If We Could Read the Secret History of Our Enemies, We Should Find in Each Man’s Life Sorrow and Suffering Enough To Disarm All Hostility

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow? Ann Landers? Mary A. McIver? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Feeling empathy for an adversary is difficult to achieve when one’s mind is filled with indignation. The following intriguing statement claims that comprehensive knowledge of the past of one’s foe would yield a startling insight:

If we could read the secret history of those we would like to punish, we would find in each life enough grief and suffering to make us stop wishing anything more on them.

Apparently, the famous U.S. poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow or the advice columnist Ann Landers said something like this. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1857 the two volume collection titled “Prose Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow” appeared. The second volume included a section called “Table-Talk” listing bright remarks spoken by Longfellow. Here is a sampling of three items. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Every great poem is in itself limited by necessity,—but in its suggestions unlimited and infinite.

If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.

As turning the logs will make a dull fire burn, so change of studies a dull brain.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading If We Could Read the Secret History of Our Enemies, We Should Find in Each Man’s Life Sorrow and Suffering Enough To Disarm All Hostility

Notes:

  1. 1857, Prose Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Volume 1 of 2, Chapter: Drift Wood: A Collection of Essays, Section: Table-Talk, Quote Page 452, Ticknor and Fields, Boston, Massachusetts. (HathiTrust Full View) link

When You’re 60 You Realize No One Was Ever Thinking About You

Winston Churchill? Will Rogers? Jock Falkson? Ann Landers? Ewan McGregor? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: One’s sensitivity to the opinions of others often changes as one matures. The following statement has been attributed to statesman Winston Churchill:

When you’re 20 you care what everyone thinks, when you’re 40 you stop caring what everyone thinks, when you’re 60 you realize no one was ever thinking about you in the first place.

I have been unable to find a solid citation. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive support for the attribution to Winston Churchill. Historian and Churchill quotation expert Richard M. Langworth signaled his skepticism when he included the statement in an article titled “All the ‘Quotes’ Winston Churchill Never Said”. 1

QI believes that the saying evolved over time, and famous humorist Will Rogers popularized an intriguing tripartite variant in the 1930s. See further below.

A thematic precursor was written by prominent lexicographer Samuel Johnson in 1751 who noted that most people were preoccupied with their own affairs. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 2

But the truth is, that no man is much regarded by the rest of the world, except where the interest of others is involved in his fortune. The common employments or pleasures of life, love or opposition, loss or gain, keep almost every mind in perpetual agitation. If any man would consider how little he dwells upon the condition of others, he would learn how little the attention of others is attracted by himself.

In August 1934 “The Minneapolis Star” of Minnesota printed an anonymous three-part saying based on the ages of 20, 30, and 40 instead of 20, 40, and 60. The attitudes expressed in the first two parts were flipped with respect to the target quotation. The attitude specified in the third part matched the target: 3

At 20 we don’t care what the world thinks of us; at 30 we worry about what it thinks of us; at 40 we discover it doesn’t think of us.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading When You’re 60 You Realize No One Was Ever Thinking About You

Notes:

  1. Website: Richard M. Langworth, Title: All the “Quotes” Winston Churchill Never Said (1), Date on website: November 8, 2018, Sub-section: Caring What Others Think. (Accessed May 31, 2019) link
  2. 1752, The Rambler, Issue date: 1751 September 24, Number 159, (Essay by Samuel Johnson), Quote Page 6, Printed by Sands, Murray, and Cochran, Edinburgh. (Google Books Full View) link
  3. 1934 August 6, The Minneapolis Star, (Filler item), Quote Page 6, Column 1, Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Newspapers_com)

Practice Random Acts of Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty

Anne Herbert? Chuck Wall? Ann Landers? George Carlin? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Anyone listening to the news is confronted by disheartening phrases such as “random act of violence” and “ugly act of cruelty”. Yet, these phrases have been creatively reconstructed to produce uplifting suggestions. Here are three versions:

  • Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.
  • Commit acts of random kindness and senseless beauty.
  • Today I will commit one random act of senseless kindness.

Would you please explore the history of these sayings?

Quote Investigator: The earliest strong match known to QI appeared in the July 1985 issue of the influential countercultural journal “Whole Earth Review”. The California-based writer Anne Herbert penned an article titled “Random Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty”. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Anything you think there should be more of, do it randomly. Don’t await a reason. It will make itself be more, senselessly.

Scrawl it on the wall: RANDOM KINDNESS AND SENSELESS ACTS OF BEAUTY

I used to have fantasies of positive vandalism. Breaking into the school and painting a dirty room bright colors overnight. Fixing broken glass in people’s houses while they’re gone. Leaving full meals on tables in the struggling part of town.

QI believes that Anne Herbert deserves credit for this expression. The citation above is listed in the important references “The Quote Verifier” by Ralph Keyes 2 and “The Yale Book of Quotations” edited by Fred R. Shapiro. 3

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Practice Random Acts of Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty

Notes:

  1. 1985 July, Whole Earth Review, Number 47, Random kindness senseless acts of beauty by Anne Herbert, Subsection: RK/SAB, Start Page 92, Quote Page 96, Point Foundation, San Francisco. (Academic One File Gale)
  2. 2006, The Quote Verifier by Ralph Keyes, Quote Page xiii, 176, and 320, St Martin’s Griffin, New York. (Verified on paper)
  3. 2006, The Yale Book of Quotations by Fred R. Shapiro, Section: Anne Herbert, Quote Page 356, Yale University Press, New Haven. (Verified with hardcopy)

Dancing Is a Perpendicular Expression of a Horizontal Desire

George Bernard Shaw? George Melly? I. S. Johar? Ann Landers? Patrick Harte? Robert Frost? Winston Churchill? Oscar Wilde? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Here are two versions of an adage highlighting the sensual aspects of popular gyrations:

  1. Dancing is a perpendicular expression of a horizontal desire.
  2. Dancing is a vertical expression of a horizontal idea.

George Bernard Shaw, Ann Landers, Oscar Wilde, and Robert Frost have received credit for this saying. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence known to QI appeared in the London periodical “New Statesman” in 1962. The musician and critic George Melly attributed the saying to the notable playwright George Bernard Shaw. Emphasis added by QI: 1

I have spent a certain amount of time lately watching people in London dance in the various new ways. I report what went on in three very different places where my fellow countrymen and women had come together to give what Shaw called ‘a perpendicular expression of a horizontal desire’.

Shaw’s death in 1950 preceded Melly’s article by more than a decade, and the text provided no citation; hence, the evidence supporting the ascription was rather weak. Nevertheless, the citations for competing ascriptions are even less persuasive.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Dancing Is a Perpendicular Expression of a Horizontal Desire

Notes:

  1. 1962 March 23, New Statesman, Late Perpendicular by George Melly, Start Page 426, Quote Page 426, Column 3, New Statesman Ltd., London. (ProQuest)

If You Think Education Is Expensive, Try Ignorance

Derek Bok? Ann Landers? Char Meyers? Robert Orben? John Lubbock? P. B. de La Bruère? Rev. S. C. Morris? Charles Duncan Mclver? Albert Einstein? Barack Obama? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The cost of attending college has been increasing more rapidly than the rate of inflation for decades. Students and parents have been struggling with bills and loan payments. A popular adage offers a provocative perspective:

If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.

These words have been attributed to Derek Bok who was a President of Harvard University and to Ann Landers who was a popular syndicated advice columnist. Would you please explore the provenance of this expression?

Quote Investigator: The earliest exact match known to QI appeared in an advertisement for a realty company in June 1974. A real estate agent named Char Meyers was featured in the ad which was published in a Madison, Wisconsin newspaper. The adage was displayed as an epigraph at the top of the ad, and it was not really connected to the content. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.

NEVER PAINT AGAIN Newly listed west 3 bedroom, family room, all aluminum exterior. Beautifully wooded rear yard.

QI believes that Char Meyers was an unlikely candidate for authorship of the saying. But a set of citations that appeared shortly afterward in July 1974 did point to a likely contender. A newspaper supplement called “Family Weekly” was incorporated into the Saturday issues of multiple papers around the U.S.A. The supplement included a column titled “Quips & Quotes” which contained miscellaneous sayings. The adage was printed in the column and credited Robert Orben: 2 3

Prices are increasing so fast that you need that “double-your-money-back guarantee” just to break even. —Anna Herbert

If you think education is expensive, try ignorance. —Robert Orben

Orben was a very successful comedy writer who supplied jokes to others via books and a newsletter. He also wrote material contractually for other comedians, business executives and politicians. QI conjectures that Orben constructed this precise formulation; however, the remark was not particularly novel.

A variety of statements using the same keywords and expressing the same idea have been circulating since the early 1900s. For example, in 1902 an advertisement for a Conservatory of Music in Ottumwa, Iowa contained the following: 4

“Education is expensive but ignorance is more so.”

The saying was linked to Derek Bok because Ann Landers published a column in 1978 that credited him. However, in 1998 she wrote a follow-up column stating that Bok had contacted her directly and disclaimed authorship of the quotation. Detailed citations are given further below.

Great thanks to top researcher Barry Popik who examined this topic and located key citations. QI and Popik shared research results.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading If You Think Education Is Expensive, Try Ignorance

Notes:

  1. 1974 June 18, Capital Times, Section: Classified Advertisements, (Advertisement for Parkwood Realty). On the House by Char Meyers, Quote Page 1, Column 5, Madison, Wisconsin. (NewspaperArchive)
  2. 1974 July 28, The Gallup Independent, Section: Family Weekly (Newspaper Supplement), Quips & Quotes, Quote Page 15, Column 2, Gallup, New Mexico. (Newspapers_com)
  3. 1974 July 28, The Progress, Section: Family Weekly (Newspaper Supplement), Quips & Quotes, Quote Page 19, Column 2, Clearfield, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com)
  4. 1902 August 28, Ottumwa Semi-Weekly Courier, (Advertisement for the Ottumwa Conservatory of Music), Quote Page 8, Column 6, Ottumwa, Iowa. (Chronicling America) link

Insanity Is Hereditary. You Can Get It from Your Children

Sam Levenson? Oscar Levant? W. C. Fields? Helen Gorn Sutin? Dave Berg? Ann Landers? Erma Bombeck? Grace Kelly?

heredity08Dear Quote Investigator: Many parents concur with a very funny quip that reverses the traditional notion of inheritance:

Insanity is hereditary. You get it from your kids.

This joke has been attributed to the newspaper columnist Erma Bombeck, the television host Sam Levenson, and the comedian W. C. Fields. Would you please resolve this ambiguity?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence located by QI was published on April 6, 1961 in an Oklahoma newspaper within a column containing a miscellaneous set of short comical items. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

Insanity is hereditary. You can get it from your children.
—Sam Levenson

During the same time period, the syndicated columnist Walter Winchell printed the jest with an identical attribution: 2

Sam Levenson’s merciless truth: “Insanity is hereditary. You can get it from your children!”

During the following years: Oscar Levant employed the joke; Ann Landers and Erma Bombeck placed it in their respective newspaper columns; and Grace Kelly used a variant quip. Nevertheless, QI believes that Sam Levenson should receive credit for this witticism.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Insanity Is Hereditary. You Can Get It from Your Children

Notes:

  1. 1961 April 6, The Ada Weekly News, Strayed From the Heard by Connie Nelson, Quote Page 4, Column 1, Ada, Oklahoma. (Newspapers_com)
  2. 1961 April 7, San Diego Union, Walter Winchell’s America, Quote Page A16, Column 5, San Diego, California. (GenealogyBank)

Niagara Falls: The First Great Disappointment in Married Life

Oscar Wilde? Ann Landers? Gershon Legman? Anonymous? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: In 1882 the coruscating wit Oscar Wilde came to the United States to see the country and to conduct a series of lectures. When he visited the Niagara Falls, a classic honeymoon destination, he was unimpressed. Here are two variants of a saying that has been attributed to him:

Niagara Falls is the first great disappointment in American married life.

Niagara Falls is the second great disappointment of the American bride.

I am having trouble finding a contemporaneous citation for either of these remarks. Are these really the words of Oscar Wilde?

Quote Investigator: Oscar Wilde saw the Niagara Falls in February 1882 and made a collection of serious and comical pronouncements about the hydrological wonder. The earliest evidence of a strongly matching statement located by QI appeared in an August 1883 interview printed in “The New York World” and reprinted in other newspapers. Wilde had returned to the U.S. to superintend the production of his play “Vera” in New York, and he spoke to a journalist from the periodical. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

When the reporter hinted that American patriotism had been grievously wounded by Mr. Wilde’s criticism upon Niagara, the poet laughed and said modestly:

Niagara will survive any criticism of mine. I must say this, however, that it is the first disappointment in the married life of many Americans who spend their honeymoon there.”

Wilde employed this quip about the waterfall in lectures that he later delivered in England and Ireland though the precise wording varied.

QI has found no substantive evidence that Wilde employed the variant joke with the phrase “second great disappointment”. It was in circulation by 1927, but this was many years after the death of Wilde in 1900. The variant was initially anonymous and then it was reassigned to Wilde probably because of confusion between the two similar jokes. Detailed information is given further below.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Niagara Falls: The First Great Disappointment in Married Life

Notes:

  1. 1883 August 13, The Daily Patriot, Oscar Wilde Returns: In Commonplace Clothing and Shorn of His Glorious Locks, (Acknowledgement: “From Yesterday’s New York World”), Quote Page 2, Column 4, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. (GenealogyBank)

Resolve To Be Tender with the Young and Compassionate with the Aged

Gautama Buddha? Walter Scott? Lloyd Shearer? George Washington Carver? Dale Turner? Ann Landers? Bob Goddard? Anonymous?

striving09Dear Quote Investigator: The end of the year is fast approaching and some of your readers may be thinking about formulating New Year’s resolutions. I have heard a heartfelt resolution that encouraged one to be “compassionate with the aged”, “sympathetic with the striving”, and “tolerant of the weak”. The words were attributed to the Buddha, but the phrasing sounded modern. Would you please explore this statement?

Quote Investigator: “Parade Magazine” is a mass-circulation supplement that is packaged with Sunday newspapers in the U.S. On December 30, 1973 the front page of the magazine presented a set of ten resolutions which included the following four. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

Avoid zealots. They are generally humorless.

Resolve to listen more and to talk less. No one ever learns anything by talking.

Resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and the wrong. Sometime in life you will have been all of these.

Resolve to love next year someone you didn’t love this year. Love is the most enriching ingredient of life.

The copyright notice at the bottom of the page listed “Walter Scott” which was a pen name of the long-time gossip columnist Lloyd Shearer. QI believes Shearer assembled the resolutions and should be credited with crafting the full expression listed in bold. QI also notes that some sub-phrases have been employed by other writers in the past.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Resolve To Be Tender with the Young and Compassionate with the Aged

Notes:

  1. 1973 December 30, The Sun-Telegram: Serving the Inland Empire (The San Bernardino County Sun), Section: Parade Magazine (Sunday newspaper supplement from Parade Publications, Inc., New York), (Ten resolutions were printed on the cover of Parade Magazine; the copyright notice named “Walter Scott”, the pen name of Lloyd Shearer), Quote Page 1, San Bernardino, California. (Newspapers_com)

Time Wounds All Heels

Groucho Marx? Marshall Reid? Fanny Brice? Frank Case? Jane Ace? Goodman Ace? Rudy Vallée? Verree Teasdale? Robert Bloch? John Lennon? Ann Landers? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The following humorous pun about comeuppance for poor behavior has been attributed to the famous comedian Groucho Marx. The slang term “heel” refers to a contemptible person:

Time wounds all heels.

The statement is a scrambled version of the following comforting aphorism about the mitigation of injuries:

Time heals all wounds.

The pun has also been attributed to hotelier Frank Case and radio performer Jane Ace. Would you please explore this saying?

Quote Investigator: Groucho Marx did deliver this comical line during the film “Go West” in 1940, but the expression was already in circulation. In addition, there is good evidence that Frank Case, Jane Ace and several other individuals employed the joke. Detailed citations are given further below.

The earliest citation located by QI appeared in a syndicated news column in December 1934. The remark was ascribed to someone named Marshall Reid. An explanatory anecdote was given to introduce the punchline. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

In a Chicago cafe the other night, an elderly man passed a table.

“There goes George,” observed an onlooker. “When he was young, he was a handsome guy. Left a wife and two kids to starve, and ran off with another woman. And now look at him. Old, broke and very sad.”

“That’s the way-it-goes,” nodded Marshall Reid. “Time wounds all heels.”

Frank Case was a prominent hotelier who owned and operated the Algonquin Hotel in New York where the celebrated Algonquin Round Table convened. He appeared multiple times on a popular radio program hosted by the entertainer Rudy Vallée. During a broadcast in 1937 Vallée asked Case about “skippers”, hotel guests who attempt to leave without paying their bills. Case’s response included the quip: 2

We don’t have much trouble with skippers. If a man can’t pay his bill he usually tells me; pays me later. Of course, they’re a few heels who get away with things, but eventually as time goes by they all get caught. What I always say is “Time wounds all heels”.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Time Wounds All Heels

Notes:

  1. 1934 December 21, Lowell Sun, All In A Day by Mark Hellinger (King Features Syndicate), Quote Page 14, Column 7, Lowell, Massachusetts. (NewspaperArchive)
  2. Website: Old Time Radio Downloads, Audio title: Rudy Vallee Royal Gelatin Hour Guest Tallulah Bankhead, Audio description: Frank Case was also a guest, Air Date on website: June 17, 1937, Audio quotation location: 38 mins, 58 secs of 57 mins 44 secs) Website description: Audio files of old radio show broadcasts. (Accessed oldtimeradiodownloads.com on May 26, 2017) link

Nobody Will Ever Win the Battle of the Sexes. There’s Too Much Fraternizing with the Enemy

Henry Kissinger? M. Z. Remsburg? James Thurber? Ann Landers? Robert Orben? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: There is a joke about the uneasy relationship between the sexes that has been told for decades:

Nobody will ever win the battle of the sexes. There’s too much fraternizing with the enemy.

In the 1970s this statement was attributed to the U.S. foreign policy specialist Henry Kissinger, but I suspect that the quip existed before the 1970s. Would you explore its provenance?

Quote Investigator: A version of this jest was circulating by the 1940s. In February 1944 a newspaper in Lubbock, Texas printed the following as a short filler item. No specific attribution or acknowledgement was given: 1

“One war that will never be won by either side is the continual war between the sexes,” declares a columnist. That’s true, mainly because there is so much fraternizing with the enemy on the part of both sides.

Only part of the text was placed between quotation marks because there were two participants in the joke. The quoted words of the columnist were followed by the humorous reaction of a second unidentified person. The common modern versions of the joke simplify the presentation so that there is only one speaker.

In August 1945 a newspaper in Covina, California printed an instance of the quip and named an editor as the source, but QI suspects that the editor was simply relaying a pre-existing joke. The semantically redundant phrase “on the part of both sides” in the 1944 version has been omitted from most later instances: 2

FRATERNIZATION AGAIN

According to word from editor M. Z. Remsburg of the Vista Press, the reason the war between the sexes will never be ended is that there is too much fraternizing with the enemy!

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Nobody Will Ever Win the Battle of the Sexes. There’s Too Much Fraternizing with the Enemy

Notes:

  1. 1944 February 16, Lubbock Morning Avalanche, (Short untitled item), Quote Page 8, Column 1, Lubbock, Texas. (NewspaperArchive)
  2. 1945 August 24, Covina Argus-Citizen, ‘Round the State by Leone Baxter, Quote Page 9, Column 6, Covina, California. (Newspaper Archive)