Things Are More Like They Are Now Than They Have Ever Been

Dwight D. Eisenhower? Gerald Ford? Anonymous?

eisenhower03Dear Quote Investigator: President Dwight D. Eisenhower is commonly credited with making a comical statement that is almost a tautology. Here are a few different versions of his supposed remark:

Things are more like they are right now than they ever have been.
Things are more like they are now than they ever were before.
Things have never been more like the way they are today in history.

Oddly, President Gerald Ford is credited with making the same remark. Did they both make this nonsensical comment? Could you explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence of this expression located by QI was printed in 1948 in a classified advertisement for real estate in an Amarillo, Texas newspaper. The words were ascribed to “some crazy guy” and that label was also used as the title of the advertisement: 1 2

SOME CRAZY GUY
Stuck his head in our office door and said!!! Things are more like they are right now than they ever have been. (Silly, wasn’t it?) but not any sillier than the idea that some people have about waiting a year to buy a $10,000 home for $4,000. If things get that cheap you won’t have the money. Remember?

Dwight D. Eisenhower was President of the United States between 1953 and 1961. So this absurdist statement was already in circulation before he started his term of office.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1962 a columnist in a Texas newspaper named Cayce Moore made a jocular claim about the conclusions drawn by a “Committee in Washington”: 3

THOUGHTS WHILE JAYWALKING … A Committee in Washington checked up recently and found that things are more like they are now than they have ever been before.

In March 1963 a commentator in Ames, Iowa named Rod Riggs included a version of the risible remark in his newspaper column. The statement was freestanding and no attribution was given: 4

Things are more like they are now than they have ever been.

In 1963 the saying was printed in a column by Charley Grant called “Uncle Charlie’s ‘Epigrins'”. The words were ascribed to a fictional character named “Jr. Hinch” who was sometimes featured in the column: 5

Jr. Hinch says things are more like they are now, than they ever have been.

In 1966 a writer in a Minnesota newspaper attributed the remark to an unidentified person in Houston, Texas: 6

And a speaker in Houston, Tex., declared “Things are more like they are now than they have ever been.”

In 1969 a newspaper story about graffiti presented many examples collected at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Under the category “Word Play” the following three items were listed: 7

Truth is beauty. Does that mean truth is only skin deep?
Things are more like they are now than they have ever been.
I want to be what I was when I wanted to be what I am now.

In 1970 a newspaper in Seattle, Washington quoted a clerk working at a marina actually using the expression in a conversation: 8

“With the down-economy that we’re experiencing now,” the clerk said, “space is tighter than usual. We’ve had more calls from owners changing from small to larger boats than in previous years. Things are more like they are now than they ever have been before.”
And maybe that really describes the situation.

By the 1970s the statement had been assigned to Dwight D. Eisenhower. The teacher and poet Howard Nemerov wrote the following in 1971: 9 10

President Eisenhower is reported to have said: Things are more like they are now than they’ve ever been before.

In 1974 Ira Berkow, the sports reporter and columnist, attributed the saying to Ike, the nickname used by Eisenhower. Berkow further suggested that Eisenhower used the expression while he was President: 11

At one point in his placid presidency, Ike said, “Things are more like they are now than they ever were before.”

In 1979 the saying was published in “1,001 Logical Laws” compiled by John Peers where it was connected to someone named Hutchinson: 12

Hutchinson’s “Old Faithful” Aphorism:
Things are more like they are now than they ever have been before.

In 1982 Robert Byrne included the statement in his popular collection “The 637 Best Things Anybody Ever Said”. This version contained the subphrase “today in history” and was credited to Eisenhower. No citation was given. A book reviewer noticed the phrase and reprinted it while praising the volume: 13

“Things have never been more like the way they are today in history.”
Dwight David Eisenhower

By the 1980s the statement had also been assigned to Gerald Ford. Here is an example in a Connecticut newspaper in 1983: 14

Gerald Ford, for example, was no slouch when it came to oratorical jewels. Consider this one: “Things are more like they are now than they’ve ever been.”

In 1984 the ascription to Eisenhower was still in circulation. Here is an example in the solution of a syndicated puzzle called Cryptoquote: 15

Yesterday’s Cryptoquote: THINGS HAVE NEVER BEEN MORE LIKE THE WAY THEY ARE TODAY IN HISTORY. — DWIGHT DAVID EISENHOWER

In 1986 a writer in New York magazine attached the saying to Gerald Ford: 16

Other presidents, like Jerry Ford (who once said, “Things are more like they are now than they’ve ever been”), have been caricatured mercilessly.

In 2006 a commentator in a Louisiana newspaper included the expression within an article titled “Well, uh, you know – Politicians are especially adept at employing empty phrases”. No attribution was given: 17

“You know, you just never know . . .”
No you don’t, but put this down: I tell you what, things are more like they are right now than they’ve ever been before. Do you understand what I’m saying?

In conclusion, this comical nonsense statement was in circulation by the later 1940s. Initially, it was not credited to any specific person. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s final term of office as President ended in 1961. In the 1960s this remark was usually treated as a gag line and continued to circulate without a concrete attribution.

The first ascriptions to Eisenhower known to QI appeared in the 1970s. QI has not yet found any direct evidence in the writings of Eisenhower or in an interview that he wrote or spoke this saying. Gerald Ford’s time as President ended in 1977. The earliest ascriptions to Ford known to QI appeared in the 1980s. QI has not yet found any direct evidence in the writings of Ford or in an interview that he wrote or spoke this saying.

Based on current data QI would tentatively say that this statement began as a laugh line by an unknown humorist. At some point it was assigned to a prominent person, Dwight Eisenhower, which enhanced its memorability and increased its comic value. This ascription was credulously relayed by others. Over the decades the form of the expression evolved to yield multiple phrasings. The saying was later re-assigned to Gerald Ford and this ascription was also transmitted without skepticism.

(Thanks to Doug Saunders of The Globe and Mail whose inquiry about this saying provided the impetus for QI to construct this question and perform this investigation.)

Notes:

  1. 1948 October 21, Amarillo Daily News, (Classified advertisement from Gordon Creamer Realtor), Quote Page 18, Column 7, Amarillo, Texas. (NewspaperArchive)
  2. 1948 October 21, The Amarillo Globe, (Classified advertisement from Gordon Creamer Realtor), Quote Page 22, Column 7, Amarillo, Texas. (NewspaperArchive)
  3. 1962 July 6, The Hearne Democrat, Moore of Cayce by Cayce Moore, Quote Page 6, Column 2, Hearne, Texas. (NewspaperArchive)
  4. 1963 March 5, The Ames Daily Tribune, From My Point of View by Rod Riggs, Quote Page 4, Column 2, Ames, Iowa. (NewspaperArchive)
  5. 1963 November 28, Ada Weekly News, Uncle Charlie’s “Epigrins”, by Rev. Charley Grant, (Newswire: AP-Smith Service), Quote Page 7, Column 8, Ada, Oklahoma. (NewspaperArchive)
  6. 1966 March 24, Austin Daily Herald, Pot Pourri, Page 4, Column 3, Austin, Minnesota. (NewspaperArchive)
  7. 1969 February 16, Richmond Times Dispatch, Graffiti: An Important Social Indicator by Tom Luce, Page B-2, (GNBank Page 24), Column 7, Richmond, Virginia. (NewspaperArchive)
  8. 1970 June 14, Seattle Daily Times, Marinas Have Waiting Lists for Moorage by Charles E. Brown, Page F-10, Column 5, (GNBank Page 96), Seattle, Washington. (GenealogyBank)
  9. 1971 Spring, The Virginia Quarterly Review, “Poetry, Prophecy, Prediction” by Howard Nemerov, Start Page 209, Quote Page 216, Published by The University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia. (Verified on paper)
  10. 1972, Reflexions on Poetry & Poetics by Howard Nemerov, Chapter: Poetry, Prophecy, Prediction, Start Page 208, Quote Page 214, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey. (Verified on paper)
  11. 1974 March 16, Daily Chronicle, Yogi comparison would honor Ike by Ira Berkow, Quote Page 5, Column 4, Centralia, Washington. (NewspaperArchive)
  12. 1979, 1,001 Logical Laws, Accurate Axioms, Profound Principles, Compiled by John Peers, Edited by Gordon Bennett, Quote Page 125, Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York. (Verified on paper)
  13. 1982 October 30, Ironwood Daily Globe, Capital Closeup: Nixon: ‘I would have made a good Pope’ by Dennis McCann, Quote Page 4, Column 4, Ironwood, Michigan. (NewspaperArchive)
  14. 1983 November 13, The Day, Peppercorns: Stellar Errors, Page D-1, Column 1, [GNArch Page 22], New London, Connecticut. (Google News Archive)
  15. 1984 December 11, Galveston Daily News, Cryptoquote (King Features Syndicate), Quote Page 4-B, Column 1, (NArch Page 19), Galveston, Texas. (NewspaperArchive)
  16. 1986 December 8, New York Magazine, Volume 19, Number 48, The Pinocchio Factor by Michael Kramer, Start Page 44, Quote Page 46, News America Publishing, New York, (Currently: Published by New York Media, LLC.)  (Google Books full view) link
  17. 2006 July 25, The Times-Picayune, Section: Living, “Well, uh, you know – Politicians are especially adept at employing empty phrases” by Angus Lind, Page 1, New Orleans, Louisiana. (NewsBank Access World News)