Good Is Better than Evil Because It’s Nicer

Al Capp? Li’l Abner Yokum? Mammy Yokum?

Dear Quote Investigator: The comic strip “Li’l Abner” created by Al Capp achieved great popularity in the 1940s and 1950s. The setting was the fictional village of Dogpatch in the Southern United States. Al Capp employed an exaggerated Southern dialect which he spelled phonetically. Teenager Li’l Abner Yokum was the primary character, and his forceful mother was called Mammy Yokum. A homespun motto within the strip contended that good would prevail over evil because it was nicer. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: The saying appeared in the strip published on March 2, 1950. Li’l Abner was attacked during a battle by an opponent who stared at him malevolently, i.e., employed the “evil eye”. Abner fought back by returning the stare with the “good eye”. The first line below was expressed by Li’l Abner, and the second line was spoken by Mammy Yokum during a flashback scene. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

AH IS G-GITTIN’ TH’ EVIL EYE—BUT GOOD!! WHUT WAS IT MAH MAMMY DONE TOLE ME?

SON!! TH’ ONLY WAY YO’ KIN LICK TH’ EVIL EYE IS WIF TH’ GOOD EYE!! GOOD IS BETTER THAN EVIL, BECAUSE IT’S NICER!!

Here is a version using standard spelling:

Ah is getting the evil eye—but good!! What was it my Mammy done told me?

Son!! The only way you can lick the evil eye is with the good eye!! Good is better than evil, because it’s nicer!!

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Good Is Better than Evil Because It’s Nicer

Notes:

  1. 1950 March 2, The Taylor Daily Press, Comic Strip: Li’l Abner by Al Capp, (First line is spoken by the character Li’l Abner; the second line is spoken by the character Mammy Yokum within the memory bubble of Li’l Abner), Quote Page 9, Column 5, Taylor, Texas. (Newspapers_com) link

The Goal of the Future Is Full Unemployment, So We Can Play

Arthur C. Clarke? Gene Youngblood? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: While reading about the economic notion of a universal basic income I came across a statement attributed to the farsighted science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke advocating the goal of “full unemployment” instead of “full employment”. Clarke felt that the computers and robots of the future would perform routine work and drudgery, so we would have more time to play. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: Arthur C. Clarke co-authored the screenplay of “2001: A Space Odyssey” which was released in 1968. In April 1969 a lengthy interview with Clarke conducted by Gene Youngblood appeared in the “Los Angeles Free Press”, an alternative newspaper.

During the conversation Clarke and Youngblood mentioned the benefits humankind might be able to obtain from the development of advanced computer systems able to perform numerous tasks better and more quickly than people. Yet, the HAL 9000 computer in the movie “2001” was frightening, and Youngblood asked why a negative vision was highlighted. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

GENE: But you see the average person doesn’t see it. All he sees is that he’s going to be replaced by a computer, reduced to an IBM card and filed away.

CLARKE: The goal of the future is full unemployment, so we can play. That’s why we have to destroy the present politico-economic system.

GENE: Precisely. Now, we feel that if only this idea had come across in “2001,” instead of depicting machines as ominous and destructive. . .

CLARKE: But it would have been another film. Be thankful for what you’ve got. Maybe Stanley wasn’t interested in making that kind of film.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Goal of the Future Is Full Unemployment, So We Can Play

Notes:

  1. 1969 April 25, Los Angeles Free Press, Free Press Interview: A. C. Clarke author of ‘2001’, (Interview of Arthur C. Clarke conducted by Gene Youngblood), Start Page 42, Quote Page 43, Column 4 and 5, Los Angeles, California. (Reveal Digital Independent Voices Collection at revealdigital.com)

Motto: Don’t Be Evil

Sergey Brin? Stacy Sullivan? Hiroshi Yamauchi? Paul Buchheit? Amit Patel? Marissa Mayer?

Organization: Google? Nintendo? Student Pugwash Conference?

Dear Quote Investigator: Google was founded in 1998, and after a few years one of its employees suggested the following company motto:

Don’t be evil.

Would you please explore the provenance of this slogan?

Quote Investigator: The earliest solidly dated evidence located by QI appeared on a webpage titled “Great Jobs at Google” which once existed at the following web address:

www.google.com/jobs/great-people-needed.html

The historical content of the page can be accessed via the Wayback Machine of the Internet Archive. A snapshot dated March 27, 2002 displayed the following text in a column on the far left of the page. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

In a word, Google’s goal is to do important stuff that matters to a lot of people. In pursuit of that goal, we’ve developed a set of values that drive our work, including one of our most cherished core values: “Don’t be evil.”

The page also listed “10 Things Google has found to be true”; number six was thematically related:

You can make money without doing evil.

The motto has been credited within Google to two different early employees: Paul Buchheit, one of the creators of Gmail, and engineer Amit Patel. The date of origin varies between 1999 and 2001. Details are given further below.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Motto: Don’t Be Evil

Notes:

  1. Internet Archive: Wayback Machine, Web capture date: March 27, 2002, Archive download URL: www.google.com/jobs/great-people-needed.html, Title: Great Jobs at Google. (Accessed at web.archive.org on November 6, 2018) link

They Eked Out a Precarious Livelihood by Taking in Each Other’s Washing

Mark Twain? William Morris? Edward Dicey? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Skeptics have questioned the economic viability of small isolated or insular communities by derisively envisioning rudimentary economies based on simple tasks, e.g., individuals would wash clothes for one another. This notion has been credited to humorist Mark Twain and socialist activist William Morris. In modern times this scenario has been used to criticize measures of economic activity such as the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in the book “The Battle-Fields of 1866” within an essay by Edward Dicey about Heligoland, a small German archipelago in the North Sea near Germany and Denmark. Dicey compared the activities on Heligoland to those on the Isle of Man, an island in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Ireland. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

What the inhabitants do during the winter is a subject too awful for contemplation. Somebody once suggested that the dwellers in the Isle of Man earned a precarious livelihood by taking in each other’s washing. A similar occupation is the only one I can suggest for the Heligolanders. Robinson Crusoe upon his rock can hardly have been more cut off from the outer world.

The locution “somebody once suggested” indicates that the origin is anonymous. Dicey’s essay was dated September 8, 1866 and it was published contemporaneously in newspapers such as “The Sheffield Daily Telegraph” of Sheffield, England which acknowledged “The London Telegraph’s correspondent”. 2

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading They Eked Out a Precarious Livelihood by Taking in Each Other’s Washing

Notes:

  1. 1866, The Battle-Fields of 1866 by Edward Dicey, The Island of Heligoland, Location: Heligoland, Date: September 8, 1866, Start Page 247, Quote Page 254, Tinsley Brothers, London. (Google Books full view) link
  2. 1866 September 17, The Sheffield Daily Telegraph, Heligoland, Quote Page 3, Column 4, Yorkshire, England. (British Newspaper Archive)

Don’t Take Life So Serious, Son … It Ain’t Nohow Permanent

Pogo? Walt Kelly? Porky Pine? Albert Alligator? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Walt Kelly created the landmark comic strip “Pogo” which combined beautiful artwork with entertaining humor. One strip contained a philosophical remark suggesting that one should not take life too seriously because of its transience. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: The “Pogo” strip published on June 24, 1950 was part of a story arc in which the character Albert Alligator faced the possibility of appearing as a defendant in a legal trial. When Albert saw a gallows-like structure being built he fainted. The first line below is spoken by the porcupine character named Porky Pine who is propping up the body of the unconscious Albert. The second line is spoken by a squirrel character who is building the ominous structure, and the third line is spoken by Porky to Albert as he is revived with a splash of water. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

HEY … FETCH SOME BRANCH WATER!

WHAT’S A MATTER HIM?

DON’T TAKE LIFE SO SERIOUS, SON … IT AIN’T NOHOW PERMANENT.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Don’t Take Life So Serious, Son … It Ain’t Nohow Permanent

Notes:

  1. 1950 June 24, Long Beach Independent, Comic Strip: Pogo by Walt Kelly, Quote Page 11, Column 4, Long Beach, California. (Newspapers_com)

A Reader Lives a Thousand Lives Before He Dies. The Man Who Never Reads Lives Only One

Creator: George R. R. Martin, popular author of fantasy, horror, and science fiction who also works as a screenwriter and television producer; he is best known for the television series “Game of Thrones” adapted from the book series “A Song of Ice and Fire”

Context: In 2011 George R. R. Martin published “A Dance with Dragons” which is part of the fantasy series “A Song of Ice and Fire”. One of his characters highlights the multiplicity of lives accessible via reading. Emphasis added: 1

Bran did not understand, so he asked the Reeds. “Do you like to read books, Bran?” Jojen asked him.

“Some books. I like the fighting stories. My sister Sansa likes the kissing stories, but those are stupid.”

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies.” said Jojen. “The man who never reads lives only one.”

Related Article: For one who reads, there is no limit to the number of lives that may be lived – Louis L’Amour

Acknowledgement: Thanks to Christian Higgins who asked about this quotation. Higgins knew the ascription to Martin and wondered about other writers who have made similar remarks.

Notes:

  1. 2013 (Copyright 2011) A Dance with Dragons, by George R. R. Martin, Series: A Song of Ice and Fire, Quote Page 495, (Mass Market Paperback), Bantam Books: An Imprint of Random House Publishing Group. (Amazon Look Inside)

For One Who Reads, There Is No Limit to the Number of Lives That May Be Lived

Creator: Louis L’Amour, very popular novelist who primarily wrote about the American Old West

Context: In 1989 Louis L’Amour published a memoir titled “Education of a Wandering Man”. He eloquently expressed an idea that other writers of fiction and non-fiction have stated. Emphasis added: 1

It is often said that one has but one life to live, but that is nonsense. For one who reads, there is no limit to the number of lives that may be lived, for fiction, biography, and history offer an inexhaustible number of lives in many parts of the world, in all periods of time.

Acknowledgement: Thanks to Darkside Johnny who tweeted the second sentence while crediting L’Amour.

Related Article: A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one. – George R. R. Martin

Notes:

  1. 2008 reissue (1989 Copyright), Education of a Wandering Man: A Memoir by Louis L’Amour, Chapter 3, Unnumbered Page in Preview, Bantam Dell: A Division of Random House, New York. (Google Books Preview)

Fear Defeats More People than Any Other One Thing in the World

Ralph Waldo Emerson? Elbert Hubbard? Napoleon Bonaparte? Dale Carnegie? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Self-help books encourage people to act with confidence and assurance because apprehension can block progress. I once read the following motivational statement:

Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.

These words were attributed to the famous transcendentalist philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. I am skeptical of the ascription because I have not been able to find a citation. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: This saying has been ascribed to Emerson, Elbert Hubbard, Napoleon Bonaparte and others. QI has not yet located substantive evidence identifying the creator; he or she remains anonymous. This article presents a snapshot of current research.

The earliest close match located by QI appeared in an advertisement for “The Emma Dunn Method of Adult Education” printed in the “Los Angeles Times” in 1936. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

YOU WILL CONQUER FEAR
“Fear defeats more men than any other one thing in the world,” says Elbert Hubbard.

Elbert Hubbard founded a New York artisan community called Roycroft. He was known for creating, collecting, and popularizing adages. However, he died in 1915, and QI has not yet found any direct evidence during his lifetime that he authored this saying.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Fear Defeats More People than Any Other One Thing in the World

Notes:

  1. 1936 June 3, Los Angeles Times, No High Pressure Salesmanship (Advertisement for The Emma Dunn Method of Adult Education, Hollywood, California), Quote Page 6, Column 5, Los Angeles, California. (Newspapers_com)

As Years Come In and Years Go Out, I Totter Toward the Tomb

Dorothy L. Sayers? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Gossip mongers are obsessed with identifying and publicizing the latest carnal pairings of celebrities. The acclaimed mystery writer Dorothy L. Sayers composed a short poem expressing disinterest in this subject, and I have seen two distinct versions of her humorous four lines. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence located by QI appeared in a letter written by Dorothy L. Sayers in 1953. She was responding to John Betjeman who inquired about the poem. Sayers recognized that different versions were circulating, and she presented the following text as genuine: 1

As years come in and years go out
I totter toward the tomb,
Still caring less and less about
Who goes to bed with whom.

Sayers highlighted the rhyme between the first and third lines, and said that the “alliteration in the second line lends, I feel, a kind of rickety dignity to the whole”. The third and fourth lines are spoken together without a pause; referred to as enjambment in poetry. Sayers commented that the rhyme and flow “seem to usher in the final pronouncement with a more breathless solemnity.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading As Years Come In and Years Go Out, I Totter Toward the Tomb

Notes:

  1. 2000 Copyright, The Letters of Dorothy L. Sayers: Volume Four: 1951-1957: In the Midst of Life by Dorothy L. Sayers (Dorothy Leigh Sayers), Chosen and Edited by Barbara Reynolds, Letter from Dorothy L. Sayers to John Betjeman, Letter dated February 2, 1953, Quote Page 80, Published by The Dorothy L. Sayers Society, Carole Green Publishing, Cambridge, England. (Verified with scans from Wheaton College, Buswell Library)

Writing Well Is the Best Revenge

Dorothy Parker? Susan Sontag? Alix Nelson? Ross Macdonald? Kenneth Millar? Tom Samet? Edmund Wilson? Anne Ruggles Gere? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Yesterday, while reading an acerbic episode within a stylish memoir I recalled the following adage:

Writing well is the best revenge.

These words are often credited to the famous wit Dorothy Parker, but I am skeptical because I have never seen a good citation. Would you please examine this topic?

Quote Investigator: Dorothy Parker died in 1967, and QI has not yet found any substantive evidence that she employed this saying. QI has found instances in 1976, but that is a surprisingly late date. Perhaps future researchers will build on this research and locate earlier occurrences.

In August 1976 Alix Nelson, a New York-based journalist and copywriter, published a book review in “The New York Times”. One of the book’s primary characters was portrayed very harshly, and Nelson likened that figure to Alexander Portnoy who was the lead in an influential work published seven years prior titled “Portnoy’s Complaint” by Philip Roth. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Never has an ordinary man been rendered with such glee. For those of us who’ve been waiting around for Alexander Portnoy to get his, author Rhoda Lerman here “hulls him from the belly button like an overripe strawberry” to prove that writing well is the best revenge.

The other early instance was from the pen of the famous mystery writer Ross Macdonald (pseudonym of Kenneth Millar) who in 1976 wrote the expression in a book dedication for fellow mystery writer William Campbell Gault. The inscription was mentioned in a profile article about Gault published in the “Los Angeles Times” in 1984: 2

In 1976, Ross MacDonald dedicated his last book, “The Blue Hammer,” to him, writing in his copy: “To Bill Gault, who knows that writing well is the best revenge.”

The article by David Wilson containing the words above also included many quotations from Gault and a description of the interior of his home; hence, QI believes Wilson visited Gault’s home and directly inspected the book’s dedication.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Writing Well Is the Best Revenge

Notes:

  1. 1976 August 8, New York Times, Section: New York Times Book Review, The Girl That He Marries by Alix Nelson, Start Page 10, Quote Page 10, Column 5, New York. (ProQuest)
  2. 1984 December 14, Los Angeles Times, An Author From the Old School: For This Writer, There’s No Mystery About What Sells by David Wilson, Quote Page 14, Column 1, Los Angeles, California. (ProQuest)