A Quotation Is a Handy Thing To Have About, Saving One the Trouble of Thinking for Oneself, Always a Laborious Business

A. A. Milne? Lord Peter Wimsey? Dorothy L. Sayers? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A. A. Milne is famous for authoring children’s books that bring to life anthropomorphic characters such as Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, and Piglet. Milne also composed essays aimed at adults, and he once criticized thinkers who recited quotations instead of engaging in independent analysis. Would you please help me to find his statement about “thinking for oneself”?

Quote Investigator: A. A. Milne published a collection in 1920 containing the essay “The Record Lie” in which he examined the following Latin adage:

Si vis pacem, para bellum.
If you want peace, prepare for war.

His negative experiences during World War I pushed him toward a pacifist perspective, and he condemned the adage because he believed that it encouraged warmongers. The title of the essay reflected his contention that the saying was a “record lie of the ages, the lie which has caused more suffering than anything the Devil could have invented for himself”. Expanding on this viewpoint he expressed distrust of quotations in general. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

For a quotation is a handy thing to have about, saving one the trouble of thinking for oneself, always a laborious business.

Interestingly, Milne did not adhere to pacifism during the ensuing decades. The events of World War II caused him to re-evaluate his position, and he joined the British Home Guard.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading A Quotation Is a Handy Thing To Have About, Saving One the Trouble of Thinking for Oneself, Always a Laborious Business

Notes:

  1. 1920, If I May by A. A. Milne, Essay: The Record Lie, Start Page 89, Quote Page 90, Methuen & Company, London. (Internet archive archive.org) link

Hard Work Never Killed Anyone But Some of Us Don’t Like To Take Chances

Edgar Bergen? Charlie McCarthy? Florian ZaBach? Walter Winchell? Earl Wilson? George Gobel? Sam Levenson? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: During my younger years when I was slow to perform a boring task my parents sometimes scolded me by proclaiming a cliché about hard work. Eventually, I came across a funny riposte:

It might be true that hard work never killed anyone, but why take a chance?

This joke has been credited to Edgar Bergen and his ventriloquist dummy character Charlie McCarthy. Would you please explore its provenance?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared as an anonymous filler item in a Plainfield, New Jersey newspaper in September 1936. The lengthy phrasing blunted the humor. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

They say hard work never killed anyone but some of us are just naturally apprehensive and timid and don’t like to take chances.

A 1979 book by television host Joe Franklin contained a brief transcript from a performance by Edgar Bergen during which his character Charlie McCarthy employed this type of punchline, but no date was specified. The duo performed for decades starting in the 1920s.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Hard Work Never Killed Anyone But Some of Us Don’t Like To Take Chances

Notes:

  1. 1936 September 12, Plainfield Courier-News, (Filler item), Quote Page 6, Column 1, Plainfield, New Jersey. (Newspapers_com)

I Have Never Thrown an Illegal Pitch. The Trouble Is Some of My Pitches Were Never Seen By This Generation

Satchel Paige? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The U.S. baseball pitcher Leroy Satchel Paige was proud of his inventive style and expert control. When accused of breaking rules he replied with a marvelous remark about throwing pitches that had not been seen in a generation. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In March 1958 “The Miami Herald” published a profile that described Leroy Satchel Paige as a living legend. He was known for a ‘hesitation pitch’ which confused batters, but he did not claim to be its inventor. Also, he denied breaking rules. The term “straight-faced” was used as a verb in the following passage. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

“I have never thrown an illegal pitch,” he straight-faced. “The trouble is some of my pitches were never seen by this generation, until I came along.

“But you know a fella named (Rube) Waddell used that hesitation pitch of mine back in the 1890’s”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Have Never Thrown an Illegal Pitch. The Trouble Is Some of My Pitches Were Never Seen By This Generation

Notes:

  1. 1958 March 5, The Miami Herald, Psychiatrist Satch Set for Season by Eddie Storin (Herald Sports Writer), Quote Page 5D, Column 6, Miami, Florida. (Newspapers_com)

Say Anything You Like About Me, But Spell My Name Right

George M. Cohan? P. T. Barnum? Mae West? Elinor Glyn? Babe Ruth? Damon Runyon? James J. Johnston? Charley Murphy? Max Schmeling? Walter Winchell? Oscar Wilde? Samuel Johnson? Ed Sullivan?

Dear Quote Investigator: A person once planned to write an article or book containing derogatory material about a celebrity. The unruffled response of the celebrity to this prospect was surprising. Here are three versions:

  1. I don’t care what you say about me as long as you spell my name right.
  2. I don’t care how much you pan me, but please spell the name correctly.
  3. Boost me or knock me; it doesn’t mean a thing. Just make sure you spell my name right.

This notion has been credited to Broadway musical icon George M. Cohan, showman P. T. Barnum, actress Mae West, baseball slugger Babe Ruth, and others. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest strong match located by QI appeared in several U.S. newspapers in 1888. The line was delivered by P. T. Barnum who was a founder of Barnum & Bailey Circus. He also operated a museum filled with curiosities and hoaxes. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

P. T. Barnum was once interviewed by a woman who told him that she was writing a book, and that it would contain something disagreeable about him. “No matter, madam,” was his reply, “say anything you like about me, but spell my name right — P. T. B-a-r-n-u-m, P. T. Barnum — and I’ll be pleased anyway.” The blackmailer retired in confusion.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Say Anything You Like About Me, But Spell My Name Right

Notes:

  1. 1888 August 8, The Evening News, The Table Gossip, Quote Page 4, Column 1, Franklin, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com)

I Will Hear Those Glances That You Think Are Silent

Jean Racine? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The 17th-century French dramatist Jean Racine once presented a scenario in which a powerful emperor wished to split apart two lovers. The emperor ordered one lover to banish the other without revealing that the rejection was occurring under coercion. The emperor further stated that he would hide and carefully monitor the meeting of the couple. He employed the following ominous and memorable line:

I will hear those glances that you think are silent.

Would you please help me to find the play containing this scene?

Quote Investigator: This scene occurs in the tragedy “Britannicus” by Jean Racine which was first performed in 1669. The leader Neron desired to sever the relationship between Junie and Britannicus. He ordered Junie to break with her beloved. Here are the key lines spoken by Neron to Junie from a 1713 edition of the play. Boldface added to excerpts from QI: 1

Caché prés de ces lieux, je vous verrai, Madame;
Renfermez vôtre amour dans le fond de vôtre ame,
Vous n’aurez point pour moi de langages secrets.
J’entendrai des regards que vous croirez muets;
Et sa perte sera l’infaillible salaire
D’un geste, ou d’un soûpir échappé pour lui plaire.

A translation of Racine’s play into English by Robert Henderson and Paul Landis appeared under the publishing banner of The Modern Library in 1931. These were the key lines: 2

I shall be near, behind a curtain, lady.
Shut up your love within your inmost heart,
For I shall miss no secret words you say.
Looks that you think are silent, I will hear,
And he shall have his death for a reward
If any little move or sigh betray you.

Below is one additional selected citation together with a conclusion.

Continue reading I Will Hear Those Glances That You Think Are Silent

Notes:

  1. 1713, Œuvres de Racine, Tome Premier, Play: Britannicus, Act 2, Scene 3, Start Page 223, Quote Page 259, Compagnie des Libraires, Paris. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1931, Six Plays By Corneille And Racine, Edited and with an introduction by Professor Paul Landis, Britannicus by Jean Racine, Translated by Robert Henderson and Paul Landis, (Act 2), Start Page 185, Quote Page 209, The Modern Library: Random House, New York. (Verified with scans)

Paragraphing Consists of Stroking a Platitude Until It Purrs Like an Epigram

Don Marquis? Christopher Morley? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Crafting a bright witticism or a clever aphorism is a difficult task especially for a writer who is facing a tight deadline. One strategy is described as follows:

Stroke a platitude until it purrs like an epigram.

This remark has been ascribed to Don Marquis who was a popular columnist and storyteller based in New York City. Would you please explore this saying?

Quote Investigator: Don Marquis wrote a daily column called “The Sun Dial” for “The Evening Sun” of New York for more than a decade. He also wrote for other papers such as “The New York Herald Tribune” and the “Buffalo Evening News”. However, some of his writings have not yet been digitized which impedes research.

The earliest match located by QI appeared as a short item in a Hutchinson, Kansas newspaper in February 1921. The term “paragraphing” meant composing stylish and entertaining paragraphs for periodicals. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Don Marquis who really should know, says the art of newspaper paragraphing “consists of stroking a platitude until it purrs like an epigram.”

This citation provides indirect evidence. And QI currently believes Marquis is the most likely creator of the saying. A matching expression occurred directly in a column by Marquis by 1925, and he sometimes repeated sayings in his columns. Interestingly, the saying was also used by his friend and fellow journalist Christopher Morley who did not credit Marquis.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Paragraphing Consists of Stroking a Platitude Until It Purrs Like an Epigram

Notes:

  1. 1921 February 15, The Hutchinson Gazette, (Short untitled item), Quote Page 6, Column 1, Hutchinson, Kansas. (Newspapers_com)

I Don’t Pay Them To Come Over; I Pay Them To Go Away

Charlie Sheen? Don Simpson? Dashiell Hammet? Adela Rogers St. Johns? Clark Gable? Charles Fleming? Stephen J. Cannell? Susan Kelly? Germaine Greer? Ian Ayres? Joy Fielding? Jack Nicholson?

Dear Quote Investigator: Attractive, wealthy, and famous people sometimes obtain intimate services via the underground commercial market. This behavior is surprising because these individuals should be able to easily find willing partners. Here are three versions of an explanation:

  • I don’t pay them to come over; I pay them to go away.
  • I don’t pay them for carnal encounters. I pay them to leave.
  • You don’t pay a call girl to do what she does. You pay her to leave afterward.

This saying has been ascribed to the actor Charlie Sheen, the movie producer Don Simpson, and the mystery writer Dashiell Hammet, but I have not found any solid citations. Would you please explore the provenance of this statement?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in the 1978 memoir “Love, Laughter and Tears: My Hollywood Story” by the journalist Adela Rogers St. Johns. A chapter of the work discussed the matinée idol Clark Gable who died in 1960. St. Johns claimed that she was surprised to learn that Gable employed high-priced prostitutes, and she asked him about his motivations. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

His attitude was fairly simple, as he explained it to me one day when he confessed that the lady I had seen leaving was, indeed, an expensive import from Madam Frances’ establishment.

“Why would you do a thing like that,” I said, “when all you have to do is whistle? Or grin?”

“That’s why,” he said. “I can pay her to go away. The others stay around, want a big romance, movie lovemaking. I do not want to be the world’s great lover and I don’t like being put on that spot.”

The viewpoint depicted above matched the statement under investigation, and the words matched the second half of the statement.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Don’t Pay Them To Come Over; I Pay Them To Go Away

Notes:

  1. 1979 (Copyright 1978), Love, Laughter and Tears: My Hollywood Story by Adela Rogers St. Johns, Chapter 8: The Magnificent Gable, Quote Page 316 and 317, A Signet Book: New American Library, New York. (Verified with scans)

All Comedy Is Tragedy, If You Only Look Deep Enough Into It

Thomas Hardy? John Ruskin? William Stearns Davis? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Comedy and tragedy are sometimes intertwined. The prominent English novelist Thomas Hardy has received credit for the following remark:

Comedy is tragedy, if you only look deep enough.

This statement has also been ascribed to the influential English art critic John Ruskin. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match known to QI appeared in a letter Thomas Hardy sent to John Addington Symonds in 1889. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

I often begin a story with the intention of making it brighter & gayer than usual; but the question of conscience soon comes in; & it does not seem right, even in novels, to wilfully belie one’s own views. All comedy, is tragedy, if you only look deep enough into it.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading All Comedy Is Tragedy, If You Only Look Deep Enough Into It

Notes:

  1. 1978, The Collected Letters of Thomas Hardy, Volume 1, 1840-1892, Edited by Richard Little Purdy and Michael Millgate, Letter date: April 14, 1889, Letter from: Thomas Hardy, Letter to: John Addington Symonds, Location: Max Gate, Near Dorchester, Quote Page 190, Oxford University Press, Oxford, England. (Verified with scans)

The Words Have Just Crawled Down My Sleeve and Come Out On the Page

Joan Baez? Phillip L. Berman? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: An artist who is crafting a powerful song, poem, or story may feel a lack of control. The mind and body are simply operating as a channel for the emergence of the work. A songwriter once made this point by saying something like:

The lyrics moved down my arm and came out on the page.

Would you please help me to find out precisely what was said and who said it?

Quote Investigator: The activist singer-songwriter Joan Baez wrote a statement of this type in the 1985 book “The Courage of Conviction” which contained essays from a variety of influential figures. The editor Phillip L. Berman explained the blueprint for the collection: 1

I invited prominent men and women from all walks of life to answer the questions “What do you believe?” and “How, emphasizing your occupation(s), have you put those beliefs into action?”

The essay by Joan Baez discussed her motivations and her inspirations: 2

For me, there is no separation between my spiritual and metaphysical beliefs and my ideological and political beliefs. When I’m trying to decide what direction to take in my life, for example, I go to a Quaker meeting and wait for direction—or perhaps it would be better to say search for direction.
. . .

Whether it is political action or artistic creation, it must be the same process. It seems to me that of those songs that have been any good, I have not had much to do with the writing of them. The words have just crawled down my sleeve and come out on the page.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Words Have Just Crawled Down My Sleeve and Come Out On the Page

Notes:

  1. 1985, The Courage of Conviction, Edited by Phillip L. Berman, Section: Introduction, Start Page xiii, Quote Page xiv, Dodd, Mead & Company, New York. (Verified with scans)
  2. 1985, The Courage of Conviction, Edited by Phillip L. Berman, Section: Joan Baez (born 1941), Start Page 14, Quote Page 16, Dodd, Mead & Company, New York. (Verified with scans)

Whoever First Ate an Oyster Was a Brave Soul

Jonathan Swift? Benjamin Franklin? Shirley Chisholm? Thomas Moffett? John Ward? King James I of England? Thomas Fuller? John Gay? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: During a commencement address I heard the following vivid advice offered to students:

Be as bold as the first man or woman to eat an oyster.

Apparently, the famous Irish literary figure Jonathan Swift and the prominent U.S. statesman Benjamin Franklin both praised the courage of the gustatorial explorer who originally sampled the oyster. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Several prominent historical figures penned versions of this sentiment. Thomas Moffett was an influential English physician who died in 1604. He authored a book titled “Healths improvement: or, Rules comprizing and discovering the nature, method, and manner of preparing all sorts of food used in this nation” which appeared in an edition dated 1655. Moffett commented on the boldness of first person who ate an oyster. Spelling was not standardized when his book was published. The word “oysters” was printed as “oisters”. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

. . . onely Oisters of all fish are good raw (yet he was no Coward that first ventered on them) . . .

The diary of the Reverend John Ward included a comment about oysters. Ward was vicar of Stratford-upon-Avon in England, and the diary entry containing the following was written circa 1661. Ward credited King James I of England who had died in 1625: 2

King James said hee was a valiant man that durst first eat oysters.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Whoever First Ate an Oyster Was a Brave Soul

Notes:

  1. 1655, Title: Healths improvement: or, Rules comprizing and discovering the nature, method, and manner of preparing all sorts of food used in this nation. Written by that ever famous Thomas Muffett, Doctor in Physick: corrected and enlarged by Christopher Bennet, Doctor in Physick, and fellow of the Colledg of Physitians in London, Author: Thomas Moffett (1553-1604), Quote Page 47, Publication: London, : Printed by Tho: Newcomb for Samuel Thomson, London. (EEBO Early English Books Online)
  2. 1839, Diary of the Rev. John Ward A.M., Vicar of Stratford-Upon-Avon, Extending from 1648 to 1679, From the Original Mss. Preserved in the Library of the Medical Society of London, Arranged by Charles Severn, M.D. (Member of the Royal College of Physicians in London), Date specified on page 109: March 1, 1661, Quote Page 111, Published by Henry Colburn, London. (Google Books Full View) link