To My Embarrassment I Was Born in Bed with a Lady

Mark Twain? Groucho Marx? Wilson Mizner? Sydney J. Harris? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: A funny man once said that he was embarrassed to discover that his behavior had always been scandalous; he had been born in bed with a lady. This line has been connected to Mark Twain, Groucho Marx, and Wilson Mizner. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match known to QI occurred in the 1930 book “Beds” by Groucho Marx. One section contained letters sent by Groucho in response to questions. The ellipsis in the following appeared in the original text: 1

It is Wilson Mizner, and not I, who recalls his embarrassment when he first came into the world, and found a woman in bed with him. . . . I wasn’t embarrassed.

Thus, Groucho credited the playwright, rogue, and wit Wilson Mizner. This citation is listed in the valuable reference “The Yale Book of Quotations” edited by Fred R. Shapiro. 2

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading To My Embarrassment I Was Born in Bed with a Lady

Notes:

  1. 1976 (Copyright 1930 on original edition), Beds by Groucho Marx, Quote Page 70 and 71, Bobbs-Merrill Company, Indianapolis, Indiana. (Verified on paper)
  2. 2006, The Yale Book of Quotations by Fred R. Shapiro, Section: Wilson Mizner, Quote Page 526, Yale University Press, New Haven. (Verified on paper)

Read 500 Pages Like This Every Day. That’s How Knowledge Works. It Builds Up, Like Compound Interest

Warren Buffett? Todd Combs? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Warren Buffett is one of the wealthiest individuals in the history of the world. His lengthy record of successful investing is remarkable. Apparently, he was once asked for guidance and offered this suggestion:

Read five-hundred pages every day.

I haven’t been able to find a citation. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: Warren Buffett serves as chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway. In 2010 Buffett hired hedge fund manager Todd Combs to join the conglomerate as an investment manager.

Many years before that event, Combs was a student at Columbia University. He first saw Buffett during an investing class according to an article in the “Omaha World-Herald”. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Combs didn’t meet Buffett that day but says, “I still remember it like it was yesterday.”

One of the students asked what he could do now to prepare for an investing career. Buffett thought for a few seconds and then reached for the stack of reports, trade publications and other papers he had brought with him.

“Read 500 pages like this every day,” said Buffett, or words to that effect. “That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.”

The article stated that Combs heeded the advice, and at the start of his investing career he would sometimes read “600, 750, even 1,000 pages a day”. Combs believed that the knowledge he gained helped him to succeed.

The veracity of the Buffett attributed quotation is based on the memory of Todd Combs who enrolled at the Columbia Business School in 2000. In his second year he was accepted into the exclusive Value Investment Program. 2 The piece in the “Omaha World-Herald” appeared in 2013.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Read 500 Pages Like This Every Day. That’s How Knowledge Works. It Builds Up, Like Compound Interest

Notes:

  1. 2013 April 28, Omaha World-Herald, Investors earn handsome paychecks by handling Buffett’s business by Steve Jordon (World-Herald Staff Writer), Omaha, Nebraska. (Accessed October 12, 2018; website omaha.com) link
  2. 2010 December, AiCIO (Trade Journal), Who Is This Man?, Publisher: Asset International, Inc., Place of publication: Stamford. (ProQuest ABI/INFORM Collection)

The Command ‘Be Fruitful and Multiply’ Was Promulgated When the Population of the World Consisted of Two Persons

William Ralph Inge? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The number of people on planet Earth has grown to the remarkably large figure of 7.5 billion. A passage in the Book of Genesis of the King James Bible encourages fertility:

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

Yet, the world is quite different today. I vaguely recall a quotation accentuating that difference by mentioning the initial biblical population figure. Would you please help me to find that quotation?

Quote Investigator: In 1931 William Ralph Inge who was Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in London published “More Lay Thoughts of a Dean”. The book contained a reprint of a newspaper essay titled “Should We Limit Our Population?” which included the following: 1

The command “Be fruitful and multiply”—promulgated, according to our authorities, when the population of the world consisted of two persons—must be obeyed now that it contains 1,800 millions, even if the result is that from time to time “millions die of starvation, in extremest agony.”

Encouraging fertility makes sense when a group is small, but Inge believed that the population of 1.8 billion in the 1920s indicated that the situation of humanity had changed dramatically. Humans had wildly succeeded in multiplying, and Inge believed it was desirable to make an effort to control population growth in Britain.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Command ‘Be Fruitful and Multiply’ Was Promulgated When the Population of the World Consisted of Two Persons

Notes:

  1. 1931, More Lay Thoughts of a Dean by William Ralph Inge, Section: Right or Wrong: Some Vexed Questions, Chapter 6: Should We Limit Our Population, Quote Page 48, Putnam, London and New York. (Verified with hardcopy)

Events in the Past May Be Roughly Divided Into Those Which Probably Never Happened and Those Which Do Not Matter

William Ralph Inge? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: I once heard the humorous claim that recorded history may be divided into two parts:

  • Events that probably never happened.
  • Events that do not matter.

Would you please explore the provenance of this observation?

Quote Investigator: William Ralph Inge was Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in London and a professor of divinity at Cambridge. Dean Inge, as he was commonly known, was a prolific author and newspaper columnist. In 1925 “The Advertiser” of Adelaide, Australia published a piece “On Utopians” that acknowledged Inge and included the following passage. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

The things that we know about the past may be divided into those which probably never happened and those which do not much matter. As Samuel Butler says, historians have the power, which is not claimed by the Deity, of altering the past; and this is perhaps the reason why they are allowed to exist.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Events in the Past May Be Roughly Divided Into Those Which Probably Never Happened and Those Which Do Not Matter

Notes:

  1. 1925 April 11, The Advertiser (Adelaide Advertiser), On Utopians: Some Thoughts on the Present Discontents, Quote Page 16, Column 6, Adelaide, South Australia. (NewspaperArchive)

Politicians Are Like Diapers. They Should Be Changed Regularly

Mark Twain? Betty Carpenter? Bumper Sticker? Jake Ford? Bill Quraishi? John Wallner? Robin Williams? Barry Levinson? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The number of sayings spuriously ascribed to Mark Twain seems to grow every year. Here are two versions of a remark credited to the famous son of Hannibal, Missouri:

  • Politicians and diapers should be changed often.
  • Politicians are like diapers. They need to be changed regularly and for the same reason.

The Wikiquote webpage for Twain contends that the statement is misattributed. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: There is no substantive evidence that Mark Twain who died in 1910 said or wrote this joke. It does not appear on the important Twain Quotes website edited by Barbara Schmidt, 1 nor does it appear in “Mark Twain at Your Fingertips” edited by Caroline Thomas Harnsberger. 2

Several researchers have explored this topic, and the earliest pertinent citations previously known occurred in 1992. QI has made incremental progress by uncovering a match in October 1987. “The Cincinnati Enquirer” of Ohio printed a collection of short pieces about electoral candidates such as Betty Carpenter who was running for a position on the Fort Thomas Council. Carpenter made the following comment containing the core of the joke. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 3

This has been a quiet campaign as far as issues go, but I think politicians, like diapers, should be changed regularly. New faces bring fresh new ideas and perspectives to the government.

Carpenter may have crafted this saying, but QI hypothesizes that it was already in circulation before 1987. Yet, it is difficult to trace because the phrasing of the quip is highly variable.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Politicians Are Like Diapers. They Should Be Changed Regularly

Notes:

  1. Website: TwainQuotes.com, Editor: Barbara Schmidt, Description: Mark Twain quotations, articles, and related resources. (Searched October 17, 2018) link
  2. 1948, Mark Twain at Your Fingertips by Caroline Thomas Harnsberger, Cloud, Inc., Beechhurst Press, Inc., New York. (Verified with search)
  3. 1987 October 25, The Cincinnati Enquirer, Section: Special Report: Election Guide 1987, Fort Thomas Council: Betty Carpenter, Quote Page 2, Column 3, Cincinnati, Ohio. (Newspapers_com)

Eat Whatever You Like and Let Them Fight It Out Inside

Mark Twain? Lyman Beecher Stowe? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The following eccentric dietary advice has been attributed to the famous humorist Mark Twain:

Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.

I question whether Twain said this because no one provides a solid citation. Would you please explore this saying?

Quote Investigator: Mark Twain died in 1910, and the earliest match known to QI occurred in an anecdote told by Lyman Beecher Stowe in 1932 to members of the Mark Twain Library and Memorial Commission. Stowe knew Twain because his grandparents lived next door to the luminary in Hartford, Connecticut. “The Hartford Courant” newspaper reported the following. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI. 1

Of the many typical stories from the rich store of Mark Twain’s life, one of the most delightful told by Mr. Stowe was the following advice from Mark Twain, asked on his seventieth birthday to disclose a set of rules for longevity: “Never smoke more than one cigar at a time. Never, never smoke while sleeping. Eat whatever you want and let ’em fight it out among themselves inside. Sit up as late as you can get anybody to stay with you, and stay in bed as long as anybody will let you.”

There is strong evidence that Twain did employ the jokes about smoking in 1905. However, QI has not yet found any evidence linking Twain to the comical remark about eating during his lifetime. Therefore, the accuracy of the ascription to Twain depends on the reliability of Lyman Beecher Stowe’s memory.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Eat Whatever You Like and Let Them Fight It Out Inside

Notes:

  1. 1932 December 2, The Hartford Courant, Mark Twain Recalled On Anniversary: Lyman Beecher Stowe Relates Anecdotes of Writer and His Friends at Memorial, Quote Page 6, Column 1, Hartford, Connecticut. (ProQuest)

I Have Made It a Rule Never To Smoke More Than One Cigar at a Time

Mark Twain? Elbert Hubbard? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Mark Twain followed two thoughtful guidelines regarding smoking:

  • Never smoke more than one cigar at a time.
  • Never smoke while sleeping.

Would you please determine when he enunciated these rules?

Quote Investigator: In 1905 Mark Twain celebrated his seventieth birthday at the popular New York restaurant Delmonico’s. The participants delivered numerous speeches and poems lauding Twain as reported in the “New York Tribune”. The famous humorist addressed the subject of his longevity: 1

I have achieved my seventy years in the usual way: by sticking strictly to a scheme of life which would kill anybody else. I will offer here, as a sound maxim, this: that we can’t reach old age by another man’s road.

I will now teach, offering my way of life to whomsoever desires to commit suicide by the scheme which has enabled me to beat the doctor and the hangman for seventy years.

Twain outlined his dietary regimen and then discussed smoking. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI:

I have made it a rule never to smoke more than one cigar at a time. I do not know just when I began to smoke, I only know that it was in my father’s lifetime, and that I was discreet. He passed from this life early in 1847, when I was a shade past eleven; ever since then I have smoked publicly. As an example to others, and not that I care for moderation myself, it has always been my rule never to smoke when asleep, and never to refrain when awake.

Twain employed these two jokes and helped to popularize them, but instances occurred before 1905.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Have Made It a Rule Never To Smoke More Than One Cigar at a Time

Notes:

  1. 1905 December 6, New-York Tribune, Dinner for Mark Twain: To Mark 70th Birthday, Quote Page 7, Column 3, New York. (Newspapers_com)

Real Artists Ship

Steve Jobs? Andy Hertzfeld? Nicholas Callaway? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Developing and releasing a complicated product like a personal computer is an arduous task. Prominent business executive Steve Jobs employed the following adage to motivate the group designing the innovative Macintosh computer:

Real Artists Ship

Would you please explore this saying?

Quote Investigator: Andy Hertzfeld was a leading member of the Apple Macintosh development team which periodically held off-site retreats to mark progress and provide inspiration. The third occurred on January 27th and 28th, 1983 at the La Playa Hotel in Carmel, California. Hertzfeld asserted that Jobs employed the expression while addressing the team. Years later Hertzfeld started a website called folklore.org to share his memories, and the following excerpt is from the article titled “Credit Where Due”. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Steve was fond of summarizing the themes of the day into a few succinct aphorisms, which he called “Quotations from Chairman Jobs”. The sayings from the previous retreat, held in September 1982, were “It’s Not Done Until It Ships”, “Don’t Compromise!” and “The Journey Is The Reward”. This time, they were “Real Artists Ship”, “It’s Better To Be A Pirate Than Join The Navy”, and “Mac in a Book by 1986”

The phrase “Quotations from Chairman Jobs” was wordplay based on the well-known book title “Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung”.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Real Artists Ship

Notes:

  1. Website: Folklore.org, Article title: Credit Where Due, Article author: Andy Hertzfeld, Date of third retreat was January 27th and 28th, 1983, Timestamp of first comment on website article: April 18, 2004 03:26:32, Website description: “web site devoted to collective historical storytelling” with a focus on Apple computer company. (Accessed folklore.org on October 13, 2018) link

It Is Not Quite the Same God to Which One Returns

Samuel Johnson? Robert Gordis? Francis Bacon? Morris Raphael Cohen? Mordecai M. Kaplan? Benjamin Jowett?

Dear Quote Investigator: While I was a student a few decades ago I came across a remarkable metaphysical expression that was similar to the following:

The search for knowledge will lead a person away from God, and then back toward God, but it will be a somewhat different God than the original one.

Would you please help me to determine the provenance of this saying?

Quote Investigator: This is a very difficult problem because this thought can be communicated in many different ways. The earliest solid match located by QI occurred in the journal “Jewish Social Studies” in 1956 within a piece by Robert Gordis, a biblical scholar at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Morris Raphael Cohen was wont to comment on Francis Bacon’s well-worn saying that “a little knowledge leads a man away from God, but a great deal brings him back,” by observing that it is not quite the same God to which he returns.

Cohen was a prominent Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York. QI has not yet found a matching statement directly in Cohen’s writings or speeches.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading It Is Not Quite the Same God to Which One Returns

Notes:

  1. 1956 January, Jewish Social Studies, Volume 18, Number 1, Book Review by Robert Gordis (Columbia University and The Jewish Theological Seminary), (Book Review of “Theological Essays in Commemoration of the Jubilee of the Faculty of Theology” by L. W. Grensted, L. E. Browne, C. H. Dodd), Indiana University Press. (JSTOR) link

If We Treat People as If They Were What They Ought To Be, We Help Them Become What They Are Capable of Becoming

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe? Thomas Carlyle? Mary Shelley? Percy Bysshe Shelley? Thomas S. Monson? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: There is a family of sayings ascribed to the prominent German literary figure Goethe. Here are two instances in the family:

If you treat people as they are, they will become worse. If you treat them as they could be, they will become better.

If we treat people as if they were what they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.

Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe published Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship) in 1795 and 1796. The following passage in German presents the ideal of helping others to achieve their potential: 1

Wenn wir sagtest Du, die Menschen nur nehmen, wie sie sind, so machen wir sie schlechter; wenn wir sie behandeln als wären sie, was sie sein sollten, so bringen wir sie dahin, wohin sie zu bringen sind.

The influential Scottish essayist and translator Thomas Carlyle rendered Goethe’s novel into English in 1824. Here is Carlyle’s version of the passage. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 2

‘When we take people,’ thou wouldst say, ‘merely as they are, we make them worse; when we treat them as if they were what they should be, we improve them as far as they can be improved.’

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading If We Treat People as If They Were What They Ought To Be, We Help Them Become What They Are Capable of Becoming

Notes:

  1. 1801, Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre: Ein Roman, (Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship: A Novel) by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Vierter Band (Volume 4), Book 8, Chapter 4, Quote Page 194, Frankfurt und Leipzig. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1824, Translations from the German by Thomas Carlyle, Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship and Travels, Translated from the German of Goethe, Volume 2 of 2,Book VIII, Chapter IV, Quote Page 93, Chapman and Hall, London. (Google Books Full View) link