Honesty Is the 1st Chapter in the Book of Wisdom

Thomas Jefferson? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A large number of the quotations attributed to Thomas Jefferson are apocryphal; hence, I have learned to be cautious. Do you know whether the following remark is from the pen of Jefferson?

Honesty is the first chapter of the book wisdom.

Any help would be appreciated.

Quote Investigator: Thomas Jefferson sent a two page letter to Nathaniel Macon on January 12, 1819. The saying about honesty appeared on the second page. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Whether the succeeding generation is to be more virtuous than their predecessors, I cannot say; but I am sure they will have more worldly wisdom, and enough, I hope, to know that honesty is the 1st chapter in the book of wisdom.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. Library of Congress, Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Nathaniel Macon, (Page 2 of 2 Images), Date of letter: January 12, 1819, Location of letter writer: Monticello, Library of Congress Manuscript Division, Washington D.C. (Accessed loc.gov on July 21, 2019) link

There Is No Safety In Numbers, Or In Anything Else

James Thurber? Jane Austen? Charles Caleb Colton? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Many are familiar with the following adage which encourages aggregation:

There is safety in numbers.

Yet, I recall reading a short acerbic tale that presented an inverted moral of this type:

There is no safety in numbers, or anything else.

Would you please help me to find this story?

Quote Investigator: In 1939 “The New Yorker” published a set of four short tales by humorist James Thurber under the title “Fables for Our Time – II”. The first story was about a “fairly intelligent fly” who avoided being caught in an empty spider web. Unfortunately, when the fly later encountered a large group of flies together on a surface he decided to settle down among them. A bee warned the fly that the group were trapped on flypaper. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

“Don’t be silly,” said the fly, “they’re dancing.” So he settled down and became stuck to the flypaper with all the other flies.

Moral: There is no safety in numbers, or in anything else.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 1939 February 4, The New Yorker, Fables for Our Time – II by James Thurber, Start Page 20, Quote Page 20, Column 1, F. R. Publishing Corporation, New York. (Online New Yorker archive of digital scans)

It Is Quite As Important To Know What Kind of a Patient the Disease Has Got As To Know What Kind of a Disease the Patient Has Got

William Osler? Caleb Hillier Parry? Henry George Plimmer? Woods Hutchinson? Walter Moxon? Albert Abrams? Hippocrates? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: In medicine it is crucial to identify the disease that afflicts the patient, but that is only one part of the full assessment. Determining the best treatment requires a careful examination of the history and the behavior of the patient. Here is a germane adage:

It is more important to know what kind of a patient has the disease than what kind of a disease the patient has.

This saying has been attributed to several famous medical educators including William Osler and Caleb Hillier Parry. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: A precursor adage emphasizing the need to focus on the patient was circulating in 1846 when it appeared in “The Lancet” with an anonymous attribution. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Dr. Golding Bird agreed in an observation that had fallen from a speaker at the last meeting, that, in the practice of medicine, the great point was to treat the patient, and not the disease.

In 1894 a different precursor appeared in the book “A System of Genito-Urinary Diseases, Syphilology and Dermatology”. Professor Andrew R. Robinson was the author of a section containing the following passage which highlighted the need to understand the patient: 2

Why is it that one case of scarlatina or pneumonia or smallpox is severe and even fatal, and another mild? The organism is always a definite and similar one, even if it varies in virulent powers at different periods of an epidemic; consequently it is not a question of the kind of disease (or organism) the patient has, but rather the kind of patient the disease has attacked, and an appreciation of this fact gives the best results in treatment.

In 1899 Henry George Plimmer who was a Lecturer on Pathology and Bacteriology at St Mary’s Hospital Medical School delivered a short address that was recorded in “St. Mary’s Hospital Gazette”. The following excerpt contains the earliest strong match for the adage known to QI: 3

You will have to acquire, too, for any success to be given you, an accurate knowledge of human nature, and you will find that it is quite as important for the doctor to know what kind of patient the disease has for host, as to know what sort of disease the patient has for guest.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading It Is Quite As Important To Know What Kind of a Patient the Disease Has Got As To Know What Kind of a Disease the Patient Has Got

Notes:

  1. 1846 October 10, The Lancet, Medical Society of London, Monday, October 5th, Mr. Denby, President, Quote Page 407, Published at the Offices of the Lancet, London. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1894, A System of Genito-Urinary Diseases, Syphilology and Dermatology by Various Authors, Edited by Prince A. Morrow, Three Volumes, Volume 3: Dermatology, Sycosis by Andrew R. Robinson (Professor of Dermatology in the New York Polyclinic), Start Page 881, Quote Page 891, D. Appleton and Company, New York. (HathiTrust Full View) link
  3. 1899 October, St. Mary’s Hospital Gazette, On Some Motives and Methods in Medicine by H. G. Plimmer (Lecturer on Pathology and Bacteriology at St Mary’s Hospital Medical School), Address delivered October 2, 1899, Start Page 116, Quote Page 117, London. (HathiTrust Full View) link

It Was Shaw Who Advised Young Playwrights To Gear the Length of Each Act To the Endurance of the Human Bladder

Alfred Hitchcock? George Bernard Shaw? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Enthusiastic critics treat films as elevated objects of art, but the famous director Alfred Hitchcock once insightfully remarked on the pragmatic limitations placed on commercial movies by human biology. He stated that the proper length of a film was dependent on the endurance of the human bladder. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1963 “The Oregonian” of Portland, Oregon published comments made by Alfred Hitchcock during a phone interview. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Motion pictures are the only form of entertainment where the audience is forced to sit quietly for two or three hours without interruption, Hitchcock continued. In theatrical terms, television is superior in this regard to motion pictures. The hour-long show is broken into three acts because of the commercials.

“Wasn’t it George Bernard Shaw who tried that noble experiment in one of his early plays? He tried to discover how long the first act could run, based upon the endurance of the human bladder. I wish I could recall his conclusions.”

On this occasion Hitchcock spoke on the bladder theme, but he did not utter a synoptic remark that would fit into a book of quotations. QI is unsure whether Shaw actually wrote or spoke on this topic.

A year later in 1964 Hitchcock traveled to San Francisco, California to shoot a scene for the film “Marnie”, and he communicated with a journalist working for the “San Francisco Examiner”. Hitchcock said that the running time of “Marnie” would be less than two hours, and he opposed overly-long films: 2

“If it’s a compelling story, you want to read it at one sitting. The novel can be put down and picked up again. The play is divided into three acts. But the movie should be quick, terse and all of a piece.

“I think it was Shaw who advised young playwrights to gear the length of each act to the endurance of the human bladder.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 1963 November 22, The Oregonian, Behind the Mike by Francis Murphy, Quote Page 7, Column 1, Portland, Oregon. (GenealogyBank)
  2. 1964 February 12, San Francisco Examiner, Hitchcock on Shipboard by Jeanne Miller, Quote Page 5C, Column 5, San Francisco, California. (Newspapers_com)

The Merely Different Is Not Always Better, But the Better Is Always Different

David Rowland? Dale Dauten? Art Weinstein? William C. Johnson? Sun Microsystems? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Attempting something new and innovative is crucial to success in many fields, but triumph is not guaranteed. An unfamiliar or unusual strategy may fail. Designers have advanced the following adage:

Different isn’t always better, but better is always different.

Memorability is enhanced by the rhetorical technique called antimetabole in which a phrase is repeated, but key elements are reordered. Would you please trace this saying?

Quote Investigator: David Rowland was a New York industrial designer who created the remarkable 40/4 stackable chair. The numeric name was based on the fact that forty of the chairs could be combined to produce a stack that was only four feet tall. An article about Rowland appeared in “The Miami News” of Florida in 1965. At that time the chair had recently won an American Institute of Interior Designers International Award. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

A designer of chairs since he was 13, the California native has an artistic family background. Much of his early childhood was influenced by the designers in his family. In his approach to design, Rowland’s motto is “the merely ‘different’ is not always better, but the better is always different.”

This phrasing of the adage above differs from the typical modern version, but it still represents a close match. Rowland popularized this expression, and QI tentatively gives him credit as creator.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 1965 February 7, The Miami News, Rowland Got To The Bottom Of That Chair Problem, Quote Page 32, Column 3, Miami, Florida. (Newspapers_com)

No Matter How Far a Person Can Go the Horizon Is Still Way Beyond You

Zora Neale Hurston? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Futurists use the horizon metaphorically to help explain the limits of prediction. As one approaches the horizon, more of the world becomes visible, but there are always vast regions that remain invisible because they are beyond the horizon. I think the Harlem Renaissance author Zora Neale Hurston employed the ever receding horizon figuratively in one of her novels. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: Zora Neale Hurston’s 1937 work “Their Eyes Were Watching God” included the following discussion of the character Nanny. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

But Nanny belonged to that other kind that loved to deal in scraps. Here Nanny had taken the biggest thing God ever made, the horizon—for no matter how far a person can go the horizon is still way beyond you—and pinched it in to such a little bit of a thing that she could tie it about her granddaughter’s neck tight enough to choke her.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 1978 (Copyright 1937), Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Novel by Zora Neale Hurston, Chapter 9, Quote Page 138, University of Illinois Press, Urbana, Illinois. (Verified with scans)

Courage Is Rightly Esteemed the First of Human Qualities Because . . . It Is the Quality Which Guarantees All Others

Winston Churchill? Samuel Johnson? James Boswell? Aristotle? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The rights and freedoms enshrined in political documents are sometimes nullified by oppressive governments. The health of a society depends on the principles and the bravery of the populace. Here is a pertinent adage:

Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all others.

These words have been attributed to statesman Winston Churchill, but I have not been able to find a citation. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: In 1931 Winston Churchill wrote an article published in “Collier’s” magazine about King Alfonso XIII of Spain, and the piece included Churchill’s cogent remark about courage. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Men and kings must be judged in the testing moments of their lives. Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities, because, as has been said, it is the quality which guarantees all others. Courage, physical and moral, King Alfonso has proved on every occasion of personal danger or political stress. Many years ago in the face of a difficult situation Alfonso made the proud declaration, no easy boast in Spain, “I was born on the throne, I shall die on it.”

The common modern version of this quotation has been simplified and streamlined. The phrase “as has been said” is typically omitted. Churchill was probably referring to a remark by the famous 18th-century man of letters Samuel Johnson. The quintessential biographer James Boswell who authored “The Life of Samuel Johnson” described a conversation about public speaking that occurred in 1775: 2

“Why then, (I asked,) is it thought disgraceful for a man not to fight, and not disgraceful not to speak in publick?” Johnson. “Because there may be other reasons for a man’s not speaking in publick than want of resolution: he may have nothing to say, (laughing). Whereas, Sir, you know courage is reckoned the greatest of all virtues; because, unless a man has that virtue, he has no security for preserving any other.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Courage Is Rightly Esteemed the First of Human Qualities Because . . . It Is the Quality Which Guarantees All Others

Notes:

  1. 1931 June 27, Collier’s, Unlucky Alfonso by Winston Churchill, Start Page 11, Quote Page 49, Column 2, P. F. Collier and Son, New York. (Unz Database)
  2. 1791, The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.: Comprehending an Account of His Studies and Numerous Works, in Chronological Order by James Boswell, Volume 1 of 2, Time period specified: April 5, 1775, Quote Page 473, Printed by Henry Baldwin for Charles Dilly, London. (HathiTrust Full View) link

The Fellow Who Thinks He Knows It All Is Especially Annoying To Those of Us Who Do

Isaac Asimov? Harold Coffin? Unitarian Church Bulletin? Robert Reisner? Joey Adams? Milton Berle? Robert K. Mueller? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Know-it-alls are eager to assert their expertise on all subjects. I love the following comical reaction to grandiose egotism:

Those who believe they know everything are a great nuisance to those of us who do.

The science fiction grandmaster Isaac Asimov has received credit for this line, but I have been unable to find any solid evidence. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: This quip is difficult to trace because it has been expressed in many different ways, and it has evolved over time. Here is a sampling:

  • The fellow who thinks he knows it all is especially annoying to those of us who do.
  • People who think they know everything are terribly irritating to those of us who do.
  • Those who think they know it all upset those of us who do.
  • Those who think they know it all are very annoying to those who do.
  • People who think they know everything always annoy those of us who do.
  • People who think they know it all always bug people who do.
  • People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.

The earliest match located by QI appeared as a filler item in “The Saturday Evening Post” in 1961. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

The fellow who thinks he knows it all is especially annoying to those of us who do.
HAROLD COFFIN

Coffin was a humor columnist with the Associated Press (AP) news service in the 1960s and 1970s. He wrote a feature called “Coffin’s Needle” although QI has not found the joke in Coffin’s AP writings. 2

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Fellow Who Thinks He Knows It All Is Especially Annoying To Those of Us Who Do

Notes:

  1. 1961 May 6, The Saturday Evening Post, (Filler item), Quote Page 93, Column 2, Curtis Publishing Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (EBSCO MasterFILE Premier)
  2. 1981 September 18, The New York Times, Harold Coffin (Obituary), Quote Page D15, New York. (ProQuest)

Anyone Who Believes Exponential Growth Can Go On Forever in a Finite World Is Either a Madman or an Economist

Kenneth Boulding? Paul Ehrlich? David Attenborough? Mancur Olson? Wayne H. Davis? Jay W. Forrester? John S. Steinhart? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Population size, energy use, and gross domestic product (GDP) have grown exponentially for limited time periods within some nations; however, these trends are complex. Economies sometimes shrink; per-capita energy use sometimes declines; human population sometimes grows linearly. Recent projections suggest that the number of people on Earth may even plateau. An exasperated scholar once said something like this:

Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.

Anyone who thinks that you can have infinite growth in a finite environment is either a madman or an economist.

This remark has been attributed to economist Kenneth Boulding, biologist Paul R. Ehrlich, and broadcaster David Attenborough. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest strong match located by QI appeared in the Fall 1973 issue of the journal “Daedalus”. The general topic of the issue was “The No-Growth Society”, and the economist Mancur Olson who penned the introduction credited the remark to Kenneth Boulding. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Kenneth Boulding has said that anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist. Even if one does not accept this view, it is clear that no sensible person can deny the seriousness of the possibility that current rates of economic growth cannot be sustained indefinitely because of the environmental constraint.

QI has not yet found a close match in the works of Boulding. A thematic match occurred in a presentation Boulding made to the Canadian Political Science Association in 1953: 2

Continuous growth at a constant rate, however, is rare in nature and even in society. Indeed it may be stated that within the realm of common human experience all growth must run into eventually declining rates of growth. As growth proceeds, the growing object must eventually run into conditions which are less and less favourable to growth.

If this were not true there would eventually be only one object in the universe and at that point at least, unless the universe itself can grow indefinitely, its growth would have to come to an end. It is not surprising, therefore, that virtually all empirical growth curves exhibit the familiar “ogive” shape, the absolute growth being small at first, rising to a maximum, and then declining eventually to zero as the maximum value of the variable is reached.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Anyone Who Believes Exponential Growth Can Go On Forever in a Finite World Is Either a Madman or an Economist

Notes:

  1. 1973 Fall, Daedalus, Volume 102, Number 4, Issue Theme: The No-Growth Society, Introduction by Mancur Olson Start Page 1, Quote Page 3, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts on behalf of American Academy of Arts & Sciences. (JSTOR) link
  2. 1970 (1968 Copyright), Beyond Economics: Essays on Society, Religion and Ethics by Kenneth E. Boulding, Article: Toward a General Theory of Growth (The Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science, August 1953, Pages 326 to 340; this paper was presented at the annual meeting of the Canadian Political Science Association in London, Ontario, June 3, 1953), Start Page 64, Quote Page 66, Ann Arbor Paperbacks: The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Verified with scans)

A True Work of Art Takes at Least an Hour

Charles Schulz? Lucy van Pelt? Linus van Pelt? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Recently, while watching videos presenting art tutorials online I was amazed at the quality of rapidly created drawings. Yet, I was reminded of a “Peanuts” comic strip from decades ago that claimed a genuine artwork cannot be created in less than one hour. Would you please help me to find this comic strip?

Quote Investigator: “Peanuts” cartoonist Charles Schulz published a strip about the creation of art on December 12, 1962. The strip depicted a disagreement between the sibling characters Linus and Lucy van Pelt. In the first panel, Linus complained that Lucy had torn up the picture of a horse which he had drawn. In the second panel, Lucy justified her actions by asserting that the drawing “had no artistic value”. Emphasis added to excerpt by QI: 1

Panel 3: (Linus) NO ARTISTIC VALUE? I WORKED FOR FORTY-FIVE MINUTES DRAWING THAT HORSE

Panel 4: (Lucy) A TRUE WORK OF ART TAKES AT LEAST AN HOUR!

The four panels are viewable on the GoComics 2 website here.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 1962 December 12, The Greenville News, (Four-panel “Peanuts” comic strip by Charles M. Schulz), Quote Page 23, Column 4, Greenville, South Carolina. (Newspapers_com)
  2. Website: GoComics, Comic strip title: Peanuts, Comic strip author: Charles Schulz, Date of original distribution: December 12, 1962, Website description: GoComics, from Andrews McMeel Universal, is home to many popular comics and cartoons. It has a large catalog of syndicated newspaper strips, political cartoons and webcomics. (Accessed gocomics.com on July 9, 2019)