Lynn Johnston? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: The Canadian cartoonist Lynn Johnston has crafted a wonderful metaphor equating the reparative quality of apologies to superglue. Her statement is very popular on the web, but no one seems to know the precise phrasing; also, I have never seen a solid citation. Would you please trace this quotation?
Quote Investigator: The widely-syndicated long-running comic strip “For Better or For Worse” was created, written, and drawn by Lynn Johnston. The strip published on May 31, 1994 depicted the character Sharon Edwards, a teacher, conversing with the character Elizabeth Patterson, a student. Patterson’s relationship with a friend had deteriorated because she had been preoccupied with a boyfriend. Edwards suggested that the friendship might be mended with an apology. Here are the final two panels of the four panel strip: 1
There’s nothing like an apology, Liz. — An apology is the superglue of life!
It can repair just about anything!!
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.
In 1989 Robin Lichtenstein, a journalist, employed a similar metaphor when discussing the importance of a newspaper. Lichtenstein was on the staff of “The Times” in Trenton, New Jersey, and she was also a volunteer teacher. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 2
“I feel that the newspaper is the grease and the glue of society,” she explained. “It is the grease in that it facilitates ideas and makes things happen; it is the glue because it is the great equalizer. What happens to someone down the street can also happen to me.”
On May 31, 1994 the comic strip by Lynn Johnston containing the quotation was published as noted previously.
In September 1996 the popular advice columnist Ann Landers shared with her readers another variant instance of the metaphor applied to humor: 3
Gem of the Day (Credit Philip Butler, Vietnam POW): Optimism and humor are the grease and the glue of life. Without both, we would never have survived our captivity.
The words of Lynn Johnston were memorable, and in November 1996 a participant in an electronic discussion group at Georgia Tech used an instance within her signature block. The word “everything” was substituted for “anything”: 4
“An apology is the superglue of life. It can repair just about everything.”
– Lynn Johnston
In November 1997 an instance without attribution appeared within a message in a Usenet discussion group about Nepal. The term “supper glue” was used instead of “superglue”, and the word “fix” was used instead of “repair”: 5
we can learn a lot from our mistakes. there is a famous saying, “apology is the supper glue of life, it can fix just about anything.”
In 1997 the saying was included in a compilation “The Speaker’s Quote Book” by Roy B. Zuck. The name “Lynn” was misspelled as ‘Synn”: 6
An apology is the super glue of life. It can repair just about anything.
— Synn Johnston
In conclusion, this metaphorical expression was constructed by cartoonist Lynn Johnston, and she included it in her comic strip “For Better or For Worse” on May 31, 1994.
Image Notes: Lynn Johnston at the Doug Wright Awards 2008. Image Author: mackbrad at Flickr; licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Picture of hand writing the word sorry from bykst at Pixabay. Both images have been retouched, cropped, and resized.
(Great thanks to quotation expert Mardy Grothe whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Grothe is the author of “neverisms” and several other entertaining and worthwhile quotation books. His website entry for ‘Apology” is located here.)
- 1994 May 31, The Ukiah Daily Journal, Syndicated Comic Strip: For Better Or For Worse by Lynn Johnston, Quote Page 12, Ukiah, California. (Newspapers_com) ↩
- 1989 March 28, The Times (Trenton Evening Times), Section: NIE – Newspaper in Education, The textbook of the real world by Cathy Viksjo (Staff Writer), Page NIE-F10, Column 4, Trenton, New Jersey. (GenealogyBank) ↩
- 1996 September 25, The Rockford Register Star, Surgeon uses gallstones to entertain guests by Ann Landers, Quote Page 2B, Column 3, Rockford, Illinois. (GenealogyBank) ↩
- 1996 November 16, Usenet discussion message, Newsgroup: git.cc.general, From: Annie I. Anton @cc.gatech.edu, Organization of Sender: Georgia Tech College of Computing, Subject: GT POLICE INCIDENT REPORTS for CoC. (Google Groups Search; Accessed January 14, 2016) link ↩
- 1997 November 11, Usenet discussion message, Newsgroup: soc.culture.nepal, From: smsainju @nmt.edu, Organization of Sender: New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Subject: Re: Reply to SM Sainju. (Google Groups Search; Accessed January 14, 2016) link ↩
- 1997, The Speaker’s Quote Book: Over 4,500 Illustrations and Quotations for All Occasions, Compiled by Roy B. Zuck, Quote Page 17, Published by Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, Michigan, (Google Books Preview) ↩