“What’s Your Opinion of Civilization?” “It’s a Good Idea. Somebody Ought To Start It”

George Bernard Shaw? Albert Schweitzer? Life Magazine? Mohandas Gandhi? Ferdinand Pecora? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Some thinkers believe that humanity has not yet achieved an advanced society worthy of the name “civilization”. This notion has been expressed with the following dialog:

“What’s your idea of civilization?”
“It’s a good idea. Somebody ought to start it.”

This acerbic reply has been attributed to playwright George Bernard Shaw and humanitarian Albert Schweitzer, Yet, I have been unable to find any solid citations. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared as a filler item in the humor magazine “Life” in March 1923. The creator was unidentified. Emphasis added to excerpts: 1

“What’s your opinion of civilization?”
“It’s a good idea. Somebody ought to start it.”

The quip has been ascribed to a series of individuals over the decades including: lawyer Ferdinand Pecora in 1933, the Prince of Wales (Edward VIII) in 1934, George Bernard Shaw in 1977, and Albert Schweitzer in 1988. In addition, a variant was attributed to Mohandas Gandhi in 1967. Yet, these citations occurred long after the joke was circulating; hence, the value of this evidence is low.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading “What’s Your Opinion of Civilization?” “It’s a Good Idea. Somebody Ought To Start It”

Notes:

  1. 1923 March 29, Life, Volume 81, Issue 2108, (Filler item), Quote Page 33, Column 1, Life Publishing Company, New York. (ProQuest American Periodicals)

The Place Where Your Talent Meets the World’s Needs Is the Job God Has in Mind for You

Aristotle? Marcus Bach? Albert Schweitzer? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Did the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle secretly work at a job placement agency? Probably not, but a popular family of sayings about career choice has been attributed to him. Here are three examples:

  • Where your talents and the world’s needs cross, there lies your calling.
  • When the needs of the world and your skills intersect, therein lies your vocation.
  • One’s purpose is merely knowing where one’s talents and the needs of the world intersect.

I have been unable to find a solid citation for Aristotle? Would you please examine the origin of this saying?

Quote Investigator: QI has not yet found any substantive evidence connecting these words to Aristotle.

The earliest strong match located by QI appeared in a speech delivered at a high school graduation ceremony in 1954 by Dr. Marcus Bach of the State University of Iowa School of Religion. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

I’m just optimistic enough to believe that God has given you some sort of call. You’ll discover that the place where your talent meets the world’s needs is the job God has in mind for you.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Place Where Your Talent Meets the World’s Needs Is the Job God Has in Mind for You

Notes:

  1. 1954 May 25, Carrol Daily Times Herald, Athletic Award Is Presented to Ed Champion, Start Page 1, Quote Page 7, Column 1, Carroll, Iowa. (Newspapers_com)