He Is a Great Rascal. Ah! But He Is Our Rascal

Franklin D. Roosevelt? Abraham Lincoln? Thaddeus Stevens? Benjamin Butler? Philip Cook? Bill Higgins? John Franklin Carter? Justin Herman? Wayne Hays? Alistair Cooke? Cordell Hull? Anonymous? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A participant in the harsh domain of political power often faces difficult decisions. For example, should one promote a member of one’s party even when one knows that the individual is a scoundrel? Also, should one maintain support for an ally even when the ally is disreputable or barbarous? The following dialog depicts a challenge and response:

“How can you support that scoundrel?”
“He may be a scoundrel, but he’s our scoundrel.”

Over the years many other words have been used to describe the miscreant, e.g., rascal, scalawag, scoundrel, so-and-so, son-of-a-bitch, and bastard. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match known to QI appeared in a Wilmington, North Carolina newspaper editorial in 1868. The two participants in the dialog were not identified. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

We are forcibly reminded by these arguments of the Radicals of the reply of one of their party, in attempting to persuade a rather conscientious member to vote for a certain candidate whose character was none the best. “He is a great rascal,” indignantly proposed the friend. “Ah! but he is our rascal,” was the significant rejoinder.

Many instances conforming to this template have appeared during the ensuing decades. Here is a sampling showing the key line together with a year:

1868: Ah! but he is our rascal.
1875: Of course, of course, but which of ’em is our damned rascal?
1889: Yes, I know, but then he’s our scalawag.
1895: Never mind that; all we want to know is that he is our scoundrel.
1904: Yes, I know, but he is our scoundrel.
1934: After all, Blank isn’t so bad. He’s our So and So!
1934: After all, Blank isn’t so bad. He’s our son-of-a-bitch!
1948: He’s a sonofabitch but he’s ours.
1962: He may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.
1969: He was a Grade-A bastard, but at least he was our bastard and not theirs.

QI wishes to acknowledge researchers Bonnie Taylor-Blake and Barry Popik who identified many valuable examples.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading He Is a Great Rascal. Ah! But He Is Our Rascal

Notes:

  1. 1868 July 26, The Daily Journal, “Our Rebels”, Quote Page 2, Column 1, Wilmington, North Carolina. (GenealogyBank)

One Must Have a Heart of Stone To Read the Death of Little Nell Without Laughing

Oscar Wilde? Ada Leverson? Hesketh Pearson? Leslie Stokes? Sewell Stokes? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Charles Dickens published “The Old Curiosity Shop” in 1841. Nell Trent (Little Nell) was the virtuous child protagonist of the tale. The book was extremely popular, and most contemporary readers were saddened when they learned of Nell’s demise. Yet, some critics have viewed Dicken’s book as overly sentimental and emotionally manipulative. Here are two versions of a paraprosdokian:

One must have a heart of stone to read the death of Little Nell without laughing.

One would have to have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without dissolving into tears … of laughter.

This remark has been attributed to the famous wit Oscar Wilde, but I have been unable to find a solid citation. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Oscar Wilde died in 1900. The two earliest citations known to QI appeared three decades later.

The biographer Hesketh Pearson wrote the introduction to a collection of Oscar Wilde’s works published in 1930 within the “Everyman’s Library” series. Pearson described the successes of Wilde’s comedies in the 1890’s, and he suggested that the playwright spoke the line during that period. Yet, Pearson did not explain how he learned about the witticism. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

It should be added that neither success nor misfortune could impair Wilde’s wit, the peculiar quality of which was exemplified at about this period in his comment on a scene by Dickens: “One must have a heart of stone to read the death of Little Nell without laughing.”

Also in 1930 author Ada Leverson, one of Wilde’s friends, published “Letters to the Sphinx from Oscar Wilde” which included her reminiscences about her relationship with Wilde. 2 Excerpts from this book were reprinted in “The Sphinx and Her Circle: A Biographical Sketch of Ada Leverson, 1862-1933” by Violet Wyndham. The following 1930 text was reprinted in the 1963 book: 3

He never liked even the grotesque part of Dickens. To those who praised Dickens, he said, ‘One must have a heart of stone to read the death of Little Nell without laughing’.

Of Max Beerbohm he said, ‘He plays with words as one plays with what one loves’. Adding, ‘When you are alone with him, Sphinx, does he take off his face and reveal his mask.”’

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading One Must Have a Heart of Stone To Read the Death of Little Nell Without Laughing

Notes:

  1. 1950 (First published in 1930), Plays, Prose Writings, And Poems by Oscar Wilde, Introduction by Hesketh Pearson, Series: Number 858 of Everyman’s Library, Section: Introduction, Quote Page xiii, Publisher: J. M. Dent & Sons, London. (Verified with scans)
  2. 1930, Letters to the Sphinx from Oscar Wilde With Reminiscences of the Author by Ada Leverson by Oscar Wilde, Limited edition of 275 copies, Quote Page 42, Duckworth, London. (Not yet verified)
  3. 1963, The Sphinx and Her Circle: A Biographical Sketch of Ada Leverson, 1862-1933 by Violet Wyndham, Reminiscences by Ada Leverson, 3: Afterwards, Quote Page 119, Vanguard Press, New York. (Verified with scans)

You Cannot Define a Person On Just One Thing. You Can’t Just Forget All These Wonderful and Good Things That a Person Has Done

Aretha Franklin? Whitney Houston? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The reputation and legacy of an individual can be seriously damaged by a single misstep. The advent of social media networks has supercharged the transmission of detrimental material.

Apparently, U.S. singer Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, once called for more empathy and understanding. She stated that one should not define a person because of one thing; one should not forget the fantastic and admirable things a person has done. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In February 2012 Aretha Franklin was deeply saddened when she learned that fellow singer Whitney Houston had died. She spoke to journalist Al Roker of the U.S. television show “Today”. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Franklin, 69, also told Roker that she hopes people will remember Houston for her talent instead of focusing on her admitted drug use and odd behavior of recent years.

“You cannot define a person on just one thing,” she said. “You can’t just forget all these wonderful and good things that a person has done because one thing didn’t come off the way you thought it should come off.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading You Cannot Define a Person On Just One Thing. You Can’t Just Forget All These Wonderful and Good Things That a Person Has Done

Notes:

  1. 2012 February 18, Detroit Free Press, Names+Faces: Aretha: Star’s Legacy Lives, Quote Page 2D, Column 2, Detroit, Michigan. (Newspapers_com)

“Now That He Is Minister of War I Feel Safe” “Why?” “Well, When He Was Minister of Fuel We Had No Fuel”

Winston Churchill? Alexander Ince? Leonard Lyons? Emanuel Shinwell? John Williams Hughes? Drew Pearson? Eleanor Boardman? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Ensuring the smooth operation of the industry sector that supplies energy to a country is a crucial task. Here is an example of the type of mockery aimed at a politician who botched this important mission:

“Wonderful news about the new Minister of War. Peace is assured!”

“Why do you say that?”

“Well, when he was Minster of Coal we had no coal. Now that he is Minister of War, surely we shall have no war.”

This joke has been attributed to statesman Winston Churchill. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The “New York Herald Tribune” reported that British Prime Minister Clement Attlee changed several ministerial appointees on October 7, 1947. Emanuel Shinwell who had been the Minister of Fuel and Power was transferred to the post of Secretary of State for War (also known as Minister of War). 1

The earliest match for the quotation located by QI appeared in the syndicated U.S. newspaper column of Leonard Lyons on October 25, 1947. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 2

Alexander Ince reports that when Emanuel Shinwell was removed as minister of fuel and became minister of war, his friends rejoiced and said: “Peace at last is assured us. Because when Shinwell was minister of fuel, we had no fuel. And now he’s minister of war, so we’ll have no war.”

This report indicated that the creator of the quip was anonymous. Also, the remark originated as a friendly barb and not a harsh criticism.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading “Now That He Is Minister of War I Feel Safe” “Why?” “Well, When He Was Minister of Fuel We Had No Fuel”

Notes:

  1. 1947 October 8, New York Herald Tribune, Attlee Drops 11 Labor Ministers Ousts Shinwell From Fuel Pos by Ned Russell, Quote Page 1, Column 6, New York. (ProQuest)
  2. 1947 October 25, Asbury Park Evening Press, The Lyons Den by Leonard Lyons, Quote Page 8, Column 5,Asbury Park, New Jersey. (Newspapers_com)

If You Can Pick Up After a Crushing Defeat, and Go On To Win Again, You Are Going To Be a Champion Someday

Wilma Rudolph? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: To achieve victory you must be able to handle defeat without collapsing or becoming discouraged. No one goes through life completely undefeated. Olympic gold-medal-winning runner Wilma Rudolph once indicated that winners must be able to pick themselves up after crushing defeat. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: Wilma Rudolph described in her 1977 autobiography participating in an important athletic meet in Tuskegee, Alabama when she was a teenager. She had experienced great success in competitions in the past, but at this event she did not win a single race, and she did not qualify for anything. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

The lesson was, winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday. But if losing destroys you, it’s all over. You’ll never be able to put it all back together again.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading If You Can Pick Up After a Crushing Defeat, and Go On To Win Again, You Are Going To Be a Champion Someday

Notes:

  1. 1977, Wilma by Wilma Rudolph, Chapter 5: Introduction to Competition, Quote Page 65 and 66, A Signet Book: New American Library, New York. (Verified with scans)

Talent Is a Dreadfully Cheap Commodity, Cheaper Than Table Salt

Stephen King? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Years ago the famous horror writer Stephen King was discussing how to become a successful artist, and he employed vivid figurative language that I can still recall. He indicated that talent was as common and cheap as table salt. His bracing insight was that success required great effort combined with talent. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1981 Stephen King published his analysis of the horror genre emphasizing the years from 1950 to 1980 in the book “Stephen King’s Danse Macabre”. Within the chapter “An Annoying Autobiographical Pause” he discussed the inability of talent by itself to guarantee triumph. Boldface added to excepts by QI: 1

I think that writers are made, not born or created out of dreams or childhood trauma—that becoming a writer (or a painter, actor, director, dancer, and so on) is a direct result of conscious will. Of course there has to be some talent involved, but talent is a dreadfully cheap commodity, cheaper than table salt.

King underscored the need for sustained thought and effort:

What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work and study; a constant process of honing. Talent is a dull knife . . .

Discipline and constant work are the whetstones upon which the dull knife of talent is honed until it becomes sharp enough, hopefully, to cut through even the toughest meat and gristle.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Talent Is a Dreadfully Cheap Commodity, Cheaper Than Table Salt

Notes:

  1. 1981, Stephen King’s Danse Macabre by Stephen King, Chapter 4: An Annoying Autobiographical Pause, Quote Page 92, Everest House, New York. (Verified with scans)

There Is No Royal and Flower Strewn Road To Success

Madam C. J. Walker? Sarah J. Walker? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The cosmetics entrepreneur Madam C. J. Walker once spoke to a journalist about her enormous accomplishments. She indicated that her pathway to success was not strewn with flowers, and her ascent required hard work and sleepless nights. Would please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1917 “The New York Times” interviewed Sarah J. Walker (Madam C. J. Walker) about her recently constructed mansion and her thriving cosmetics company. Boldface added to excepts by QI: 1

What wealth is hers, she says, had been acquired through perseverance, persistency, and hard work. “Perseverance”, she remarked the other day, “is my motto.” . . .

“I was born forty-nine years ago,” she said in speaking of her life, “was married at 14, and was left a widow at 20 with a little girl to support. If I have accomplished anything in life it is because I have been willing to work hard. I never yet started anything doubtingly, and I have always believed in keeping at things with a vim.

In 1919 “The Dallas Express” published a piece about Walker that included her remark about flowers: 2

At another time when asked about her great success Madam Walker said, “There is no royal and flower strewn road to success, and if there is I have not found it for what success I have obtained is the result of many sleepless nights and real hard work. I had all kinds of doubters and skeptics to deal with; the principal obstacle I had to deal with was the traditional distrust and incredulity of the public, owing to their having often been deceived with worthless preparations  . . .

Walker died in May 1919 a few months after the article above was printed.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading There Is No Royal and Flower Strewn Road To Success

Notes:

  1. 1917 November 4, New York Times, Section: The New York Times Magazine, Wealthiest Negro Woman’s Suburban Mansion, Quote Page 4, Column 4, New York. (ProQuest)
  2. 1919 March 29, The Dallas Express, The World’s Famous Hair Culturist Puts New Toilet Articles On The Market, Quote Page 4, Column 7, Dallas, Texas. (Newspapers_com)

Bitcoin: It’s Probably Rat Poison Squared

Warren Buffett? Charlie Munger? Liz Claman? Becky Quick? Mark Cuban? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The value of bitcoin has fluctuated dramatically. Extreme language has been used to either praise or vilify this prominent digital currency. The superinvestors Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger have made harsh pronouncements. Apparently, Munger said bitcoin was rat poison, and Buffett went further and said it was rat poison squared. Would you please help me to find citations?

Quote Investigator: Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger have employed a sequence of hostile colorful expressions to decry bitcoin. In May 2013 Fox Business journalist Liz Claman conducted a joint interview with Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett, and Bill Gates. During the interview Munger described bitcoin as rat poison. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Liz Claman: I just had to get your thought on Bitcoin, this… this… this digital currency that’s out there that people say, oh it might be the next big thing. What do you think?

Charlie Munger: I think it’s rat poison.
(Laughter)

Warren Buffet: Put him down as undecided.
(Laughter)

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Bitcoin: It’s Probably Rat Poison Squared

Notes:

  1. Fox Business Video Clip, Video title: Munger/Buffett Disagree on Corporate Tax Rates, Video release date: May 6, 2013, Description of video: Interview conducted by Liz Claman of Warren Buffett, Charlie Munger, and Bill Gates, Note: Text below has been transcribed from the video by QI, News source information: Fox Business is a business and financial news company based in the U.S. (Video accessed at video.foxbusiness.com on February 11, 2021) link

Don’t ASS-U-ME Anything

Oscar Wilde? Felix Unger? Tony Randall? John Glick? Clarence L. Lollar? Dick West? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Making unfounded assumptions causes endless difficulties. A clever quip highlighting this problem is based on splitting a word into three parts:

It is dangerous to assume because you might make an “ass” out of “u” and “me”.

This joke was told in a episode of the popular television sitcom “The Odd Couple” in 1973. Did the authors of the teleplay create this joke?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in a 1957 advertisement published in an Espanola, New Mexico newspaper. The advertiser was an automobile insurance provider called the Horace DeVargas Agency, but QI believes the joke was already in circulation, and the attribution should be anonymous. Boldface added to excerpts: 1

. . . I urge you, as a driver, to observe the rules of traffic and highway safety in the operation of your car.

Don’t ass-u-me anything, when you drive because, you’ll make an ass of u and me—ass-u-me.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Don’t ASS-U-ME Anything

Notes:

  1. 1957 December 26, Rio Grande Sun, (Advertisement from Horace DeVargas Agency, auto insurance company), Quote Page 10, Column 6, Espanola, New Mexico. (Newspapers_com)

Comparison Is the Thief of Joy

Theodore Roosevelt? Mark Twain? C. S. Lewis? Dwight Edwards? John Powell? Ray Cummings? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Comparing your status to others often produces envy and unhappiness. Here are four instances from a family of pertinent adages:

  • Comparison is the thief of joy.
  • The thief of joy is comparison.
  • Comparison is the death of joy.
  • Comparison is the death of contentment.

Statesman Theodore Roosevelt, humorist Mark Twain, author C. S. Lewis, and religious figure Dwight Edwards have all been given credit for sayings in this family. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote investigator: QI has located no substantive evidence supporting ascriptions to Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and C. S. Lewis. Tracing this family is difficult, and this article presents a snapshot of current research. The statements above are not semantically identical, but QI believes that this grouping is natural.

The earliest match located by QI appeared in the 1989 book “Happiness Is an Inside Job” by John Powell. This instance referred to self-contentment and not joy. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

“Why can’t you be like that. ” “Why don’t you do as well as your brother?” “If you comb your hair down, people won’t notice your big forehead. You’ll look more presentable.”

And so most of us have been taught to compare ourselves with others. And all the professionals agree: Comparison is the death of true self-contentment.

The earliest match using “comparison” and “thief of joy” located by QI appeared in the 2003 religious book “Are You Following Jesus Or Just Fooling Around?!” by Dr. Ray Cummings. He discussed three thieves of joy. The first thief was bitterness; the second thief was complaining, and the third thief was comparison: 2

A third thief of joy is comparison. When Satan can’t make you bitter enough to complain, he will seek to lower your self-esteem and allow you to compare.

The 2004 religious book “Connect2God: Instant Messages from God to Teens” by Curt Cloninger included an exact match for the popular modern version of the saying. Cloninger disclaimed credit: 3

Somebody once said that comparison is the thief of joy. In other words, if you’re always comparing yourself to other people, then you’ll never be happy.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Comparison Is the Thief of Joy

Notes:

  1. 1989, Happiness Is an Inside Job by John Powell S.J., Chapter: My Assumption – Happiness is a natural condition, Quote Page 6, Tabor Publishing, Allen, Texas. (Verified with scans)
  2. 2003, Are You Following Jesus Or Just Fooling Around?! by Dr. Ray Cummings, Quote Page 81, Xulon Press: Salem Media Group, Camarillo, California. (Google Books Preview)
  3. 2004, Connect2God: Instant Messages from God to Teens by Curt Cloninger, Chapter: True Original, Start Page 12, Quote Page 13, Honor Books, An Imprint of Cook Communications Ministries, Colorado Springs, Colorado. (Verified with scans)