My Favorite Weapon Is a Twenty Dollar Bill

Raymond Chandler? Philip Marlowe? Dorothy Gardiner? Kathrine Sorley Walker? Apocryphal?

Question for Quote Investigator: A famous author of noir detective fiction was irritated that interviewers often thought that his veridical life should be similar to the life of his hardboiled fictional private eye. Apparently, some journalists wanted to know whether the author carried a Luger, a Colt, or a Smith & Wesson revolver. The author stated comically:

My favorite weapon is a twenty dollar bill.

Would you please help me to identify this author and find a citation?

Reply from Quote Investigator: Raymond Chandler created the archetypal detective character Philip Marlowe who appeared in the novels “The Big Sleep”, “Farewell, My Lovely”, and “The Long Goodbye”. These novels were made into popular movies with Humphrey Bogart providing a memorable characterization of Marlowe in the first film.

In 1951 “Picture Post” magazine of London sent a set of interview questions to Chandler via his Hollywood agent Edgar Carter. Chandler sent a letter to Carter disparaging the magazine and its questions. Chandler included a satirical self-portrait. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1981, Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler by Raymond Chandler, Edited by Frank MacShane, Letter To: Edgar Carter, Letter Date: February 5, 1951, Start Page 257, Quote Page 257 and 258, Columbia … Continue reading

Yes, I am exactly like the characters in my books. I am very tough and have been known to break a Vienna roll with my bare hands . . .

I get my material in various ways, but my favorite procedure (sometimes known as the Jerry Wald system) consists of going through the desks of other writers after hours. I am thirty-eight years old and have been for the last twenty years. I do not regard myself as a dead shot, but I am a pretty dangerous man with a wet towel. But all in all I think my favorite weapon is a twenty dollar bill. In my spare time I collect elephants.

The remark about Wald was an inside joke. He was the head of Warner Brothers Studio in Hollywood.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading My Favorite Weapon Is a Twenty Dollar Bill

References

References
1 1981, Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler by Raymond Chandler, Edited by Frank MacShane, Letter To: Edgar Carter, Letter Date: February 5, 1951, Start Page 257, Quote Page 257 and 258, Columbia University Press, New York. (Verified with scans)

Making Love As Though We’re an Endangered Species

Peter De Vries? Laurence J. Peter? Apocryphal?

Question for Quote Investigator: Do you know who is responsible for crafting the following vivid and humorous simile?:

They made love as though they were an endangered species.

Is this the correct phrasing? I do not know whether such lovemaking would be celebratory, frenetic, fatalistic, or hopeless.

Reply from Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in “Forever Panting” by Peter De Vries. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1973 Copyright, Forever Panting by Peter De Vries, Chapter 1, Quote Page 20 and 21, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, Massachusetts. (Verified with scans)

That night Dolly and I made love as though we were an endangered species, and, oh, how gratefully one sinks into that sweet membraneous vortex of which the descent into sleep then seems the soft continuance, till the bliss and the peace together are one funneling whirlpool . . .

Peter De Vries used this simile again later in the book:[2] 1973 Copyright, Forever Panting by Peter De Vries, Chapter 16, Quote Page 270, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, Massachusetts. (Verified with scans)

I come to you, a landlady with eleven children all of whom have left you to become ecologists. Thanks to the likes of them we may yet attain zero population growth. All right. You take me in, clasp me to your evacuated bosom, and, making love as though we’re an endangered species—”

Below are two additional selected citations.

Continue reading Making Love As Though We’re an Endangered Species

References

References
1 1973 Copyright, Forever Panting by Peter De Vries, Chapter 1, Quote Page 20 and 21, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, Massachusetts. (Verified with scans)
2 1973 Copyright, Forever Panting by Peter De Vries, Chapter 16, Quote Page 270, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, Massachusetts. (Verified with scans)

You Are All a Lost Generation

Gertrude Stein? Ernest Hemingway? Hotel Keeper? Automobile Repair Shop Owner? Anonymous?

Question for Quote Investigator: Would you please explore the provenance of the following expression? Here are two versions:

You are all a lost generation.
You are all a génération perdue.

The phrase “lost generation” has been applied to young people who experienced the repercussions of World War I. It has also been narrowly applied to a group of U.S. expatriate writers who lived in Paris after the war.

Reply from Quote Investigator: In 1926 prominent U.S. writer Ernest Hemingway published the acclaimed novel “The Sun Also Rises” which began with the following epigraph. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1926 Copyright, The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, (Epigraph for book), Quote Page 1, Grosset & Dunlap, New York. (Google Books Full View) link

“You are all a lost generation.”
—Gertrude Stein in conversation.

Interestingly, author Gertrude Stein did not coin this phrase, but there are two different stories about the originator. Hemingway claimed that Stein heard the phrase from an automobile repair shop owner. Yet, Stein wrote that she heard the phrase from a hotel keeper. Details are given below.

Continue reading You Are All a Lost Generation

References

References
1 1926 Copyright, The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, (Epigraph for book), Quote Page 1, Grosset & Dunlap, New York. (Google Books Full View) link

The Man Who Is Certain He Is Right Is Almost Sure To Be Wrong

Michael Faraday? Henry Bence Jones? Apocryphal?

Question for Quote Investigator: A dogmatic or inflexible certitude leads to errors. When one is certain of being right one is almost sure to be wrong. The famous English physicist and chemist Michael Faraday said something like that. Would you please help me to find his exact phrasing and a citation?

Reply from Quote Investigator: Michael Faraday died in 1867. In 1870 fellow scientist Henry Bence Jones who was the Secretary of the U.K. Royal Institution published “The Life and Letters of Faraday”. The book included material from a lecture Faraday delivered in 1819 titled “On the Forms of Matter”. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1870, The Life and Letters of Faraday by Dr. Bence Jones (Secretary of the Royal Institution), Volume 1 of 2, Chapter 4: 1815-1819, Section: His Lectures During His Earlier Scientific Education, … Continue reading

Nothing is more difficult and requires more care than philosophical deduction, nor is there anything more adverse to its accuracy than fixidity of opinion. The man who is certain he is right is almost sure to be wrong, and he has the additional misfortune of inevitably remaining so. All our theories are fixed upon uncertain data, and all of them want alteration and support.

Ever since the world began, opinion has changed with the progress of things; and it is something more than absurd to suppose that we have a sure claim to perfection, or that we are in possession of the highest stretch of intellect which has or can result from human thought.

Below are two additional selected citations.

Continue reading The Man Who Is Certain He Is Right Is Almost Sure To Be Wrong

References

References
1 1870, The Life and Letters of Faraday by Dr. Bence Jones (Secretary of the Royal Institution), Volume 1 of 2, Chapter 4: 1815-1819, Section: His Lectures During His Earlier Scientific Education, Period: 1819, Quote Page 310, Longmans, Green, and Company, London. (Google Books Full View) link

It’s Not the Size of the Dog in the Fight, It’s the Size of the Fight in the Dog

Mark Twain? Dwight D. Eisenhower? Arthur G. Lewis? Clarence Edmundson? Bear Bryant? Harry Howell? Samuel B. Pettengill? Woody Hayes? Apocryphal?

Question for Quote Investigator: When there is a conflict between two entities an observer naturally expects the larger one to prevail, but sometimes the determination and grit of the smaller one produces an upset victory. The following adage using antimetabole is pertinent:

What counts is not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.

This saying has been attributed to famous humorist Mark Twain and U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower. I am skeptical of these linkages. Would you please explore this topic?

Reply from Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive evidence that Mark Twain employed this saying. Scholar Matt Seybold of the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies has also concluded that the attribution to Twain is unsupported.[1]Website: Center for Mark Twain Studies, Article: The Apocryphal Twain: “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog” Author: Matt Seybold, Date: July 14, … Continue reading

The earliest match known to QI appeared in the April 1911 issue of the magazine “Book of the Royal Blue” which was published for the passengers of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. Columnist Arthur G. Lewis printed a collection of sayings under the title “Stub Ends of Thoughts”. Here were four items. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[2]1911 April, Book of the Royal Blue, Volume 14, Number 7, Stub Ends of Thoughts by Arthur G. Lewis, Quote Page 21, Column 1, Published Monthly by the Passenger Department of the Baltimore & Ohio … Continue reading

We are constrained to respect public opinion or public opinion will not respect us.

As long as a man endeavors to make good there is always a chance for him to do so.

It is not the size of the dog in the fight that counts, but the fight in the dog that wins.

But few friendships survive the “down and out” condition of multiplied misfortunes.

QI tentatively credits Arthur G. Lewis with crafting this adage. The above citation appeared in the excellent reference work “The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs” published by Yale University Press in 2012.[3] 2012, The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs, Compiled by Charles Clay Doyle, Wolfgang Mieder, and Fred R. Shapiro, Quote Page 232, Yale University Press, New Haven. (Verified on paper)

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading It’s Not the Size of the Dog in the Fight, It’s the Size of the Fight in the Dog

References

References
1 Website: Center for Mark Twain Studies, Article: The Apocryphal Twain: “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog” Author: Matt Seybold, Date: July 14, 2021, Website description: “The Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies is dedicated to fostering and supporting scholarship and pedagogy related to all aspects of Mark Twain”. (Accessed marktwainstudies.com on September 18, 2022) link
2 1911 April, Book of the Royal Blue, Volume 14, Number 7, Stub Ends of Thoughts by Arthur G. Lewis, Quote Page 21, Column 1, Published Monthly by the Passenger Department of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in Baltimore, Maryland. (Google Books Full View) link
3 2012, The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs, Compiled by Charles Clay Doyle, Wolfgang Mieder, and Fred R. Shapiro, Quote Page 232, Yale University Press, New Haven. (Verified on paper)

You Shall Know a Word by the Company It Keeps

John Rupert Firth? Melanie Mitchell? Ludwig Wittgenstein? A. H. Schutz? Apocryphal?

Question for Quote Investigator: A dictionary defines the meaning of a word by using a sequence of other words. Occasionally, a definition employs a picture. Linguists and artificial intelligence researchers have suggested that the denotations and connotations of a word emerge via an examination of the words that commonly occur adjacent or nearby. This notion is reflected in the following adage:

You shall know a word by the company it keeps.

Would you please explore the provenance of this statement?

Reply from Quote Investigator: The earliest close match known to QI appeared in 1957 within an article by linguist John Rupert Firth titled “A Synopsis of Linguistic Theory” which was published by the Philological Society of London. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1968, Selected Papers of J. R. Firth 1952-59 (John Rupert Firth), Edited by F. R. Palmer (Frank Robert Palmer), Chapter 11: A synopsis of linguistic theory, Reprinted from: Studies in linguistic … Continue reading

As Wittgenstein says, ‘the meaning of words lies in their use.’ The day-to-day practice of playing language games recognizes customs and rules. It follows that a text in such established usage may contain sentences such as ‘Don’t be such an ass!’, ‘You silly ass!’, ‘What an ass he is!’ In these examples, the word ass is in familiar and habitual company, commonly collocated with you silly—, he is a silly—, don’t be such an—. You shall know a word by the company it keeps!

QI believes John Rupert Firth should receive credit for the expression under investigation.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading You Shall Know a Word by the Company It Keeps

References

References
1 1968, Selected Papers of J. R. Firth 1952-59 (John Rupert Firth), Edited by F. R. Palmer (Frank Robert Palmer), Chapter 11: A synopsis of linguistic theory, Reprinted from: Studies in linguistic analysis (Special volume of the Philological Society, Oxford, 1957, 1-31), Start Page 168, Quote Page 179, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana. (Verified with scans)

My Pencil and I Are More Clever Than I Am

Albert Einstein? Karl Popper? Adolf von Harnack? Agnes von Zahn-Harnack? Dorothy Kilgallen? Jules C. Stein? David Deutsch? Apocryphal?

Question for Quote Investigator: Solving difficult problems often requires sketching out preliminary ideas on paper with a pen or pencil. The paper functions as an extension of human memory, and a scratchpad for developing thoughts. A famous scientist has been credited with saying something like this. Here are three versions:

(1) My pencil and I are more clever than I am.
(2) My pen is cleverer than I.
(3) My pencil is more intelligent than I.

This saying has been attributed to Albert Einstein, but I have been unable to find a citation. Would you please explore this topic?

Reply from Quote Investigator: Albert Einstein died in 1955. In 1965 the influential philosopher of science Karl Popper delivered a series of lectures at Washington University, St Louis. The following year he published “Of Clouds and Clocks” based on the lecture material. Popper attributed a version of the remark about pencils to Einstein within a footnote about computers. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1984, Popper Selections by Karl Popper, Edited by David Miller, Chapter 20: Indeterminism and Human Freedom, Date: 1965, (This chapter consists of sections II-IV and VI-XI from ‘Of Clouds and … Continue reading

… we use, and build, computers because they can do many things which we cannot do; just as I use a pen or pencil when I wish to tot up a sum I cannot do in my head. ‘My pencil is more intelligent than I’, Einstein used to say.

QI has not yet found direct evidence of this quotation in the writings or speeches of Einstein. QI does not know where Popper found the quotation. A German version of the saying was attributed to another person in 1936 as shown further below.

The remark is not listed in the comprehensive reference “The Ultimate Quotable Einstein” from Princeton University Press, but the reference does contain a pertinent quotation from Einstein’s sister, Maja, who stated that Albert used a pen while cogitating:[2] 2010, The Ultimate Quotable Einstein, Edited by Alice Calaprice, Section: Others on Einstein, Quote Page 503, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. (Verified on paper)

Even when there was a lot of noise, he could lie down on the sofa, pick up a pen and paper, precariously balance an inkwell on the backrest, and engross himself in a problem so much so that the background noise stimulated rather than disturbed him.

Maja Einstein. See CPAE (Collected Papers of Albert Einstein), Vol. 1, lxiv

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading My Pencil and I Are More Clever Than I Am

References

References
1 1984, Popper Selections by Karl Popper, Edited by David Miller, Chapter 20: Indeterminism and Human Freedom, Date: 1965, (This chapter consists of sections II-IV and VI-XI from ‘Of Clouds and Clocks’; this was the Second Arthur Holly Compton Memorial Lecture, delivered at Washington University, St Louis, in 1965), Footnote 21, Quote Page 431, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. (Verified with scans)
2 2010, The Ultimate Quotable Einstein, Edited by Alice Calaprice, Section: Others on Einstein, Quote Page 503, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. (Verified on paper)

The Trouble About Fighting for Human Freedom Is That You Have To Spend Much of Your Life Defending Sons-of-Bitches

H.L. Mencken? Gerald W. Johnson? Apocryphal?

Question for Quote Investigator: Oppressive laws are sometimes promulgated to target unsavory individuals. The opposition to these laws requires defending these individuals. The famous Baltimore journalist and commentator H. L. Mencken apparently said something like the following:

The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels.

Did Mencken really say this? Would you please help me to find the correct phrasing together with a citation?

Reply from Quote Investigator: H. L. Mencken died in January 1956, and shortly afterward his colleague Gerald W. Johnson published an essay about his life in “The Saturday Review”. Both Mencken and Johnson worked at “The Baltimore Sun” and “The Evening Sun” newspapers of Maryland for many years. Johnson presented remarks he had heard directly from Mencken. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1956 February 11, The Saturday Review, Henry L. Mencken [1880-1956] by Gerald W. Johnson, Start Page 12, Quote Page 13, Column 2, Saturday Review Associates, New York. (Unz)

“The trouble about fighting for human freedom,” he remarked once, “is that you have to spend much of your life defending sons-of-bitches; for oppressive laws are always aimed at them originally, and oppression must be stopped in the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.”

In this version of the quotation, the term “sons-of-bitches” occurred instead of “scoundrels”. The bowdlerized variant with “scoundrels” began circulating by 2003.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Trouble About Fighting for Human Freedom Is That You Have To Spend Much of Your Life Defending Sons-of-Bitches

References

References
1 1956 February 11, The Saturday Review, Henry L. Mencken [1880-1956] by Gerald W. Johnson, Start Page 12, Quote Page 13, Column 2, Saturday Review Associates, New York. (Unz)

Always Verify Your Quotations

Winston Churchill? Martin Routh? John Burgon? G. W. Peck? Earl of Rosebery? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: According to a legend of academia, a young student once asked an illustrious professor to impart his greatest piece of wisdom, and the sage replied with one of these statements:

(1) Always verify your quotations.
(2) Always check your references.
(3) Always verify references.
(4) Always check your citations.

Ironically, few people are heeding this advice; hence, the details of this tale are uncertain. Winston Churchill sometimes receives credit for telling this story although I think it was circulating before he was born. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Martin Routh was the President of Magdalen College, Oxford for more than six decades. He was a renowned classical scholar who died in 1854, and he has usually received credit for this saying.

The student who asked Routh for advice was John Burgon who later became a leader in the Anglican Church. Burgon presented a brief description of the interaction at the beginning of his 1871 book titled “The Last Twelve Verses of the Gospel According to S. Mark”. Boldface added to excepts by QI:[1]1871, The Last Twelve Verses of the Gospel According to S. Mark Vindicated Against Recent Critical Objectors and Established by John W. Burgon (Vicar of S. Mary-The-Virgin’s, Fellow of Oriel … Continue reading

“‘Advice to you,’ sir, ‘in studying Divinity?’ Did you say that you ‘wished I would give you a few words of advice,’ sir? … Then let me recommend to you the practice of always verifying your references, sir!”
Conversation of the late President Routh

Burgon stated in a later book that the dialog occurred on November 29, 1847. Thus, the 1871 description above appeared more than two decades after the event occurred. This long delay reduced the reliability of the report.

QI has uncovered earlier published evidence of this family of sayings. The first instances referred to “quotations” instead of “references” or “citations”. Below is an overview with dates:

Continue reading Always Verify Your Quotations

References

References
1 1871, The Last Twelve Verses of the Gospel According to S. Mark Vindicated Against Recent Critical Objectors and Established by John W. Burgon (Vicar of S. Mary-The-Virgin’s, Fellow of Oriel College, and Gresham Lecturer in Divinity, Quote appears on title page, James Parker and Company, Oxford, England. (Google Books Full View) link

To Get the Full Value of a Joy You Must Have Somebody To Divide It With

Mark Twain? Arthur T. Pierson? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: To experience a joyful event completely one should share it with others. I think Mark Twain made a point similar to this in his collection of sayings called “Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar”. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1897 Mark Twain released a travel book titled “Following the Equator: A Journey Around the World”, and the 48th chapter presented the following epigraph. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1897, Following the Equator: A Journey Around the World by Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens), (Chapter 48 Epigraph), Quote Page 447, American Publishing Company, Hartford, Connecticut; Also Doubleday … Continue reading

Grief can take care of itself; but to get the full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with. —Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading To Get the Full Value of a Joy You Must Have Somebody To Divide It With

References

References
1 1897, Following the Equator: A Journey Around the World by Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens), (Chapter 48 Epigraph), Quote Page 447, American Publishing Company, Hartford, Connecticut; Also Doubleday & McClure Company, New York. (Internet Archive) link