Words and Pictures Are Yin and Yang

Theodor Seuss Geisel? Apocryphal?

Seussyang04Dear Quote Investigator: The enormous success of Theodor Geisel, i.e., Dr. Seuss was due to his extraordinary ability to combine vibrant storytelling with creative illustrations. The following perceptive statement is attributed to him:

Words and pictures are yin and yang. Married, they produce a progeny more interesting than either parent.

I would like to use this quotation in an article, but I have been unable to trace it. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: Theodor Seuss Geisel attended Dartmouth and was on the staff of the school humor magazine “Jack O’ Lantern”. Some of his early writings and illustrations were published in that magazine, and the experience was invigorating and formative.

In 1976 the “Dartmouth Alumni Magazine” published an interview with Seuss under the title “Words and Pictures Married: The Beginnings of Dr. Seuss: A Conversation with Theodor S. Geisel”. The interviewer asked him about his pivotal junior year as an undergraduate. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

This was the year I discovered the excitement of ‘marrying’ words to pictures. I began to get it through my skull that words and pictures were Yin and Yang. I began thinking that words and pictures, married, might possibly produce a progeny more interesting than either parent.

It took me almost a quarter of a century to find the proper way to get my words and pictures married. At Dartmouth I couldn’t even get them engaged.

QI believes that the modern version of the quotation was based on the remark made by Seuss listed above. However, the phrasing has been simplified and compressed over time. This type of alteration is commonplace in the domain of quotations.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 2004 Dartmouth College commemorated the one-hundredth anniversary of the 1904 birth of alumnus Theodor Seuss Geisel by releasing a volume about Dr. Seuss. The “Dartmouth Digital Collections” is an online archive of the Dartmouth College Library, and a digital version of the Seuss document is available in the collection here. The 1976 interview containing the quotation was included in the commemorative document.

By 2008 the streamlined version of the quotation ascribed to Dr. Seuss was in circulation. The expression was posted on the Goodreads website, and by March 2014 it had accumulated 506 “likes”: 2

Dr. Seuss > Quotes > Quotable Quote
“Words and pictures are yin and yang. Married, they produce a progeny more interesting than either parent.”
― Dr. Seuss

In conclusion, Theodor Seuss Geisel did say something that closely matched the expression provided by the questioner. His precise words were reported in the “Dartmouth Alumni Magazine” in 1976.

Image Notes: Yin-Yang symbol from OpenClips on Pixabay. Both Ted Geisel images were donated to Library of Congress and placed in public domain. Images from Wikimedia Commons.

(Great thanks to Kristen G. Peters whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Special thanks to the Office of the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine.)

Notes:

  1. 1976 April, Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, Volume 68, Number 8, Words and Pictures Married: The Beginnings of Dr. Seuss: A conversation with Theodor S. Geisel, Edited by Edward Connery Lathem, Start Page 16, Quote Page: 17, Published by Dartmouth Alumni Magazine Hanover, New Hampshire. (Verified with scans; thanks to the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine staff)
  2. Website: Goodreads, Article title: Dr. Seuss: Quotes: Quotable Quote, Timestamp on first “Like” was “April 02, 2008 12:02PM”, Website description: Goodreads is a large site for readers and book recommendations. (Accessed goodreads.com on March 20, 2014) link