Politicians Are Like Diapers. They Should Be Changed Regularly

Mark Twain? Betty Carpenter? Bumper Sticker? Jake Ford? Bill Quraishi? John Wallner? Robin Williams? Barry Levinson? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The number of sayings spuriously ascribed to Mark Twain seems to grow every year. Here are two versions of a remark credited to the famous son of Hannibal, Missouri:

  • Politicians and diapers should be changed often.
  • Politicians are like diapers. They need to be changed regularly and for the same reason.

The Wikiquote webpage for Twain contends that the statement is misattributed. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: There is no substantive evidence that Mark Twain who died in 1910 said or wrote this joke. 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

Several researchers have explored this topic, and the earliest pertinent citations previously known occurred in 1992. QI has made incremental progress by uncovering a match in October 1987. “The Cincinnati Enquirer” of Ohio printed a collection of short pieces about electoral candidates such as Betty Carpenter who was running for a position on the Fort Thomas Council. Carpenter made the following comment containing the core of the joke. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 3

This has been a quiet campaign as far as issues go, but I think politicians, like diapers, should be changed regularly. New faces bring fresh new ideas and perspectives to the government.

Carpenter may have crafted this saying, but QI hypothesizes that it was already in circulation before 1987. Yet, it is difficult to trace because the phrasing of the quip is highly variable.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Politicians Are Like Diapers. They Should Be Changed Regularly

Notes:

  1. Website: TwainQuotes.com, Editor: Barbara Schmidt, Description: Mark Twain quotations, articles, and related resources. (Searched October 17, 2018) link
  2. 1948, Mark Twain at Your Fingertips by Caroline Thomas Harnsberger, Cloud, Inc., Beechhurst Press, Inc., New York. (Verified with search)
  3. 1987 October 25, The Cincinnati Enquirer, Section: Special Report: Election Guide 1987, Fort Thomas Council: Betty Carpenter, Quote Page 2, Column 3, Cincinnati, Ohio. (Newspapers_com)

If You Remember the ’60s, You Really Weren’t There

Robin Williams? Charlie Fleischer? Paul Krassner? Paul Kantner? Grace Slick?

Dear Quotation Investigator: I lived through the 1960s, but the only thing I remember about it is the following quotation:

If you can remember the 1960s, you weren’t really there.

Does anyone recall who said this?

Quote Investigator: Yes, many people think they remember who said this. The problem is they disagree: Paul Kantner, Robin Williams, Paul Krassner, Pete Townshend, Grace Slick, Timothy Leary, and many others have been credited with the saying. Of course, no one who was there really remembers.

The earliest citation currently known by QI for this expression was found by the outstanding researcher Stephen Goranson.

The cite is a two-line article in the Comedy column of the Los Angeles Times in 1982: 1

EXIT LINE: Comedian Charlie Fleischer observes: “If you remember the ’60s, you really weren’t there.”

Apparently it took all of the 1970s to recover from the 1960s and create the quip. Until further citations are located, Charles Fleischer gets the credit.

Notes:

  1. 1982 June 13, Los Angeles Times, The Comedy Column: Shandling Takes the Low-Key Road by Lawrence Christon, Page M60, Los Angeles, California. (ProQuest)