Boyle Roche? Joe Miller? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: A comically incoherent or absurd statement is sometimes called a bull or an Irish bull. Here is an example:
I am writing this letter with a sword in one hand and a pistol in the other.
If the writer is not a three-handed alien then this statement is nonsensical. The Irish politician Boyle Roche has received credit for this remark. Would you please explore its provenance.
Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in the 1802 joke book titled “New Joe Miller, Or, The Tickler: Containing Near Two Thousand Good Things”. The book included a clearly fictional letter supposedly sent during an Irish rebellion from an unnamed Irish Member of Parliament to a friend in London. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1
We are in a pretty mess—can get nothing to eat, nor any wine to drink, except whiskey; and when we sit down to dinner, we are obliged to keep both hands armed; whilst I write this letter, I hold a sword in one hand, and a pistol in the other. I concluded from the beginning that this would be the end of it; and I see I was right, for it is not half over yet.—At present, there are such goings on, that every thing is at a stand.
I should have answered your letter a fortnight ago, but I only received it this morning. Indeed, hardly a mail arrives safe, without being robbed.
The letter continued for a few more paragraphs and ended with the following:
P.S. If you do not receive this in course, it must have miscarried; therefore, I beg you will immediately write to let me know.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1802, New Joe Miller, Or, The Tickler: Containing Near Two Thousand Good Things, Volume 2, Second Edition, (Copy of a Letter written during the late Rebellion by Sir ____ _______, an Irish Member of Parliament, to his Friend in London), Start Page 30, Quote Page 30 and 31, Printed for J. Ridgway, London. (Google Books Full View) link ↩