Gertrude Stein? Joanna Lee? Fred Neher? Kate Osann? George Gobel? Bo Derek? John E. Gibson? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: Twisting timeworn adages produces new comical sayings. Altering a hoary remark about wealth and happiness yields a maxim for shopaholics:
Anyone who says money doesn’t buy happiness doesn’t know where to shop.
The prominent literary figure Gertrude Stein has received credit for this saying. Is this attribution accurate?
Quote Investigator: QI has been unable to find substantive evidence to support the ascription to Gertrude Stein who died in 1946. The linkage may have been established by a misreading of the text in the 1987 citation presented further below.
The earliest match known to QI occurred in an episode titled “All About Eva” from the third season of the television series “Gilligan’s Island”. The episode was written by Joanna Lee and first broadcast on December 12, 1966 according to the Gilligan’s Island Wiki on the Fandom website. 1 QI watched the episode and verified the following dialog. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 2
Professor (Russell Johnson): “Well, I’m sorry folks, but money can’t buy happiness!”
Mrs. Howell (Natalie Schafer): “Anyone who says money can’t buy happiness doesn’t know where to shop.”
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
In 1955 actor and comedian George Gobel told a thematically related joke about one item that he thought could produce happiness: 3
The papers reported the cries or a religious group over the newest alcoholic Gobelism. The offending line: “Don’t you believe that you can’t buy happiness. You can. Just go out and get yourself a fifth.”
“A fifth” is a unit of volume used for alcohol, e.g., a fifth of vodka or a fifth of whisky.
In 1958 syndicated columnist Earl Wilson printed another thematically related jest: 4
WISH I’D SAID THAT: Money can’t buy happiness, but it lets you look for it in a lot more places.
In December 1966 an episode of “Gilligan’s Island” written by Joanna Lee included the quip as mentioned previously.
In March 1967 a strong match occurred in the caption of a one-panel comic by Fred Neher. The illustration depicted a woman carrying several packages while talking to a man: 5
“I get sick an’ tired of hearing folks say that money can’t buy happiness. They just don’t know where to shop!“
In October 1967 a strong match occurred in the caption of a one-panel comic by Kate Osann. The illustration depicted two woman carrying packages conversing with one another: 6
“I suppose Father always says money can’t buy happiness simply because he doesn’t know where to shop!“
In 1968 a one-panel comic called “The Girls” used a version of the quip particularized to one type of shop: 7
“Whoever said money can’t buy happiness certainly didn’t know about dress shops!”
In 1971 a newspaper supplement called “Family Weekly” printed a piece by John E. Gibson using a quiz format: 8
True or False: You can buy happiness with money—if you know where to shop for it.
False. People who are rich, bored, and unhappy have been shopping for it since time immemorial without finding it.
In 1985 quotation collector Robert Byrne included the joke in a compilation and specified an anonymous attribution: 9
Whoever said money can’t buy happiness didn’t know where to shop. Unknown
In 1986 comedian Joey Adams included the joke in a book he authored within a section listing “the ten greatest one-liners since the ten that Moses brought down”: 10
Bo Derek: “Whoever said money can’t buy happiness didn’t know where to shop.”
In 1987 “The Speaker’s Book of Quotations” by Henry O. Dormann included the jest without an ascription. Intriguingly, the next quotation on the same page was credited to Gertrude Stein: 11
Whoever said money can’t buy happiness didn’t know where to shop.
Money is always there, but the pockets change.
Gertrude Stein (1874-1946)
The text above fits a misattribution mechanism that was described in QI’s book “Hemingway Didn’t Say That: The Truth Behind Familiar Quotations”: 12
When a well-known name appears in a book or article, sometimes a nearby quotation (created by a different person) is scooped up and reassigned to the well-known name.
In conclusion, tracing this quip is difficult because it can be expressed in many ways. Currently, Joanna Lee is the leading candidate for creator based on the December 1966 television episode. The attribution to Gertrude Stein is unsupported.
Image Notes: Illustration of colored shopping bags from ElisaRiva at Pixabay.
(Great thanks to AndyJokedAgain whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. He asked about a close variant: People who say ‘Money can’t buy everything’ don’t know where to shop. Special thanks to researcher Barry Popik who explored this topic and found matches beginning on October 12, 1967. Many thanks to Robin Aldan who tweeted to QI a GIF from the television series “Gilligan’s Island” showing Natalie Schafer playing the role of ‘Lovey’ Wentworth Howell delivering the quip which is displayed in a caption.)
Update History: On January 25, 2019 the December 1966 citation was added and the conclusions was updated.
- Website: Fandom – Gilligan’s Island Wiki, Season 3, Episode 14: All About Eva, Air Date on Website: December 12, 1966, Episode Writer: Joanna Lee, Website description: Information about Gilligan’s Island. (Accessed gilligan.fandom.com on January 25, 2019) link ↩
- Dailymotion video, Title: Gilligan’s Island All About Eva S03E14, Uploaded May 2018, (Quotation starts at 10 minutes 13 seconds of 25 minutes 16 seconds). Description: This video is an episode of “Gilligan’s Island” called “All About Eva”. (Accessed on dailymotion.com on January 25, 2019) ↩
- 1955 June 9, The Courier, Channel One: Jokes Go on Wagon by Tom O’Malley and Bob Cunniff, Quote Page 31, Column 2, Waterloo, Iowa. (Newspapers_com) ↩
- 1958 October 17, The Times Recorder, It Happened Last Night By Earl Wilson (Syndicated), Quote Page 4, Column 4, Zanesville, Ohio. (Newspapers_com) ↩
- 1967 March 7, The Tampa Times, Life’s Like That by Fred Neher, (One-panel comic from the Bell-McClure Syndicate), Quote Page 12C, Column 4, Tampa, Florida. (Newspapers_com) ↩
- 1967 October 11, The Daily Times, Tizzy by Kate Osann, (One-panel comic from NEA), Quote Page 23, Column 1, New Philadelphia, Ohio. (Newspapers_com) ↩
- 1968 January 9, The Times Record, The Girls (One panel comic), Quote Page 10, Column 2, Troy, New York. (Newspapers_com) ↩
- 1971 November 14, The Gallup Independent, Section: Family Weekly, Quiz: What Is Happiness, And What Helps Us Possess It? by John E. Gibson, Quote Page 22, Column 1, Gallup, New Mexico. (Newspapers_com) ↩
- 1985, The Other 637 Best Things Anybody Ever Said Compiled by Robert Byrne, Quotation Number 220, Fawcett Crest Book: Ballantine Books, New York. (Verified with scans) link ↩
- 1986, Roast of the Town Joey Adams, Chapter: Laugh Yourself Well, Quote Page 18, Prentice Hall Press, New York. (Verified with scans) ↩
- 1987, The Speaker’s Book of Quotations by Henry O. Dormann, Chapter 16: Money, Quote Page 78, Fawcett Columbine, New York. (Verified with scans) ↩
- 2017, Hemingway Didn’t Say That: The Truth Behind Familiar Quotations by Garson O’Toole, Quote Page 8, Published by Little A: An Imprint of Amazon Publishing. (Verified with hardcopy) ↩