The Fable of the Lion and the Gazelle

Thomas Friedman? Dan Montano? Arthur M. Blank? Sue Tabor? Herb Caen? Christopher McDougall? Roger Bannister? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator:  Last year I saw a motivational poster with a portrait of a lion. The text was a fable about lions and gazelles, and the title was something like the “The Key to Survival.” Paraphrasing: To survive the lion must catch the gazelle and the gazelle must outrun the lion. Do you recognize this saying, and do you know who created it?

Quote Investigator: Thomas Friedman helped to popularize the proverb about the lion and the gazelle by including it in his 2005 bestseller “The World is Flat” 1. He said that a sign written in Mandarin on the factory floor of an auto parts manufacturer in China recounted the tale. Friedman labeled the passage an “African proverb” and did not attempt to determine its origin. The quotation was disseminated via multiple avenues including his book and a motivational poster with the title “The Essence of Survival” that reprinted the text.

The earliest instance located by QI appeared in the Economist magazine in 1985 in an article titled “Lions or gazelles?” where the words were credited to a securities analyst named Dan Montano: 2

Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle: when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.

Stockbrokers and bankers at a recent London conference on financial technology* laughed appreciatively at this sally from Mr. Dan Montano of Montano Securities, an American equities dealer. They chuckled, perhaps, a touch indulgently at predictable American excess.

* The Stock Exchange: Deregulation and New Technology: Oyez International Business Communications. London June 5th and 6th.

Montano may have constructed this proverb himself, or he may have relayed words that he heard or read elsewhere. The Economist gave no other ascription. Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Fable of the Lion and the Gazelle

Notes:

  1. 2005, The World is Flat: a Brief History of the Twenty-First Century by Thomas L. Friedman, Page 114, [1st edition], Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York. (Amazon Look Inside)
  2. 1985 July 6, Economist, Special added section: “The other dimension: Technology and the City of London: A survey”, “Lions or gazelles?”, Page 37, Economist Newspaper Ltd., London. (Verified on microfilm)

Golf: Hit a Very Small Ball into an Even Smaller Hole, with Weapons Singularly Ill-Designed for the Purpose

Winston Churchill? Woodrow Wilson? George Curzon? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Friends know I am an avid golfer and recently a book of quotations about the sport was given to me as a present. This quote from Winston Churchill captures the exasperation I feel when attempting to chip my ball near to the pin [GBGQ]:

Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an even smaller hole, with weapons singularly ill-designed for the purpose.

When I tried to determine when Churchill uttered this assessment I discovered that some people think former President Woodrow Wilson was really responsible for the saying. Maybe you can resolve this question?

Quote Investigator: Variants of this saying have been attributed to both Churchill and Wilson for decades, but the earliest example located by QI occurred in 1892 in the famed London humor magazine Punch. The article “Confessions of a Duffer” by an unnamed contributor included a version of the quotation that used somewhat different phrasing [PLDG]:

Almost everybody now knows that Golf is not Hockey. Nobody runs after the ball except young ladies at W-m-n! The object is to put a very small ball into a very tiny and remotely distant hole, with engines singularly ill adapted for the purpose.

The term with deleted letters: “W-m-n” may have referred to Wimbledon, London. In May 1891 a membership group of 145 women opened their own nine-hole golf course on Wimbledon Common land [RWGC]. The term “engines” referred to the golf clubs used to propel the ball around the course as shown in the following:

There are many engines. First there is the Driver, a long club, wherewith the ball is supposed to be propelled from the tee, a little patch of sand.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Golf: Hit a Very Small Ball into an Even Smaller Hole, with Weapons Singularly Ill-Designed for the Purpose

My Customers Would Have Asked For a Faster Horse

Henry Ford? Edward Menge? Lewis Mumford? Sedgewick Seti? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The preeminent automotive industrialist Henry Ford is credited with a saying that has become very popular in the business literature:

If I had asked my customers what they wanted they would have said a faster horse.
If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.

But I can find no good evidence that Ford ever said this. It’s a great line, though, and I am curious to know who came up with it.

Quote Investigator: The earliest linkage known to QI between the saying and Henry Ford appeared in “The Cruise Industry News Quarterly” in 1999. John McNeece, a cruise ship designer, speculated about the desires of Henry Ford’s potential customers. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

John McNeece: “There is a problem trying to figure out what people want by canvassing them. I mean, if Henry Ford canvassed people on whether or not he should build a motor car, they’d probably tell him what they really wanted was a faster horse.

Interestingly, the words above were not credited directly to Ford. The earliest ascription to Ford that QI has located appeared in a letter sent to the UK publication Marketing Week in 2001: 2

Being market-led implies being led by the consumer — and consumers are bad at coming up with innovations (Henry Ford’s quote: “If I had asked my customers what they wanted they would have said a faster horse” springs to mind…)

Yet Henry Ford died in 1947, so the evidence connecting him to the quotation appears to be very weak. Oddly, Henry Ford’s great-grandson William Clay Ford Jr. used the remark in 2006 and indicated that the attribution was accurate.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading My Customers Would Have Asked For a Faster Horse

Notes:

  1. 1999 Summer, The Cruise Industry News Quarterly, Volume 9, Number 37, Article: Creating Cruise Ships with an Eye on Next Generation, Author: Greg Miller, Start Page 67, Quote Page 67, Publisher: Oivind Mathisen & Angela Reale Mathisen, New York. (Verified visually; thanks to the staff of Hubert Library of Florida International University)
  2. 2001 January 18, Marketing Week, Innovation: ‘breaks conventions’, [Letter from David Lowings, Chief executive, 42 consulting, Maidenhead], Centaur Media plc., London. (Accessed website marketingweek.co.uk on 2011 July 28) link

University Training is to Unsettle the Minds of Young Students, to Widen their Horizons, to Inflame Their Intellects

Foster C. McClellan? Robert M. Hutchins? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Since you are a sleuth for origin histories I’m wondering if you’ve ever come across this quote or any references to its origins:

Education is not to reform students or amuse them or to make them expert technicians. It is to unsettle their minds, widen their horizons, inflame their intellects, teach them to think…

I found this credited to Foster C. McClellan, but no details were given. I’d welcome any info on the source.

Quote Investigator: The attribution to McClellan apparently is inaccurate. In 1929 Robert Maynard Hutchins delivered a speech that contained the text given; however, the precise wording and the ordering is different. Hutchins was about to become the president of the University of Chicago, and his address to graduating students was described in a widely distributed newspaper story from the Associated Press (AP) [RHSM]:

Dr. Robert M. Hutchins, dean of the law school of Yale University, who will become, next September, the youngest president of a large university in this country, outlined today his educational belief before this year’s graduating class at the University of Chicago. …

“My view of university training is to unsettle the minds of young men, to widen their horizons, to inflame their intellects. It is not a hardening, or settling process. Education is not to teach men facts, theories, or laws; it is not to reform them, or amuse them, or to make them expert technicians in any field; it is to teach them to think, to think straight if possible; but to think always for themselves.”

Interestingly, a report on the same speech appeared in the Chicago Tribune on the next day, and the printed text diverged from the AP account. Yet, it contained the same basic material. Below an excerpt is presented and additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading University Training is to Unsettle the Minds of Young Students, to Widen their Horizons, to Inflame Their Intellects

When the Facts Change, I Change My Mind. What Do You Do, Sir?

John Maynard Keynes? Paul Samuelson? Winston Churchill? Joan Robinson? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: John Maynard Keynes was an enormously influential economist, but some of his detractors complained that the opinions he expressed tended to change over the years. Once during a high-profile government hearing a critic accused him of being inconsistent, and Keynes reportedly answered with one of the following:

When events change, I change my mind. What do you do?

When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?

When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do, sir?

When someone persuades me that I am wrong, I change my mind. What do you do?

Because there are so many different versions of this rejoinder I was hoping you might determine if any of them is real. Is there any truth to this anecdote?

Quote Investigator: No direct evidence that Keynes made a comment of this type has been located by QI or other researchers. The earliest statement found by QI that fits this template was not spoken by Keynes but by another prominent individual in the same field, Paul Samuelson who was awarded the 1970 Nobel Prize in economics. He was well-known to students for creating a best-selling economics textbook.

On December 20, 1970 he was interviewed by a panel on the television program “Meet the Press.” The transcript of the show was published the next day in the “Daily Labor Report” from the Bureau of National Affairs, Washington. Austin Kiplinger of Kiplinger Publications asked Samuelson about inflation. Boldface has been added to excerpts [PSDR]:

KIPLINGER: Returning to this matter of how much inflation we can absorb effectively, you may remember that Dr. Sumner Schlicter at Harvard shocked, I guess, the American Public after World War II when he said some inflation was not only inevitable but perhaps also desirable to promote growth. My question is do you agree with that general assessment and if so, how much should we have and how much is acceptable?

DR. SAMUELSON: I do agree with it and I suffer for expressing my agreement. Different editions of my textbook have been quoted. In the first edition I said a five percent rate is tolerable. Then I worked it down to three percent and then down to two percent and the AP carried a wire “Author Should Make Up His Mind.” Well when events change, I change my mind. What do you do?

Intriguingly, in 1978 Samuelson used a version of this expression again, and this time he credited the words to Keynes. His statement was reported in the Wall Street Journal in an article by Lindley H. Clark Jr. [PSWJ]:

Paul Samuelson, the Nobel laureate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, recalled that John Maynard Keynes once was challenged for altering his position on some economic issue. “When my information changes,” he remembered that Keynes had said, “I change my mind. What do you do?”

It is possible that Samuelson was consciously or unconsciously echoing a remark of Keynes when he spoke in 1970, but there is no compelling support for this because he did not credit Keynes during the television interview.

Here are some additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading When the Facts Change, I Change My Mind. What Do You Do, Sir?

Heaven for the Climate, and Hell for the Company

Mark Twain? Ben Wade? Emery A. Storrs? James Matthew Barrie? Robert Burton?

Dear Quote Investigator: There is a well-known quotation about heaven and hell that is usually credited to Mark Twain. I have found it phrased in different ways:

  1. Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company.
  2. I would choose Heaven for climate but Hell for companionship.
  3. Heaven for climate. Hell for society.

My friend is adamant that the quotation was really created by James M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan. Initially, I thought that possibility was unlikely, but when I searched I found some websites that agree with my friend’s claim. Could you examine this question?

Quote Investigator: Mark Twain and J. M. Barrie both employed versions of this quip, and detailed citations are presented further below. Nevertheless, the earliest evidence located by QI pointed to another individual. The joke was attributed to Ben Wade by a judge named Arthur MacArthur while he was speaking at a National Conference of Charities and Correction in 1885. The context did not provide enough details to uniquely identify Wade, but MacArthur may have been referring to the United States Senator Benjamin Franklin “Bluff” Wade. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

The effect of that paper reminded me of an anecdote relating to Ben Wade, who was once asked his opinion on heaven and hell. Well,” said Mr. Wade, “I think, from all I can learn, that heaven has the better climate, but hell has the better company.”

Here are additional selected citations and details in chronological order.

Continue reading Heaven for the Climate, and Hell for the Company

Notes:

  1. 1885, Proceedings of the National Conference of Charities and Correction, Twelfth Annual Session Held in Washington, D.C., June 4-10, 1885, Judge MacArthur speaking on June 10, 1885, Page 500, National Conference of Charities and Correction, Press of Geo. H. Ellis, Boston. (Google Books full view) link

A Day Without Laughter is a Day Wasted

Charlie Chaplin? Steve Martin? Groucho Marx? Nicolas Chamfort?

Dear Quote Investigator: The following guideline for living makes sense to me, so I try to find humor in something every day:

A day without laughter is a day wasted

When I read this maxim originally it was credited to Charlie Chaplin, but I once heard it attributed to Groucho Marx. Do you know who said it and on what occasion?

Quote Investigator: This principle is sometimes credited to popular comedic entertainers such as Charlie Chaplin and Groucho Marx, but the idea was expressed more than two centuries ago. The French writer Nicolas Chamfort was famous for his witticisms and epigrams. In 1795 the periodical Mercure Français reprinted the following saying from one of his manuscripts [MFNC]:

La plus perdue de toutes les journées est celle où l’on n’a pas ri.

The earliest instance of this aphorism in the English language located by QI is dated 1803 in a periodical titled “Flowers of Literature” in a section titled “Laughing” [FLFB]:

I admire the man who exclaimed, “I have lost a day!” because he had neglected to do any good in the course of it; but another has observed that “the most lost of all days, is that in which we have not laughed*;” and, I must confess, that I feel myself greatly of his opinion.

The asterisk footnote pointed to the bottom of the page where the French phrase listed above was presented. The text did not identify Chamfort as the author of the saying, but it did give his precise French wording as the source of the English epigram.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading A Day Without Laughter is a Day Wasted

You Can’t Think and Hit at the Same Time

Yogi Berra? Bucky Harris? Eddie Froelich? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The New York Times magazine recently highlighted a quotation from a Hall of Fame baseball player: 1

“How can you think and hit at the same time?” Yogi Berra once said, which like many of the quotes attributed to the former Yankees catcher, even the malapropisms, contains an essential truth. You can’t think and hit because there’s not time for both.

Did Yogi really say this, or do people simply believe that he should have said it?

Quote Investigator: The evidence is not completely clear because Yogi himself has made confusing pronouncements about this saying. The earliest citation known to QI appeared in an article by “The New York Times” sports writer Arthur Daley published in June 1947. Bucky Harris who was Yogi Berra’s manager selected him to perform as a pinch-hitter, and Harris attempted to give Yogi some mental advice. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 2

“You, Yogi,” snapped Bucky. “Go in there and hit. I realize that you’re in a slump, but you aren’t thinking enough at the plate. Think before you pick out a ball. Make sure it’s good before you swing. Think!”

The Yankee manager gave his hero a brisk pat on the back and sent him into the fray. Yogi struck out most inelegantly and stamped angrily back to the bench, muttering away to himself in a corner of the dug-out. After a while the curious Bucky wandered down and listened to him.

Yogi was repeating over and over, “How can a guy hit and think at the same time?”

Interestingly, this initial version of the quotation used the phrase “hit and think” instead of “think and hit”. Yogi expressed skepticism about the story in his 1961 autobiography, and he revisited the topic in 1998. These excerpts from Yogi are given further below.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading You Can’t Think and Hit at the Same Time

Notes:

  1. 2011 June 26, New York Times, For Derek Jeter, on His 37th Birthday by Michael Sokolove, Page MM28, Section: Sunday Magazine, New York. (Published online 2011 June 23; Accessed online at New York Times website nytimes.com on 2011 June 27)
  2. 1947 June 12, New York Times, Short Shots in Sundry Directions by Arthur Daley, Quote Page 34, Column 7, New York. (ProQuest)

Look Around the Poker Table; If You Can’t See the Sucker, You’re It

Warren Buffett? Michael Wolff? Amarillo Slim? Poker Proverb? Whispering Saul?

Dear Quote Investigator: There is a quotation I have seen in several books and periodicals aimed at investors. Here is one version:

If you have been in a poker game for a while, and you still don’t know who the patsy is, you’re the patsy.

These words are sometimes labeled an “old saying” and sometimes attributed to the legendary super-investor Warren Buffett. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: Warren Buffett did use a version of this quotation in a letter he sent to the shareholders of his conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway Inc. The letter was dated February 29, 1988, and it summarized business activity in 1987. Buffett discussed a metaphorical figure called “Mr. Market” and indicated that a skilled investor should have knowledge that is superior to that of “Mr. Market” [BHWB]:

Indeed, if you aren’t certain that you understand and can value your business far better than Mr. Market, you don’t belong in the game.  As they say in poker, “If you’ve been in the game 30 minutes and you don’t know who the patsy is, you’re the patsy.”

However, Buffett did not claim that he originated the saying; instead, he suggested it was an aphorism used by poker players. QI has located four instances of the saying in 1979 and these appear to be the earliest currently known though earlier examples are likely to exist.

In 1979 the book “The Aggressive Conservative Investor” used a statement of the advice as an epigraph for chapter ten where it was identified as a “Poker Proverb” [ACPP]:

If after ten minutes at the poker table you do not know who the patsy is—you are the patsy.

POKER PROVERB

In June of 1979 in the Atlantic Monthly a story about investing titled “Smart People, Smart Money” included a version of the saying in the summary paragraph that prefaced the article. The words were credited to an individual with the alias “Whispering Saul” [AMWS]:

A stockbroker introduces his financial advisers, such sages as Billy the Shooter and Father Abraham and the wise Whispering Saul, who reminds us, “If you sit in on a poker game and don’t see a sucker, get up. You’re the sucker.”

Here are some additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Look Around the Poker Table; If You Can’t See the Sucker, You’re It

Rock Journalism is People Who Can’t Write Interviewing People Who Can’t Talk for People Who Can’t Read

Frank Zappa? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The most outrageously funny quotation that I know of was spoken by the musician Frank Zappa:

Rock journalism is people who can’t write interviewing people who can’t talk for people who can’t read.

The perfect place to say this would have been during an interview with Rolling Stone magazine. But I do not know if he really said it anywhere. Can you enlighten me?

Quote Investigator: Zappa did make this remark in 1977 during an interview with a staff writer for the Toronto Star newspaper named Bruce Kirkland. The dateline of the story was Mount Pleasant, Michigan where Zappa was playing a concert. His precise statement differed by a single word [T1FZ]:

“Most rock journalism is people who can’t write interviewing people who can’t talk for people who can’t read,” he says. That doesn’t leave much room to like him personally and he makes it obvious he doesn’t like you much either, whoever you are.

This citation is the earliest known, and it comes from the research files of Fred R. Shapiro editor of the Yale Book of Quotations and a top expert in this area. Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Rock Journalism is People Who Can’t Write Interviewing People Who Can’t Talk for People Who Can’t Read