Outside of a Dog, a Book is Man’s Best Friend. Inside of a Dog, It’s Too Dark to Read

Groucho Marx? Ted Atkinson? Jimmy Husson? Jim Brewer ? Mary Stuart? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: You have researched some quotes credited to Groucho Marx, so I am hoping that you will be able to look into a saying that interests me. I work in a library and have long enjoyed the following quip:

Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.

I have seen it on websites associated with libraries where the saying is credited to Groucho. Is this attribution accurate?

Quote Investigator: This joke evolved during several years beginning in 1947. Groucho only received credit by 1973; hence, it is unlikely that he originated this quip.

In May 1947 the “Nashville Banner” of Tennessee printed a column containing a variant of the jest based on a horse instead of a dog. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Probably because he is well-read and articulate, Jockey Ted Atkinson has been credited with the following “observation”: “Outside a horse, a book is man’s best friend—inside it’s too dark to read.”

Below are selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Outside of a Dog, a Book is Man’s Best Friend. Inside of a Dog, It’s Too Dark to Read

Notes:

  1. 1947 May 31, Nashville Banner, Sideline Sidelights by Fred Russell, Quote Page 5, Column 1, Nashville, Tennessee. (Newspapers_com)