The Stichery? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: The classic fairy tale “The Frog Prince” is told with many different variations. In the most common modern version a Princess kisses a frog, and the animal is transformed into a handsome Prince. A humorous maxim has been constructed based on this scenario:
You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince.
Sometimes you have to kiss a few frogs to find a prince.
You sure have to kiss a lot of toads before Prince Charming comes along.
Before you meet the handsome Prince you’ve gotta kiss a lot of toads.
Some instances of the adage use the word “toad” instead of “frog”. Perhaps these versions are meant to emphasize the repulsiveness of the amphibious creature. Can you determine who coined this saying?
Quote Investigator: This entertaining saying is listed in the valuable reference work “The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs” from Yale University Press with an initial citation in February 1976. 1 QI has been able to improve this slightly with a cite in December 1975 in “Better Homes and Gardens” magazine. Interestingly, the earliest instances use “toad” and not “frog”.
The expression appeared in an advertisement from a company selling needlepoint patterns called The Stitchery of Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts. The picture above shows a black and white microfilm image from the magazine ad, and adjacent to it is a pillow with a similar pattern that was sold in 2009 on the website Etsy which specializes in handmade and vintage items. The words on the pillow read: 2
BEFORE YOU MEET THE HANDSOME PRINCE, YOU HAVE TO KISS A LOT OF TOADS!
The advertising copy described the piece:
HANDSOME PRINCE TO NEEDLEPOINT
“… You have to kiss a lot of toads.” The kit to make this delightful needlepoint piece for pillow top or picture includes design in color on 12-mesh white canvas, Persian yarns to work the design in green, black, red, yellow, white and cream-colored background, needle and directions.
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 2012, The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs, Compiled by Charles Clay Doyle, Wolfgang Mieder, and Fred R. Shapiro Entry: You have to kiss a lot of frogs (toads) to find a prince, Quote Page 89, Yale University Press, New Haven. (Verified on paper) ↩
- 1975 December, Better Homes and Gardens, (Advertisement depicting needlepoint pattern for pillow top or picture from The Stitchery, Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts), Quote Page 119, Meredith Corp, Des Moines, Iowa. (Verified on microfilm) ↩