Everything I’ve Ever Said Will Be Credited To Dorothy Parker

George S. Kaufman? Scott Meredith? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Bright remarks are often misattributed to famously witty individuals such as Dorothy Parker. An exasperated fellow humorist once said:

Everything I’ve ever said will be credited to Dorothy Parker.

Would you please help me to locate a citation and tell me who said this?

Quote investigator: The earliest close match known to QI occurred in a 1974 biography titled “George S. Kaufman and His Friends” by Scott Meredith. The author stated that Kaufman and Dorothy Parker moved in the same social circles, and they wrote a screenplay together for a short film called “Business Is Business”. Yet, they were not really good friends. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

There was a certain amount of rivalry between them: Kaufman once said gloomily, “Everything I’ve ever said will be credited to Dorothy Parker.”

The above citation appeared more than a decade after Kaufman’s death in 1961. So the evidence it provides is not strong.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Dorothy Parker explored the topic of proper acknowledgement in a verse she composed and published in 1927. She highlighted an earlier magnetic figure who attracted attributions: 2

Oscar Wilde

If, with the literate, I am
Impelled to try an epigram,
I never seek to take the credit;
We all assume that Oscar said it.

That many witticisms attributed to Parker were not crafted by her was recognized by her contemporaries. For example, a column written in 1934 by Mark Barron in a New Jersey newspaper included the following comical prediction for the upcoming year: 3

Eighty-four new wisecracks will be credited to Dorothy Parker, of which only seven will have been originated by her.

In January 1935 the popular show business columnist Louella Parsons mentioned three people who were magnets for misquotations: 4

Samuel Goldwyn says if he were clever enough to say half the ridiculous things attributed to him he would give up producing pictures and become another Will Rogers.

Just as every New York wisecrack is attributed to Dorothy Parker and every Hollywood bon mot used to be laid in the late Wilson Mizner’s lap, so is every verbal gymnastic credited to Samuel Goldwyn. He has become nationally known as the Mr. Malaprop of the movies.

In 1937 a columnist in Texas suggested that many of the quips attributed to Parker were crafted by other humorists: 5

Most of the stinging, critical barbs credited to Dorothy Parker and other town wits are not to be too much believed—they are usually the inspirations of professional gagwriters.

In 1941 a journalist in Akron, Ohio spoke to Parker, and she disclaimed credit for many of the remarks attributed to her: 6

“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.”

In 1974 the quotation was printed in “George S. Kaufman and His Friends” as mentioned previously.

In 1990 the quotation occurred as an entry in “A Dictionary of Literary Quotations” by Meic Stephens: 7

Everything I’ve ever said will be credited to Dorothy Parker.
George S. Kaufman, quoted on BBC Radio 4, Quote Unquote (28 June 1979)

In 1992 researcher Ralph Keyes’s compendium “Nice Guys Finish Seventh: False Phrases, Spurious Sayings, and Familiar Misquotations” discussed Parker and included the quotation. The accompanying note pointed to the 1974 biography of Kaufman: 8

The mere mention of her name could elicit a grin of anticipation. As a result during her heyday Parker rivaled Mark Twain as a flypaper wit. “Everything I’ve ever said will be credited to Dorothy Parker,” moaned her fellow Algonquin Round Tabler George S. Kaufman. Parker’s quips were a columnist’s delight. There just weren’t enough of them to meet the demand.

In conclusion, QI tentatively credits George S. Kaufman with the quotation based on the 1974 biography by Scott Meredith. The linkage is weakened by the long delay between Kaufman’s death in 1961 and the publication of the citation. Perhaps future researchers will locate earlier evidence.

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

(Thanks to previous researchers such as Meic Stephens, Ralph Keyes and Nigel Rees who explored this topic. Thanks also to Linda Carson who suggested including the 1927 citation.)

Update History: On April 21, 2020 the 1927 citation was added to the article.

Notes:

  1. 1974, George S. Kaufman and His Friends by Scott Meredith, Chapter 9: The Parting, Quote Page 139, Doubleday & Company, Garden City, New York. (Verified with scans)
  2. 1927 June 2, Life, A Pig’s-Eye View Of Literature by Dorothy Parker, Poem: Oscar Wilde, Start Page 13, Quote Page 13, Office of Life, New York. (ProQuest American Periodicals)
  3. 1934 December 16, Trenton Sunday Times-Advertiser, A New Yorker at Large by Mark Barron, Part 4, Quote Page 10, Column 7, Trenton, New Jersey. (GenealogyBank)
  4. 1935 January 13, The San Francisco Examiner, Goldwyn Myth Exploded by Louella O. Parsons, Quote Page 6E, Column 4, San Francisco, California. (Newspapers_com)
  5. 1937 August 13, The Corpus Christi Times, Man About Manhattan by George Tucker, Quote Page 6, Column 4,Corpus Christi, Texas. (GenealogyBank)
  6. 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)
  7. 1990, A Dictionary of Literary Quotations by Meic Stephens, Topic: Quotation, Quote Page 124, Column 1, Routledge, London and New York. (Verified with scans)
  8. 1992, Nice Guys Finish Seventh: False Phrases, Spurious Sayings, and Familiar Misquotations by Ralph Keyes, Chapter 8: The Twain Syndrome, Topic: Dorothy Parker, Quote Page 119 and 120, HarperCollins, New York. (Verified with hardcopy)