Mark Twain? Abbie Hoffman? Roy F. Nichols? George McKinnon? Aardvark Magazine? Graffito?
Dear Quote Investigator: The following has often been ascribed to the famous humorist Mark Twain and the 1960s-era political activist Abbie Hoffman:
Sacred cows make the tastiest hamburger.
Apologies for offensiveness. Would you please explore the provenance of this expression?
Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive evidence that Mark Twain said or wrote this statement. It does not appear on the important Twain Quotes website edited by Barbara Schmidt, 1 nor does it appear in “Mark Twain at Your Fingertips” edited by Caroline Thomas Harnsberger. 2
The words were ascribed to Abbie Hoffman by a speaker at his funeral in 1989. The detailed citation is given further below.
The earliest strong match located by QI appeared in October 1965 in “The Daily Collegian”, a student newspaper at Pennsylvania State University. An article discussed the revivification of a student publication called “Bottom of the Birdcage” which took inspiration from another periodical. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 3
Birdcage’s newly-adopted theme, borrowed from Aardvark magazine, is “Sacred cows make the best hamburger.” Each issue will have something to offend each member of the family.
“Aardvark” magazine was a Chicago humor journal that started out at Roosevelt University. Based on the excerpt above, the saying probably appeared in that magazine before October 1965; however, QI has not examined issues of “Aardvark”. Also, it was conceivable that more than one humor magazine using the name “Aardvark” existed in the time period.
QI believes that the expression evolved over time, and interesting precursors appeared many years earlier.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading
- Website: TwainQuotes.com, Editor: Barbara Schmidt, Description: Mark Twain quotations, articles, and related resources. (Searched December 3, 2016) link ↩
- 1948, Mark Twain at Your Fingertips by Caroline Thomas Harnsberger, Cloud, Inc., Beechhurst Press, Inc., New York. (Verified on paper) ↩
- 1965 October 19, The Daily Collegian (Pennsylvania State University student paper), Ad Hoc Resurrects ‘Bottom of Birdcage’, Page 4, Column 6, University Park, Pennsylvania. (Google News Archive, ActivePaper Archive Full View) ↩