“Lots of People Talk To Animals” “Not Very Many Listen, Though”

A. A. Milne? Piglet? Owl? Pooh? Benjamin Hoff? George Bernard Shaw? Apocryphal?

Question for Quote Investigator: The following dialog has been ascribed to the famous English author A. A. Milne:

Pooh: Lots of people talk to animals.
Owl: Maybe, but . . . Not very many listen, though.
Pooh: That’s the problem.

I am skeptical of this attribution because I have never seen a citation. Other characters such as Piglet sometimes receive credit for lines from this dialog. Would you please explore this topic.

Reply from Quote Investigator: QI has not found this dialog in any of the four canonical books containing material about Pooh by A. A. Milne: “When We Were Very Young” (1924), “Winnie-the-Pooh” (1926), “Now We Are Six” (1927), and “The House at Pooh Corner” (1928).

In 1982 U.S. author Benjamin Hoff published “The Tao of Pooh” with the goal of illuminating the Chinese philosophy of Taoism via the characters created by A. A. Milne. Hoff’s work contained the following dialog. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[ref] 1982, The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff, Chapter: Spelling Tuesday, Quote Page 29, E. P. Dutton, New York. (Verified with scans) [/ref]

It seems fairly obvious to some of us that a lot of scholars need to go outside and sniff around—walk through the grass, talk to the animals. That sort of thing.

“Lots of people talk to animals,” said Pooh.
“Maybe, but . . .”
“Not very many listen, though,” he said.
“That’s the problem,” he added.

In other words, you might say that there is more to Knowing than just being correct.

Based on current evidence QI believes that Benjamin Hoff constructed this dialog to reflect his viewpoint. It was not crafted by A. A. Milne.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1914 prominent Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw published an essay in “Hearst’s Magazine” in which he mentioned talking to animals:[ref] 1914 July, Hearst’s Magazine, Volume 26, Killing for Fun by George Bernard Shaw, Start Page 4, Quote Page 6 and 7, International Magazine Company, New York. (Google Books Full View) link [/ref]

I am driven to the conclusion that my sense of kinship with animals is greater than most people feel. It amuses me to talk to animals in a sort of jargon I have invented for them; and it seems to me that it amuses them to be talked to, and that they respond to the tone of the conversation, though its intellectual content may to some extent escape them.

In 1982 the dialog appeared in “The Tao of Pooh” by Benjamin Hoff as stated previously.

In 2000 “The New Encyclopedia of Christian Quotations” compiled by Mark Water included an entry for a condensed version of the quotation crediting Milne:[ref] 2000, The New Encyclopedia of Christian Quotations, Compiled by Mark Water, Topic: Listening, Quote Page 614, Baker Books: A Division of Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. (Verified with scans) [/ref]

Lots of people talk to animals. Not that many listen though. That’s the problem.
A. A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

In 2005 the book “CPD: Improving Professional Practice” by Brian Boyd contained a chapter epigraph which credited Milne with the dialog:[ref] 2005, CPD: Improving Professional Practice: An Introduction to CPD for Teachers by Brian Boyd, Chapter 9: Better teachers — better schools?, (Chapter epigraph), Quote Page 115, Hodder Gibson, Paisley PA1 1NB. (Verified with scans) [/ref]

‘Lots of people talk to animals,’ said Pooh.
‘Maybe, but…’
‘Not very many listen, though,’ he said.
‘That’s the problem,’ he added.
Winnie the Pooh, A. A. Milne

In 2008 “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Loving Our Dogs” credited Hoff with a condensed version of the dialog:[ref] 2008, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Loving Our Dogs, Edited by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Amy Newmark, Chapter 48: Dusty, the Wonder Dog by Mary Saracino, (Chapter epigraph), Quote Page 170, Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, Cos Cob, Connecticut. (Verified with scans) [/ref]

Lots of people talk to animals… not very many listen, though…. That’s the problem.
~Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

In 2014 a newspaper in Okmulgee, Oklahoma printed a column by the local humane society which included a rephrased version of the dialog ascribed to Milne:[ref] 2014 March 26, Okmulgee Times, Okmulgee Humane Society Pet Pals & News, Quote Page 12A, Column 6, Okmulgee, Oklahoma. (Newspapers_com) [/ref]

“Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.”
—A. A. Milne

In conclusion, QI has been unable to find this dialog in the works by A. A. Milne featuring Pooh. Instead, the dialog can be found in Benjamin Hoff’s 1982 work “The Tao of Pooh”.

Image Notes: Public domain illustration from the 1926 edition of “Winnie-the-Pooh” depicting several animals from the story. Image has been resized and retouched.

(Great thanks to Laurie whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Laurie remarked that A.A. Milne and Benjamin Hoff had both received credit.)

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