I Say Hardly Any of Those Clever Things That Are Attributed To Me

Dorothy Parker? Yogi Berra? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Numerous sharp remarks have been credited incorrectly to the well-known wit Dorothy Parker. She was well aware of these misattributions, and she once commented that many of those clever remarks were not hers. Would you please help me to find a citation for her general disclaimer?

Quote Investigator: In 1941 journalist Hubbard Keavy spoke to Dorothy Parker and asked about the proliferation of epigrams and witticisms ascribed to her. She replied with humor. The ellipsis was in the original text. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

“Quips? Oh. Ridiculous, isn’t it? To have such a reputation, I mean.

“I am not witty and I am not funny. But I do have a reputation as a smarty pants…I say hardly any of those clever things that are attributed to me. I wouldn’t have time to earn a living if I said all those things.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1986 baseball ace Yogi Berra made a thematically similar comment which was reported in “Newsday” of Long Island, New York: 2

Fans hung on Berra’s every word, hoping for a Berra-ism, many of which have been said by others but attributed to Yogi. “I really didn’t say everything I said,” Berra said, creating another original.

In 1992 top quotation researcher Ralph Keyes published “Nice Guys Finish Seventh: False Phrases, Spurious Sayings, and Familiar Misquotations”, and he included Parker’s remark. The citation listed in the notes section of the book pointed to the 1941 article by Keavy: 3

Parker’s quips were a columnist’s delight. There just weren’t enough of them to meet the demand. This is why so many lines were put in her mouth. “I say hardly any of those clever things that are attributed to me,” she once insisted. “I wouldn’t have time to earn a living if I said all those things.”

In 2006 the “Pittsburgh Post-Gazette” published a review of another book by Ralph Keyes titled “The Quote Verifier”, and the reviewer referred to the quotation: 4

So many zingers stuck to wisecracker Dorothy Parker that she once said, “I say hardly any of those clever things that are attributed to me. I wouldn’t have time to earn a living if I said all those things.”

In conclusion, Dorothy Parker recognized that her name had become a magnet for bright remarks, and she issued a general disclaimer during the 1941 interview cited above.

Images Notes: image displaying quotation marks created in GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program).

Notes:

  1. 1941 December 7, Akron Beacon Journal, Dorothy Parker Quips Funny…But She Didn’t Say Them by Hubbard Keavy (Beacon Journal Special Writer), Quote Page 9A, Column 1, Akron, Ohio. (Newspapers_com)
  2. 1986 February 24, Newsday (Nassau and Suffolk Edition), “Color Yogi a Happy Guy; Now wearing Astros’ rainbow uniform, Berra’s relaxed, popular” by Steve Marcus, Section Sports, Start Page 92, Long Island, New York. (ProQuest)
  3. 1992, Nice Guys Finish Seventh: False Phrases, Spurious Sayings, and Familiar Misquotations by Ralph Keyes, Quote Page 120, HarperCollins, New York. (Verified on paper)
  4. 2006 June 11, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Quote, misquote, unquote by Cristina Rouvalis (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette), (Book review of “The Quote Verifier” by Ralph Keyes), Quote Page E9, Column 3, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com)