed for G. G. J and J. Robinson, London. (Google Books Full View) link

A Picture Is Worth Ten Thousand Words

Arthur Brisbane? Confucius? Kathleen Caffyn? Frederick R. Barnard? Robert Maguire? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: A famous adage highlights the value of illustrations and photographs. Here are four versions:

(1) A picture is worth ten thousand words
(2) A picture is worth a thousand words.
(3) One picture is worth a ten thousand words.
(4) One picture is worth a thousand words.

This saying has been attributed to prominent U.S. newspaper editor Arthur Brisbane, advertising executive Frederick R. Barnard, and Chinese sage Confucius. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Tracing this saying is a challenging task because the expression has evolved over time. Despite this complexity, QI believes that the primary credit for the adage should go to Arthur Brisbane.

In March 1911 “The Post-Standard” of Syracuse, New York reported on a speech delivered by Brisbane who discussed the effective use of pictures:[1] 1911 March 28, The Post-Standard, Speakers Give Sound Advice: Arthur Brisbane Talks on Journalism and Publicity, Quote Page 18, Column 5, Syracuse, New York. (NewspaperArchive)

“If I show you a picture of a pebble half an inch high on a magazine page and ask you how high it is, you cannot tell,” he said. “But if I put a housefly beside it twice as large as the pebble, you say it is a grain of sand. If I take out the fly and put a man on horseback on top of the pebble you say it is a boulder.”

Brisbane stated his thesis with the following two sentences. The phrasing differed from the statement under examination, but the meaning and vocabulary were the same. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:

“Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words.”

In July 1915 Brisbane published a piece in the “New Orleans Item” which included two vivid illustrations. Beneath the illustrations Brisbane wrote a statement using “ten thousand”. This was the earliest exact match known to QI for one of the statements in the inquiry above:[2] 1915 July 26, New Orleans Item, Debt Carries You for a While But—Groaning and Sweating, You Carry Debt in the End by Arthur Brisbane, Quote Page 6, New Orleans, Louisiana. (GenealogyBank)

A picture is worth ten thousand words.
If you can’t see the truth in these pictures you are among the vast majority that must learn only by experience.

An overview showing the evolution of the expression with key phrases, dates, and attributions appears immediately below.

Continue reading A Picture Is Worth Ten Thousand Words

References

References
1 1911 March 28, The Post-Standard, Speakers Give Sound Advice: Arthur Brisbane Talks on Journalism and Publicity, Quote Page 18, Column 5, Syracuse, New York. (NewspaperArchive)
2 1915 July 26, New Orleans Item, Debt Carries You for a While But—Groaning and Sweating, You Carry Debt in the End by Arthur Brisbane, Quote Page 6, New Orleans, Louisiana. (GenealogyBank)

Writing Advice: I Can Fix a Bad Page. I Can’t Fix a Blank One

Nora Roberts? Eileen Wilks? Lori Avocato? Susan Elizabeth Phillips? Bonnie Hearn Hill? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: When you are attempting to write a book you must move forward and put words on a blank page or screen even if you fear that your output is flawed. Eventually, you will be able to revise and improve your initial draft. This writing advice can be summarized in the following two ways:

(1) I can fix a bad page. I can’t fix a blank one.
(2) You can’t fix a blank page.

Who crafted this advice? Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In July 1997 “USA Today” published a piece about bestselling romance and suspense author Nora Roberts. She commented on her writing process. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1997 July 31, USA Today, For Janet Dailey, a romance gone sour Book deal on hold in wake of scandal by Nanci Hellmich, Quote Page D 1:5, McLean, Virginia. (ProQuest)

She says she would never crib an idea from another book — let alone take dialogue or entire scenes — even if her prose wasn’t coming easily. “I believe writing is a discipline. I write every day. Even if I’m not writing well, I write through it. I can fix a bad page. I can’t fix a blank one.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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References

References
1 1997 July 31, USA Today, For Janet Dailey, a romance gone sour Book deal on hold in wake of scandal by Nanci Hellmich, Quote Page D 1:5, McLean, Virginia. (ProQuest)

Most of Us Are About as Eager To Be Changed as We Were To Be Born

James Baldwin? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Change is onerous. The prominent writer James Baldwin once constructed a vivid analogy between change and birth. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1977 James Baldwin published an article titled “Every Good-bye Ain’t Gone” in “New York” magazine containing the following passage. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1977 December 19, New York Magazine, Every Good-bye Ain’t Gone by James Baldwin, Start Page 64, Quote Page 68, NYM Corporation, New York. (Google Books Full View)

Most of us are about as eager to be changed as we were to be born, and go through our changes in a similar state of shock. Including this writer, of course, who was far, however, years ago, from being able to forgive himself for being so irretrievably human.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Most of Us Are About as Eager To Be Changed as We Were To Be Born

References

References
1 1977 December 19, New York Magazine, Every Good-bye Ain’t Gone by James Baldwin, Start Page 64, Quote Page 68, NYM Corporation, New York. (Google Books Full View)

Spaceship Earth: No Instruction Book Came With It

Buckminster Fuller? Richard Dreyfuss? C. S. Lewis? William Nicholson? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: A prominent futurist once said that our planet did not come with an instruction book. Therefore, we should act carefully while creating our own instruction book for living and flourishing. I think the author of this notion was Buckminster Fuller. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: In 1969 Robert Buckminster Fuller published “Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth”. He asserted that our planet should be viewed as a spaceship requiring care and maintenance. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1969, Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth by R. Buckminster Fuller (Richard Buckminster Fuller), Chapter 4: Spaceship Earth, Quote Page 52 and 53, Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale, … Continue reading

We have not been seeing our Spaceship Earth as an integrally-designed machine which to be persistently successful must be comprehended and serviced in total.

Now there is one outstandingly important fact regarding Spaceship Earth, and that is that no instruction book came with it. I think it’s very significant that there is no instruction book for successfully operating our ship. In view of the infinite attention to all other details displayed by our ship, it must be taken as deliberate and purposeful that an instruction book was omitted.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Spaceship Earth: No Instruction Book Came With It

References

References
1 1969, Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth by R. Buckminster Fuller (Richard Buckminster Fuller), Chapter 4: Spaceship Earth, Quote Page 52 and 53, Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale, Illinois. (Verified with scans)