Dear Quote Investigator: As an entrepreneur I marvel at the wisdom and concision of the following maxim:
Time is money.
This is usually credited to Benjamin Franklin, but I have become skeptical about attributions after reading this blog. So, I performed my own exploration for this saying and determined that it was indeed Franklin who said it. He reinforced the meaning of the maxim with a common sense example that states: if you skip half-a-days work then you throw away half-a-days wage [AYT]:
Remember that time is money. He that can earn ten shillings a day by his labour, and goes abroad, or sits idle one half of that day, though he spends but sixpence during his diversion or idleness, it ought not to be reckoned the only expence; he hath really spent or thrown away five shillings besides.
He said it in 1748 in an essay titled Advice to a Young Tradesman. Is this an example of a saying that is properly acknowledged?
Quote Investigator: Great work! You have given excellent evidence that Franklin employed the maxim in 1748. The remaining question is: Did someone say it before Franklin?
Continue reading Time is Money. Benjamin Franklin?
Dear Quotation Investigator: Samuel Goldwyn, the Hollywood studio chief, was famous for his creatively humorous speech errors. A famous actor once asked if he could be in one of Goldwyn’s new productions. But Goldwyn did not like the actor, and he supposedly said:
I can answer you in two words, “im possible.”
Well, that is the story. Is it true?
QI: Many funny lines of this type are attributed to the movie mogul, and collectively they are known as Goldwynisms. The quip above has been linked to Goldwyn for many years; however, he probably never said it. Charlie Chaplin claimed that he deliberately pinned this saying on to Samuel Goldwyn according to the biographer Alva Johnston [GLD].
Continue reading Samuel Goldwyn’s Impossible Quote
Groucho Marx? American Legislator? Anonymous?
Dear Quotation Investigator: My favorite quip attributed to Groucho Marx is perfect for describing some politicians:
These are my principles. If you don’t like them I have others.
Was Groucho impersonating a politician when he said this?
Quote Investigator: It is not clear whether Groucho did employ this joke. But your belief that it is associated with politicians does have strong evidentiary support. In fact, the joke has a long history, and a version was being told before Groucho was born. The connection with politicians goes back more then one hundred years.
Continue reading These Are My Principles. If You Don’t Like Them I Have Others
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:
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.
Jascha Heifetz? Arthur Rubinstein? Generic Maestro?
Dear Quote Investigator: How old is that classic joke about one of New York City’s landmark venues?
How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.
Quote Investigator: Tracing jokes can be difficult because they can be told in so many ways. Etymologist Barry Popik is one of the most skilled practitioners of word and phrase tracing in the world, and he shares his results at the Big Apple website.
Popik has a web page about this quip that includes its earliest known appearance.
Continue reading How Do You Get To Carnegie Hall? Practice!
Albert Einstein? Frederick S. Perls? Anonymous? A Great Astronomer?
Dear Quote Investigator: I saw a comic strip titled “Baby Einstein” that contained three quotations that are usually attributed to Einstein. Are these quotes accurate? I am particularly interested in the second quotation:
Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about th’universe!
Did Einstein really say that?
Quote Investigator: Probably not, but there is some evidence, and QI can tell you why the quote is attributed to Einstein. The story begins in the 1940s when the influential Gestalt therapist Frederick S. Perls wrote a book titled “Ego, Hunger, and Aggression: a Revision of Freud’s Theory and Method.”
Continue reading Two Things Are Infinite: the Universe and Human Stupidity
Groucho Marx? Anthony Oettinger?
Dear Quote Investigator: My favorite quote attributed to Groucho Marx is the absurdist, “Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.” But I have read enough of this blog to know that sometimes quotes are wrongly credited. Can you tell me about this quote?
Quote Investigator: Yes, but the news is not good for your favorite Groucho quote. The Yale Book of Quotations is a wonderful reference that I recommend to all readers of this blog. Editor Fred R. Shapiro has researched this quote and says “There is no reason to believe that Groucho actually said this. It appeared in the Usenet news group net.jokes, 9 July 1982.”
So where did this quote come from?
Continue reading Time Flies Like an Arrow; Fruit Flies Like a Banana
Gary Cooper? Lee Neuwirth? Henry Miller? Moses Hadas?
Dear Quotation Investigator: I was told that a prominent journal editor would sometimes write a rejection letter to an author that said his or her “paper fills a much-needed gap”. Is this true?
QI: This post continues the investigation of the phrase “much needed gap”, restarting in 1956, and considers this new question. Here is a link to part one if you missed it.
When legendary gossip columnist Hedda Hopper asks movie star Gary Cooper about the new star Grace Kelly in 1956 he says that “she fills a much needed gap in motion pictures” [GC]. Misunderstanding is still prevalent.
Continue reading This Post Fills a Much-Needed Gap – Part 02
Dear Quotation Investigator: I once read that the funniest book review ever written begins with the sentence: “This book fills a much-needed gap”. Does this book review actually exist?
QI: Remarkably, the phrase mentioned does appear in many book reviews and other evaluations. For years writers have been incongruously eager to praise the filling of a “much-needed gap”. The book reviewers probably intend to say: “This book is a much needed gap-filler.” Instead, books are not being praised they are being inadvertently condemned because a much-needed gap should certainly remain unfilled.
Typically, the humor is unintentional, but sometimes the writer is aware of the precise meaning of the expression.
Continue reading This Post Fills a Much-Needed Gap – Part 01
Dear Quote Investigator: There is a great quote by Plato or Socrates about the misbehavior of children in antiquity that I read in the New York Times. The quote shows that the problems between generations are not just a recent occurrence. Instead, the conflicts between parents and offspring are timeless [NY8]:
The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.
I wanted to use this quote, so I needed to know who said it; however, the NYT website contained a surprise. The newspaper had retracted the quote and now there was a note that said “Its origin is unclear, although many researchers agree that Plato is not the source.” I am sure I have seen this quote before. Can you tell me where it came from and who said it?
Quote Investigator: The quote is so entertaining and it fills its niche so well that it is cited repeatedly around the globe. Over the decades the quotation or a close variant has appeared in newspapers such as: Oakland Tribune of California in 1922; The Bee of Danville, Virginia in 1946; Winnipeg Free Press of Manitoba, Canada in 1976; The Sunday Herald of Chicago, Illinois in 1982; the Sun-Herald of Sydney, Australia in 2005; and the Taipei Times of Taiwan in 2008 [SOC1-SOC6]. The words are usually attributed to Socrates and the confusion with Plato is understandable because Plato’s dialogues are the primary source of knowledge concerning Socrates.
QI has determined that the author of the quote is not someone famous or ancient.
Continue reading Misbehaving Children in Ancient Times