Will Rogers? Walter Trumbull? Franklin Rodman? Frances Rodman? Robert Phelps? Wynn Catlin? Harold Winkler? Robert Phelps?
Dear Quote Investigator: The reassuring words of a diplomat may sharply diverge from the true agenda of the envoy. The following metaphor depicts hidden hostility:
Diplomacy is the art of being able to say “nice doggie” until you have time to pick up a rock.
The popular humorist Will Rogers receives credit for this expression, but I do not think he made many jokes with this type of implied cruelty. Would you please explore the provenance of this saying?
Quote Investigator: The earliest strong match located by QI appeared in September 1925 in “The Honolulu Advertiser” of Hawaii. The saying occurred within a miscellaneous set of statements printed under the title “The Week in Epigram”. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
Diplomacy frequently consists in soothingly saying “Nice doggie” until you have a chance to pick up a rock—Walter Trumbull.
The name Walter Trumbull was ambiguous, but it probably referred to a sports writer for the North American Newspaper Alliance who also reprinted the quip in his column in 1931.
The attribution to Will Rogers occurred by the 1980s which was very late, and QI believes the linkage was spurious.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1925 September 14, The Honolulu Advertiser, The Week in Epigram, Quote Page 10, Column 3, Honolulu, Hawaii. (Newspapers_com) ↩