I Have Seen So Many Extraordinary Things, That There Is Nothing Extraordinary To Me Now

Voltaire? Lewis Carroll? George Sand? François-Marie Arouet? C. L. Dodgson? Aurore Dupin Dudevant? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The following remark perfectly encapsulates a world-weary perspective:

I have seen so many extraordinary things, nothing seems extraordinary any more.

This expression has been attributed to three people who employed pseudonyms: witty philosopher Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet), fantasy author Lewis Carroll (C. L. Dodgson), and French novelist George Sand (Aurore Dupin Dudevant). Would you please explore the provenance of this remark?

Quote Investigator: In 1759 Voltaire published the famous satirical tale “Candide, Ou L’Optimisme” (“Candide, Or The Optimist”). In chapter 21 the characters Candide and Martin engaged in a philosophical discussion about humankind. Candide asked Martin about a story involving monkeys that they had spoken about previously. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1759, Candide, Ou L’Optimisme, Traduit De L’Allemand de Mr. Le Docteur Ralph (Voltaire), Chapitre Vingt-Unième: Candide & Martin aprochent des Côtes de France & raisonnent, … Continue reading

N’êtes-vous pas bien étonné, continua Candide, de l’amour que ces deux filles du pays des Oreillons avaient pour ces deux singes, & dont je vous ai conté l’aventure?

Point du tout, dit Martin, je ne vois pas ce que cette passion a d’étrange; j’ai tant vu de choses extraordinaires, qu’il n’y a plus rien d’extraordinaire.

In 1762 an English translation of Voltaire’s work appeared. The name “Candide” was presented as “Candid” in the following rendering of the passage:[2]1762, The Works of M. de Voltaire, Translated for the French with Notes, Historical and Critical by T. Smollett (Tobias Smollett), T. Francklin, M.A. and Others, Volume 18, Section: Candid Or, The … Continue reading

Are you not surprised, continued Candid, at the love which the two girls in the country of the Oreillons had for those two monkeys?—You know I have told you the story.

Surprised! replied Martin, not in the least; I see nothing strange in this passion. I have seen so many extraordinary things, that there is nothing extraordinary to me now.

QI believes that Voltaire should receive credit for popularizing this remark. This notion is sufficiently common that an earlier semantic match probably exists. The precise phrasing in English of Voltaire’s statement varies because several different translations have been published over the years.

George Sand penned a thematically similar remark, and a detailed citation is given below. The linkage to Lewis Carroll is unsupported. The first attribution to him occurred in the 21st century.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Have Seen So Many Extraordinary Things, That There Is Nothing Extraordinary To Me Now

References

References
1 1759, Candide, Ou L’Optimisme, Traduit De L’Allemand de Mr. Le Docteur Ralph (Voltaire), Chapitre Vingt-Unième: Candide & Martin aprochent des Côtes de France & raisonnent, Quote Page 191 and 191, (No publisher listed). (Gallica BNF Bibliothèque nationale de France) link
2 1762, The Works of M. de Voltaire, Translated for the French with Notes, Historical and Critical by T. Smollett (Tobias Smollett), T. Francklin, M.A. and Others, Volume 18, Section: Candid Or, The Optimist, Chapter 21: Candid and Martin, while thus reasoning with each other, draw near to the coast of France, Quote Page 87, Printed for J. Newbery, R. Baldwin, W. Johnston et al, London. (Google Books Full View) link

The Hurrier I Go, the Behinder I Get

Lewis Carroll? Charles L. Dodgson? Alice in Wonderland? White Rabbit? March Hare? Emmaleta Hicks? Gene Meihsner? Ed Sussdorff? Milton Berle? Truck Driver Named Bill? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: There is a family of statements about the difficulty of keeping up with a heavy workload. Here are four instances:

  • The harder I work, the behinder I get.
  • The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.
  • The hurrieder I work, the behinder I get.
  • The faster I run, the behinder I get.

This saying has often been credited to Lewis Carroll (pen name of Charles L. Dodgson) who wrote the famous fantasy works “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking-Glass”. Yet, I have searched Carroll’s books and have not found this expression; therefore, I doubt this attribution. Would you please explore its provenance?

Quote Investigator: There is no substantive evidence that Lewis Carroll penned this saying; it does not appear in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” or “Through the Looking-Glass”. It has been difficult to trace. QI believes the expression evolved over time, and the originator remains uncertain. The saying was deemed Carrollian by some careless wordsmiths, and it was eventually incorrectly reassigned to the popular fantasist.

The earliest match located by QI containing the keyword “behinder” appeared in “The Detroit Free Press” of Michigan in January 1943. The saying was spoken by a truck driver with the common first name of “Bill”:[1] 1943 January 30, The Detroit Free Press, Behind the Front Page by FP Staff, Quote Page 15, Column 1, Detroit, Michigan. (Newspapers_com)

BEHINDER—Emmaleta Hicks clerical worker at the Michigan Central Terminal, reports this scrap of conversation between two truck drivers in the middle of the daily parcel blitz:

“Ya gettin’ caught up with your work, Bill?”
“Naw,” replied Bill, dejectedly, “the harder I work the behinder I get.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Hurrier I Go, the Behinder I Get

References

References
1 1943 January 30, The Detroit Free Press, Behind the Front Page by FP Staff, Quote Page 15, Column 1, Detroit, Michigan. (Newspapers_com)

Even a Stopped Clock Is Right Twice a Day

Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach? Lewis Carroll? Charles L. Dodgson? Joseph Addison? Richard Steele? Diedrich Knickerbocker? Washington Irving? Albany de Grenier Fonblanque? Paulo Coelho? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: An obtuse, unreliable, or incompetent person occasionally performs properly. Here are three versions of a proverb reflecting this observation:

  1. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.
  2. A broken watch is certain to be right twice a day.
  3. A clock that stands still is sure to point right once in twelve hours.

This saying has been attributed to the prominent Austrian writer Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach and to the famous children’s author Lewis Carroll, a.k.a., Charles L. Dodgson the author of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in “The Spectator” magazine in 1711. Even in the 1700s dress fashions were ever changing. If one maintained a single clothing style it would become passé, but eventually it would return to “the mode”, i.e., become fashionable again. “The Spectator” employed the clock-based simile when discussing this topic. Emphasis in excerpts added by QI:[1]1721, The Works of the Right Honourable Joseph Addison, Esq; Volume 3 of 4, The Spectator, Number 129, Issue Year: 1711, Issue Date: “Saturday, July 28”, Start Page 83, Quote Page 83, … Continue reading

Did they keep to one constant dress, they would sometimes be in the fashion, which they never are as matters are managed at present. If instead of running after the mode, they would continue fixed in one certain habit, the mode would some time or other overtake them, as a clock that stands still is sure to point right once in twelve hours: in this case therefore I would advise them, as a Gentleman did his friend who was hunting about the whole town after a rambling fellow, If you follow him you will never find him, but if you plant your self at the corner of any one street, I’ll engage it will not be long before you see him.

Joseph Addison and Richard Steele founded and operated “The Spectator”. Both were significant literary and political figures. Scholarly reprints in later years identified Joseph Addison as the author of the excerpt above.[2]1886, Addison: Selections from Addison’s Papers Contributed to the Spectator, Main Author: Joseph Addison, Edited with Introduction and Notes by Thomas Arnold, No. 129: The same subject; letter … Continue reading

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Even a Stopped Clock Is Right Twice a Day

References

References
1 1721, The Works of the Right Honourable Joseph Addison, Esq; Volume 3 of 4, The Spectator, Number 129, Issue Year: 1711, Issue Date: “Saturday, July 28”, Start Page 83, Quote Page 83, Printed for Jacob Tonson at Shakespear’s-Head, London. (Google Books Full View) link
2 1886, Addison: Selections from Addison’s Papers Contributed to the Spectator, Main Author: Joseph Addison, Edited with Introduction and Notes by Thomas Arnold, No. 129: The same subject; letter describing the fashions in the West of England, Start Page 265, Quote Page 266, Oxford, Clarendon Press. (HathiTrust Full View) link link