I Spent a Week in Philadelphia One Sunday

W. C. Fields? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Humorous remarks about Philadelphia are often credited to the well-known actor and comic W. C. Fields. In the past the activities and nightlife in Philadelphia were limited because of strict laws. Hence, time seemed to move slowly, and someone created the following quip:

I spent a week in Philadelphia one day.

Was W. C. Fields responsible for this joke?

Quote Investigator:  The earliest evidence for this jest located by QI appeared in 1908 in a magazine called “Life”. The cartoon containing the joke had an elaborate signature affixed, but QI does not know who drew this comical illustration. Two men in bowler hats discussing the city were depicted [LPCB]:

“. . . AND I SPENT A WEEK IN PHILADELPHIA.”
“WHEN?”
“DAY BEFORE YESTERDAY.”

The quip appeared many times in the following decades but the earliest evidence found by QI of a connection to W. C. Fields did not appear until the 1970s. In 1972 an article in the Washington Post described a social event celebrating the birth date of W. C. Fields [WPWF]

A group of Philadelphia businessmen are throwing a 92d birthday party for the late comedian at a local “Y,” which has a no-liquor rule. They’ll show old Fields films, give guests a chance to kick a stuffed dog and insult a live child—all in an effort to keep alive Philadelphia’s heritage. But ginger ale? It makes it easy to understand what Fields meant when he said that in one night he spent a week in Philadelphia.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading I Spent a Week in Philadelphia One Sunday

Yes, I Am Drunk, But You Are Ugly. Tomorrow I Will Be Sober, And You Will Still Be Ugly

Winston Churchill? W. C. Fields? Mr. Robinson? Dr. Tanner? Apocryphal? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: There is a famous anecdote featuring Winston Churchill and the British politician Bessie Braddock that might be fictional. Supposedly Braddock encountered an intoxicated Churchill, and she expressed her displeasure. The rejoinder was harsh:

“Sir, you are drunk.”
“And you, Bessie, are ugly. But I shall be sober in the morning, and you will still be ugly.”

Was this dialog genuine or concocted? Would you please explore this tale?

Quote Investigator: This interaction is a member of a family of anecdotes which has a very long history with different individuals in the roles. A variant tale appeared in 1863 within the “Urbana Union” newspaper of Urbana, Ohio which published the following short item. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

The drunken fellow’s reply to the reprimand of a temperance lecture, delivered in some of the stupid forms of that order of men is worth remembering. “I’m drunk-but-I’ll get over that pretty soon; but you’re a fool-and you’ll never get over that.”

The barb above was aimed at a foolish person instead of an ugly person. Yet, the joke template was the same. A separate QI article centered on early tales using the word “fool” is available here.

The remainder of this article discusses tales set in 1882 and afterward including stories involving the U.K. Parliament, W.C. Fields, and Winston Churchill. The examination of the latter tale incorporates testimony from a bodyguard

Here are selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Yes, I Am Drunk, But You Are Ugly. Tomorrow I Will Be Sober, And You Will Still Be Ugly

Notes:

  1. 1863 July 1, Urbana Union, (Filler item), Quote Page 4, Column 1, Urbana, Ohio. (Newspapers_com)