“Are You Enjoying Yourself?” “Yes, But That’s the Only Thing I Am Enjoying”

Oscar Wilde? George Bernard Shaw? Ambrose Bierce? Charles Frederick Joy? Percival Christopher Wren? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: If you are attending a soporific party, and the host asks whether you are content you might reply with the following comically self-absorbed zinger attributed to the famous Irish wit Oscar Wilde:

“Are you enjoying yourself, Mr. Wilde?”
“Enormously, Madam, there’s nothing else to enjoy.”

This same quip has been attributed to the prominent English playwright George Bernard Shaw:

“Are you enjoying yourself, Mr. Shaw?”
“Yes—and that’s the only thing I am enjoying.”

Are either of these exchanges genuine? Would you please explore this topic

Quote Investigator: The evidence supporting an ascription to either Wilde or Shaw is weak.

The humor of this rejoinder rests on verbal ambiguity. The host’s inquiry “Are you enjoying yourself?” typically means “Are you experiencing enjoyment via conversation with fellow partygoers and via consuming the refreshments?”. The humorously contorted interpretation is “Are you deriving enjoyment from experiencing your own being?”

A matching joke appeared in 1883 in “The Times” newspaper of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania which acknowledged the “Boston Transcript” of Boston, Massachusetts. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Wrapped in his own originality: Young Goldy sat by himself in the corner, meditatively twirling his moustache, not noticing anybody and noticed by none. He was finally spied out by Brown, who approached and said, “You don’t seem to be enjoying yourself, Goldy, my boy.” “Oh, yes, I am,” replied Goldy in a languid manner: “enjoying myself hugely, old fellow; but kill me if I am enjoying any of these people, you know.”—Boston Transcript.

The identity of the joke creator was not given in “The Times”. It might be specified in the “Boston Transcript”, but QI has not yet seen the original context. Currently, the creator is anonymous. The same passage was reprinted in other newspapers in 1883 such as “The Times-Democrat” of New Orleans, Louisiana: 2

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading “Are You Enjoying Yourself?” “Yes, But That’s the Only Thing I Am Enjoying”

Notes:

  1. 1883 January 8, The Times, Midwinter Mirth, Quote Page 3, Column 2, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com)
  2. 1883 January 12, The Times-Democrat, All Sorts, Quote Page 3, Column 6, New Orleans, Louisiana. (Newspapers_com)

I Traveled Fifty Miles To See Your Bust Unveiled. . . .

Winston Churchill? Hugh Hampton Young? Bennett Cerf? John Barrymore? Jacob Potofsky? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: According to a bawdy anecdote, British statesman Winston Churchill once attended a ceremony during which a sculpture of his likeness was unveiled. A beautiful woman approached him, and their provocative exchange included a pun on the word “bust”. Would you please explore the authenticity of this tale?

Quote Investigator: Historian and Churchill quotation expert Richard M. Langworth discussed this anecdote in his compilation “Churchill By Himself” within an appendix called “Red Herrings: False Attributions”. Langworth remarked that ribald statements were often incorrectly ascribed to Churchill, but they did not fit his character. In the following excerpt “WSC” abbreviated the full name Winston S. Churchill. Emphasis added by QI: 1

One example will suffice: a curvaceous female admirer who meets WSC at the unveiling of his sculpture says: “I got up at dawn and drove a hundred miles for the unveiling of your bust”; WSC supposedly replies, “Madam, I would happily reciprocate the honour.” In reality, Churchill simply was not given to salacious remarks, and nearly always treated the opposite sex with Victorian courtesy.

The earliest match for this comical tale located by QI appeared in the 1940 book “Hugh Young: A Surgeon’s Autobiography” by Hugh Hampton Young who was a prominent urologist and medical researcher. The doctor’s long record of accomplishments was celebrated at the University of Virginia during a ceremony which included the inaugural display of a bust created by the notable English sculptor Claire Sheridan. Young described his attendance at the event: 2

They insisted on my being present, and I sat through the ordeal while Dr. John H. Neff made a meticulous analysis of my contributions to medicine. When at long last the function was over, a young woman came up and said, “I hope you appreciate that I have come fifty miles to see your bust unveiled.” Whereupon, with a bow, I said, “I would go a thousand to see yours.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Traveled Fifty Miles To See Your Bust Unveiled. . . .

Notes:

  1. 2013 (Kindle Edition), In His Own Words: Churchill By Himself by Winston S. Churchill, Compiled and edited by Richard M. Langworth, Appendix I: Red Herrings: False Attributions. (Kindle Location 19563)
  2. 1940, Hugh Young: A Surgeon’s Autobiography by Hugh H. Young, Chapter 29: Bob, Quote Page 509, Harcourt, Brace and Company, New York. (Verified with scans)

Your Assumptions Are Your Windows On the World. Scrub Them Off Every Once In a While, Or the Light Won’t Come In

Isaac Asimov? Alan Alda? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The assumptions we make about the world transform the way we perceive it; hence, we should periodically challenge our own assumptions. A quotation that makes this point and uses windows metaphorically was crafted by either science fiction writer Isaac Asimov or actor Alan Alda. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Alan Alda gave the Commencement Address at Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut when his daughter was in the graduating class of 1980. The text of his speech is available in the Digital Commons section of the college’s website. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in. If you challenge your own, you won’t be so quick to accept the unchallenged assumptions of others. You’ll be a lot less likely to be caught up in bias or prejudice or be influenced by people who ask you to hand over your brains, your soul or your money because they have everything all figured out for you.

QI has found no substantive evidence that Isaac Asimov who died in 1992 made the remark about windows although the words were assigned to him by 2002.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Your Assumptions Are Your Windows On the World. Scrub Them Off Every Once In a While, Or the Light Won’t Come In

Notes:

  1. Website: Digital Commons at Connecticut College, Speech title: 62nd Commencement Address, Speech author: Alan Alda, Speech date (on website): June 1, 1980, Website description: An electronic archive of research and publication for Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. (Accessed digitalcommons.conncoll.edu on December 27, 2018) link

The Universe Is Not Only Queerer Than We Suppose, But Queerer Than We Can Suppose

Arthur Eddington? J. B. S. Haldane? Werner Heisenberg? Arthur C. Clarke? Stanley Kubrick? J. B. Priestly

Dear Quote Investigator: The physics of quantum mechanics, relativity theory, and string theory are mind-bending. Scientists have made remarkable strides in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries; yet, some believe that the progress will stop before the completion of an all-inclusive physical theory. The following adage suggests that the universe is beyond human comprehension. Here are five versions:

  1. Reality is not only stranger than we suppose, but stranger than we can suppose.
  2. Nature is not only odder than we think, but odder than we can think.
  3. The universe is not only stranger than we imagine; it is stranger than we can imagine.
  4. Not only is the universe stranger than we think, it is stranger than we can think.
  5. The universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.

Statements in this family have been credited to English astrophysicist Arthur Eddington, English biologist J. B. S. Haldane, and German theoretical physicist Werner Heisenberg. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match in this family of expressions known to QI was written by J. B. S. Haldane in an essay titled “Possible Worlds” published within a 1927 collection. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Now, my own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose. I have read and heard many attempts at a systematic account of it, from materialism and theosophy to the Christian system or that of Kant, and I have always felt that they were much too simple. I suspect that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of, or can be dreamed of, in any philosophy.

During the ensuing decades the phrasing and vocabulary of the statement have been altered to yield many variants. In addition, the attribution has shifted. Based on current evidence the ascriptions to Arthur Eddington and Werner Heisenberg are unsupported.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Universe Is Not Only Queerer Than We Suppose, But Queerer Than We Can Suppose

Notes:

  1. 1928 (First edition in 1927), Possible Worlds and Other Papers by J. B. S. Haldane, Essay 34: Possible Worlds, Start Page 272, Quote Page 298 and 299, Harper & Brothers Publishers, New York. (Verified with scans)

Make the Best Quality of Goods Possible at the Lowest Cost Possible, Paying the Highest Wages Possible

Henry Ford? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The business titan Henry Ford apparently said something like:

The industrialist should endeavor to make the best quality goods and pay the highest wages possible.

Would you please help me to find the precise phrasing and an accurate citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1933 Henry Ford was asked about the Depression which had submerged the economy of the United States and the world. He offered the following guidance to fellow business people. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

There is one rule for Industrialists and that is: Make the best quality of goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible. Nothing can be right in this country until wages are right. The life of business comes forth from the people in orders. The factories are not stopped for lack of money, but for lack of orders, Money loaned at the top means nothing. Money spent at the bottom starts everything.

The article with this quotation appeared in “The Los Angeles Times” and was distributed via the “Detroit News” and the North American Newspaper Alliance.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Make the Best Quality of Goods Possible at the Lowest Cost Possible, Paying the Highest Wages Possible

Notes:

  1. 1933 June 18, The Los Angeles Times, Greed in Trade Decried by Ford: Motor Magnate Gives Views on Depression Cause (North American Newspaper Alliance and the Detroit News), Quote Page 6, Column 1, Los Angeles, California. (Newspapers_com)

Keep Your Eyes On the Stars, But Your Feet On the Ground

Theodore Roosevelt? Oscar Wilde? William Allen Harper? Ayn Rand? Casey Kasem?

Dear Quote Investigator: High aspirations should be combined with a practical spirit to achieve greatness. This notion can be expressed with the following adage:

Keep your eyes on the stars, but your feet on the ground.

This statement has been attributed to U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt. Would you please explore its provenance?

Quote Investigator: In 1900 New York Governor Theodore Roosevelt delivered a speech in Chicago, Illinois during which he signaled that he did not wish to be the Vice President of the U.S. The speech closed with the following words reported in “The Daily Inter Ocean” newspaper of Chicago. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

The head-in-the-air theorists will not succeed in politics any more than in law, or physics, or dry goods. We’ve got to face facts. An uncomfortable truth is a safer companion than the most attractive falsehood. Strive mightily for high ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars, but don’t forget that your feet are necessarily on the earth.

Roosevelt employed different versions of the saying about stars and feet in several speeches over the years. He served as U.S. President from 1901 to 1909.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Keep Your Eyes On the Stars, But Your Feet On the Ground

Notes:

  1. 1900 April 27, The Daily Inter Ocean, Roosevelt Says No, Quote Page 1, Column 7, Chicago, Illinois. (Newspapers_com)

Finish Every Day and Be Done With It. . . . Some Blunders and Absurdities No Doubt Crept In; Forget Them As Soon As You Can

Ralph Waldo Emerson? James Elliot Cabot? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Each day should be greeted with our optimism and aspirations. We should forgive ourselves for yesterday’s missteps. The transcendentalist philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson apparently made this point in a passage that begins with one of the following two phrases:

  • Finish every day and be done with it.
  • Finish each day and be done with it.

Would you please help me to determine precisely what Emerson said and where he said it?

Quote Investigator: Ralph Waldo Emerson died in 1882, and James Elliot Cabot became his literary executor and family-approved biographer. 1 In 1887 Cabot’s biography of Emerson was published as two volumes under the title “A Memoir of Ralph Waldo Emerson”. A section of chapter 13 described Emerson’s methods of childrearing. An advice-filled letter to a daughter was reprinted. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 2

To one of his daughters who was away from home, at school, he writes:—

Finish every day and be done with it. For manners and for wise living it is a vice to remember. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. To-morrow is a new day; you shall begin it well and serenely, and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense. This day for all that is good and fair. It is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on the rotten yesterdays.”

Cabot had comprehensive access to Emerson’s papers and the support of his family, so QI believes that the text from the letter is probably accurate.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Finish Every Day and Be Done With It. . . . Some Blunders and Absurdities No Doubt Crept In; Forget Them As Soon As You Can

Notes:

  1. 1983, Studies in the American Renaissance, Arranging the Sibylline Leaves: James Elliot Cabot’s Work as Emerson’s Literary Executor by Nancy Craig Simmon, Start Page 335, End Page 389, Published by Joel Myerson. (JSTOR) link
  2. 1887, A Memoir of Ralph Waldo Emerson by James Elliot Cabot, Volume 2 of 2, Chapter 13: His Ways With His Children, Quote Page 106 and 107, Macmillan and Company, London and New York. (Google Books Full View) link

You’re Only As Good As Your Last Performance

James R. Quirk? Douglas Fairbanks? Walter Winchell? Louella Parsons? Barbara Stanwyck? Jack Osterman? Al Jolson? Walter Huston? Will Rogers? Hedda Hopper? Marie Dressler? Arthur Ashe? Laurence Olivier? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The popularity and power of an entertainer, top athlete, or financial whiz can ascend vertiginously, but it can also decline precipitously. A harshly pragmatic family of adages describes the fickleness of admirers. Here is sampling of statements from a variety of domains:

  • A star is only as good as her last picture.
  • A rock group is only as good as their latest album.
  • A columnist is only as good his last column.
  • A coach is only as good as the most recent season.

Often the expression employs the pronoun “you”:

  • You’re only as good as your last performance.
  • You are only as good as your last time at bat.
  • You’re only as good as the last song you wrote.
  • You’re only as good as your last press release

Would you please explore the history of this collection of sayings?

Quote Investigator: A close precursor appeared in “Photoplay Magazine” in 1924. The journal’s editor, James R. Quirk, conducted a survey of business people who operated movie theaters to identify the stars who achieved the best box-office results. Quirk recognized that the rankings would fluctuate over time. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Were a vote taken six months from now the vote might be entirely different. Generally speaking a star is as good as his last few pictures.

The statement above did not use the word “only” and referred to a “few pictures” instead of the “last picture”. Excerpts from Quirk’s article were reprinted in other periodicals. For example, in July 1924 “The Indianapolis Sunday Star” reprinted the star ranking data and the commentary which included the text above. 2

A couple years later in July 1926 “Photoplay Magazine” printed an instance that clearly fit into the family of sayings. The prominent actor, screenwriter, and producer Douglas Fairbanks received credit for the adage: 3

No mere actor-idol can last beyond a short allotted time. Fairbanks, Lloyd, Chaplin are not mere actors. They are artists—producers. We go to see them because their names assure great entertainment.

“A man’s only as good as his last picture,” says Doug, and I heartily concur. An actor who endures as an idol must have not only character but creative force—and the chance to exercise it.

QI conjectures that the saying evolved over time. James R. Quirk crafted a version that was further refined by Douglas Fairbanks into a pithy memorable remark. On the other hand, the members of this family are highly variable and searching for them is difficult. Therefore, future researchers may discover earlier instances necessitating amendments to this conjecture.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading You’re Only As Good As Your Last Performance

Notes:

  1. 1924 May, Photoplay Magazine: The National Guide to Motion Pictures, Volume 25, Number 6, The Greatest Box Office Attractions By Vote of Moving Picture Exhibitors by James R. Quirk, Start Page 44, Quote Page 109, Photoplay Publishing Company, Chicago, Illinois. (Internet Archive) link
  2. 1924 July 6, The Indianapolis Sunday Star, Mary Pickford Leads Stars in Drawing Power, Section 7, Start Page 1, Quote Page 3, Indianapolis, Indiana. (Newspapers_com)
  3. 1926 July, Photoplay Magazine, Volume 30, Number 2, Close-Ups and Long-Shots: Satire Humor and Some Sense by Herbert Howe, Start Page 44, Quote Page 45, Photoplay Publishing Company, Chicago, Illinois. (Internet Archive) link

The Difficulty Is To Persuade the Human Race To Acquiesce in Its Own Survival

Bertrand Russell? George Orwell? Arthur Koestler? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Humanity faces many existential dangers: hydrogen bombs, bioweapons, asteroid impacts, nanoplagues, and artificial intelligence. Yet, most of these dangers were created by humankind, and all can be ameliorated by wise decisions. The British philosopher Bertrand Russell once said something like:

The question is how to persuade humanity to consent in its own survival.

Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: The first atomic bombs were detonated in 1945. Scientists involved in the creation of these astonishingly powerful weapons began to publish “The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists” that same year. Bertrand Russell wrote a piece titled “The Atomic Bomb and the Prevention of War” for the periodical in October 1946 which discussed the momentous challenges emerging from the new scientific and technological advances. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

If any of the things that we value are to survive, the problem must be solved. How it can be solved is clear; the difficulty is to persuade the human race to acquiesce in its own survival. I cannot believe that this task is impossible.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Difficulty Is To Persuade the Human Race To Acquiesce in Its Own Survival

Notes:

  1. 1946 October 1, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Volume 2, Numbers 7 and 8, The Atomic Bomb and the Prevention of War by Bertrand Russell, Start Page 19, Quote Page 21, Column 3, Published by The Atomic Scientists of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois. (Google Books full view) link

Champagne To Our Real Friends, and Real Pain To Our Sham Friends

The Royal Toast Master? Supporters of U.S. President George Washington? William Makepeace Thackeray? Francis Bacon? Randall Munroe? An Anonymous Wit?

Dear Quote investigator: A brilliant toast uses antimetabole and a pun. Here are two versions:

  • Champagne to our real friends, and real pain to our sham friends.
  • Pain to our sham friends, and Champagne to our real friends.

Would you please explore the provenance of this expression?

Dear Quote investigator: The earliest match known to QI appeared in a 1791 collection titled “The Royal Toast Master: Containing Many Thousands of the Best Toasts Old and New” published in London. The following four examples occurred on the same page. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

  • Mirth, wine, and love.
  • Beauty without affectation, and merit without conceit.
  • Champaign to our real friends, and real pain to our sham ones.
  • From discord may harmony rise.

QI believes that it was unlikely that the compiler of “The Royal Toast Master” crafted the statement under examination; hence, it was probably already in circulation in 1791. The compilation was a second edition, so the toast may have appeared in the first edition which QI has not yet seen.  In addition, it was retained in the third edition. 2

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Champagne To Our Real Friends, and Real Pain To Our Sham Friends

Notes:

  1. 1791, The Royal Toast Master: Containing Many Thousands of the Best Toasts Old and New, Second Edition Improved, Quote Page 25, Printed for J. Roach, London. (Gale Eighteenth Century Collections Online)
  2. 1793, The Royal Toast Master: Containing Many Thousands of the Best Toasts Old and New, Third Edition Improved, Quote Page 26, Printed for J. Roach, London. (Google Books Full View) link