Salary Is No Object; I Want Only Enough To Keep Body and Soul Apart

Dorothy Parker? Alexander Woollcott? Israel Zangwill? Oscar Wilde? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The body and the soul separate at the time of death according to many religious systems. Hence, the idiom “keep body and soul together” refers to maintaining life, i.e., earning enough money to maintain health and activity. A quipster once reversed this formula and said something like:

I only want enough money to keep body and soul apart.

Would you please explore the provenance of this saying?

Quote Investigator: In 1928 poet, critic, and wit Dorothy Parker published a book review in “The New Yorker” magazine which included a comical plea for employment. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

And now that this review is over, do you mind if I talk business for a moment? If you yourself haven’t any spare jobs for a retired book-reviewer, maybe some friend of yours might have something. Maybe you wouldn’t mind asking around. Salary is no object; I want only enough to keep body and soul apart.

Dorothy Parker deserves credit for the remark immediately above. Yet, this type of joke has a longer history, and an 1891 citation for author Israel Zangwill appears further below.

Here are selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Salary Is No Object; I Want Only Enough To Keep Body and Soul Apart

Notes:

  1. 1928 February 4, The New Yorker, Reading and Writing: A Good Novel, and a Great Story by Constant Reader (Dorothy Parker), Start Page 74, Quote Page 77, Column 1, F. R. Publishing Corporation, New York. (Online New Yorker archive of digital scans)

Canada Was Built On Dead Beavers

Margaret Atwood? David? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The North American fur trade between First Nations and Europeans began in the 16th century. In the 19th century millions of beaver pelts were sold in Europe. The importance of this trade has been summarized with the following blunt statement:

Canada was built on dead beavers.

The famous Canadian author Margaret Atwood whose best known novel is “The Handmaid’s Tale” has received credit for this remark. Is this attribution accurate? Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1972 Margaret Atwood published her second novel titled “Surfacing” which contains the following statement spoken by one of the main characters. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

“Do you realize,” David says, “that this country is founded on the bodies of dead animals? Dead fish, dead seals, and historically dead beavers . . .”

The statement under examination was semantically contained within this prolix remark. An exact match for the shorter statement occurred several years later. “The Macmillan Dictionary of Political Quotations” included the following entry indicating that Atwood spoke the line in 1988: 2

Canada was built on dead beavers.
Margaret Atwood, Canadian poet. Quoted on National Public Radio, Canada: True North, Sept. 19, 1988.

Below are three more citations and a conclusion.

Continue reading Canada Was Built On Dead Beavers

Notes:

  1. 1983 (First Published 1972), Surfacing by Margaret Atwood, Chapter 4, Quote Page 43, General Publishing Company, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Verified with scans)
  2. 1993, The Macmillan Dictionary of Political Quotations, Edited by Lewis D. Eigen and Jonathan P. Siegel, Chapter 27: The Environment and Natural Resources, Quote Page 161, Macmillan Publishing Company, New York. (Verified with scans)

Those Who Can Make You Believe Absurdities Can Make You Commit Atrocities

Voltaire? Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan? Desmond MacCarthy? Sissela Bok? Joseph Wood Krutch? Norman L. Torrey? Marvin Lowenthal? Henry Hazlitt? Richard Dawkins? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A system that forces people to embrace absurd beliefs causes damage to their processes of rational thought. These impaired people are more likely to act illogically and destructively. With encouragement they may act barbarously. Here are three instances from a family of related sayings:

(1) Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.

(2) People will continue to commit atrocities as long as they continue to believe absurdities.

(3) If we believe absurdities we shall commit atrocities.

The famous French philosopher Voltaire (pen name of François-Marie Arouet) supposedly made one of these remarks, but I have been unable to find a precise citation. Would you please explore the provenance of these sayings?

Quote Investigator: Researchers have been unable to find an exact match for any of these statements in the works of Voltaire. There is a partial match using the word “unjust” instead of “atrocities”. Here is the original French statement followed by three possible translations: 1

1765: Certainement qui est en droit de vous rendre absurde, est en droit de vous rendre injuste

Translation 01: Certainly, whoever has the right to make you absurd has the right to make you unjust

Translation 02: Truly, whoever can make you look absurd can make you act unjustly

Translation 03: Certainly anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices

The line above appeared within letter number eleven published in 1765 in Voltaire’s work “Collection des Lettres sur les Miracles” (“Collection of Letters on Miracles”). A larger excerpt appears further below.

Pertinent matches in English using the word “atrocities” began to appear by 1914. Voltaire usually received credit for these sayings, and they form a natural family although the precise phrasings and meanings vary. The following overview with dates shows the evolution:

1914: As long as people continue to believe absurdities they will continue to commit atrocities (Spoken by a fictional version of Voltaire)

1933: Men will continue to commit atrocities as long as they continue to believe absurdities (Described as “formula of Voltaire”)

1936: Men will continue to commit atrocities as long as they continue to believe absurdities (Attributed to Voltaire)

1937: If we believe absurdities, we shall commit atrocities (Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan)

1944: Men will be brutal so long as they believe absurdities (Attributed to Voltaire)

1946: People who believe in absurdities will commit atrocities (Attributed to a great thinker)

1960: Certainly any one who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices. (Translation of Voltaire by Norman L. Torrey)

1963: Those who can persuade us to believe absurdities can make us commit atrocities (Described as a dictum of Voltaire by Norman L. Torrey)

1977: Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities (Attributed to Voltaire)

Here are selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Those Who Can Make You Believe Absurdities Can Make You Commit Atrocities

Notes:

  1. 1767 (Letters dated 1765), Collection des Lettres sur les Miracles: Écrites a Geneve, et a Neufchatel, Voltaire, Letter XI, Ecrite par Mr. Théro à Mr. Covelle (Robert Covelle), Start Page 145, Quote Page 150 and 151, Published A Neufchatel.(Google Books Full View) link

There Is No Other Career . . . Which Would Have Interfered Less With My Drinking

Hugh Garner? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A Canadian author once praised the writing profession because it “interfered less with my drinking”. Would you please help me to identify this author and find a citation?

Quote Investigator: Writer Hugh Garner is best known for the Depression-era novel “Cabbagetown”. He won the Governor General’s Award of Canada in 1963. In 1964 he published a collection titled “Author, Author!” of short pieces reprinted from periodicals. Within the introduction he referred to his difficulties controlling his consumption of alcohol. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

I have had a wonderful time as a freelance writer, and at one stage of my career was on my way to becoming rich, but I nipped that in the bud. There is no other job for which I was so fitted psychologically and temperamentally, and no other career which would have interfered less with my drinking.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading There Is No Other Career . . . Which Would Have Interfered Less With My Drinking

Notes:

  1. 1964 Copyright, Author, Author! by Hugh Garner, Chapter: Introduction, Quote Page xv, Ryerson Press, Toronto, Canada. (Google Books snippet match with text visible; HathiTrust match; not yet verified with hardcopy; text does match in “Calgary Herald” book review)

Many People Die at Twenty-Five and Aren’t Buried Until They Are Seventy-Five

Benjamin Franklin? George S. Patton? G. E. Marchand? Gertrude Nelson Andrews? Nicholas Murray Butler? George Lawton? Peter McWilliams? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Living fully during each day of one’s allotted time in this world is an admirable goal, yet few achieve this objective. Here are two versions of a humorous and melancholy comment often credited to U.S. political leader Benjamin Franklin:

(1) Many men die at age 25, but aren’t buried until they’re 75.
(2) Some people die at 25 and are not buried until 75.

I am skeptical of this attribution because I have been unable to find a solid citation. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive support for the ascription to Benjamin Franklin. Searching Franklin’s oeuvre at franklinpapers.org yields nothing germane.

The phrasing is highly variable, and the two numbers specified fluctuate; hence, this family of sayings is quite difficult to trace. The earliest match located by QI appeared in April 1925 within a St. Louis, Missouri newspaper report about popular orator G. E. Marchand who told a large audience that personality was the key to success. Marchand employed a version of the saying based on the years 25 and 60: 1

“Most men and women die intellectually at 25, but are not buried until 60,” he said. “Many have big brains but little jobs because they are walking about in their shroud.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Many People Die at Twenty-Five and Aren’t Buried Until They Are Seventy-Five

Notes:

  1. 1925 April 2, St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 1500 Persons Hear Marchand in First of Lecture Series, Quote Page 7, Column 2, St. Louis, Missouri. (Newspapers_com)

Deep Truths Are Statements in Which the Opposite Also Contains Deep Truth

Niels Bohr? Hans Bohr? Werner Heisenberg? Oscar Wilde? Emilio Segrè? Carl Sagan? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: A famous scientist once asserted something like this:

The opposite of a deep truth is another deep truth.

Would you please help me to find a citation and the correct phrasing?

Quote Investigator: In 1949 the prominent physicist Niels Bohr published an essay titled “Discussion with Einstein on Epistemological Problems in Atomic Physics” which included a passage about “deep truths”. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

In the Institute in Copenhagen, where through those years a number of young physicists from various countries came together for discussions, we used, when in trouble, often to comfort ourselves with jokes, among them the old saying of the two kinds of truth. To the one kind belong statements so simple and clear that the opposite assertion obviously could not be defended. The other kind, the so-called “deep truths,” are statements in which the opposite also contains deep truth.

Bohr labeled the remark a joke, and he used the phrase “old saying”. Thus, he disclaimed authorship; nevertheless, he usually receives credit for the statement.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. The phrasing of this notion varies; hence, this section begins with an overview:

Continue reading Deep Truths Are Statements in Which the Opposite Also Contains Deep Truth

Notes:

  1. 1959 (1949 Copyright), Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist, Edited by Paul Arthur Schilpp, Chapter 7: Discussion with Einstein On Epistemological Problems in Atomic Physics by Niels Bohr, Quote Page 240, Harper Torchbooks, Harper & Row, New York. (Verified with scans)

A Truth in Art Is That Whose Contradictory Is Also True

Oscar Wilde? Niels Bohr? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Sometimes a narrow logical analysis is not enough to understand a topic. In the realm of art, the negation of a truth may yield another truth. The famous wit Oscar Wilde once made a claim of this type. Would you please help me to find a citation.

Quote Investigator: The 1891 book “Intentions” by Oscar Wilde contained an essay titled “The Truth of Masks” in which Wilde boldly indicated that he sometimes disagreed with himself. Boldface added to excepts by QI: 1

Not that I agree with everything that I have said in this essay. There is much with which I entirely disagree. The essay simply represents an artistic standpoint, and in aesthetic criticism attitude is everything. For in art there is no such thing as a universal truth. A Truth in art is that whose contradictory is also true. And just as it is only in art-criticism, and through it, that we can apprehend the Platonic theory of ideas, so it is only in art-criticism, and through it, that we can realize Hegel’s system of contraries. The truths of metaphysics are the truths of masks.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading A Truth in Art Is That Whose Contradictory Is Also True

Notes:

  1. 1891, Intentions by Oscar Wilde, Essay: The Truth of Masks, Start Page 179, Quote Page 212, Heinemann and Balestier, Leipzig. (Google Books Full View) link

In the Lingo, This Imaginary Place Is Known as the Metaverse

Mark Zuckerberg? Neal Stephenson? William Gibson? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Recently, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that his company was changing its name to Meta (full name Meta Platforms). Zuckerberg spoke about an immersive internet called the metaverse. I think some science fiction (SF) author coined the term metaverse. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: In 1992 prominent SF author Neal Stephenson published the novel “Snow Crash” with main character Hiro Protagonist. Stephenson used the term “metaverse” to refer to a technology he envisioned which combined virtual reality, augmented reality, and a social network. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

So Hiro’s not actually here at all. He’s in a computer-generated universe that his computer is drawing onto his goggles and pumping into his earphones. In the lingo, this imaginary place is known as the Metaverse. Hiro spends a lot of time in the Metaverse.

Below are additional selected citations.

Continue reading In the Lingo, This Imaginary Place Is Known as the Metaverse

Notes:

  1. 1993 (1992 Copyright), Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, Chapter 3, Quote Page 24, Bantam Books, New York. (Verified with scans)

Thank Goodness We Don’t Get As Much Government As We Pay For

Will Rogers? Charles F. Kettering? Max Denney? Thomas Jefferson? Robert Heinlein? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Many complain about the burdensome taxes collected by some governments. Many also complain about the counter-productive and wasteful actions taken by those governments. These criticisms have been combined to produce the following comical remark:

Thank heavens we don’t get all the government we pay for.

This saying has been attributed to Charles F. Kettering who was the head of research at General Motors Corporation for many years. The quip has also been credited to the popular humorist Will Rogers. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: This quip is difficult to trace because its phrasing is highly variable. The earliest match located by QI appeared in a Fairbury, Nebraska newspaper in 1947. Local businessman Max Denney addressed a meeting of Rotarians and discussed government spending. He employed the joke but disclaimed credit. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1.

The only bright spot in the cost of government Denney said, is one man’s observation that “Thank goodness we don’t get as much government as we pay for”

QI thinks that an anonymous jokesmith should receive credit for this saying based on current knowledge. Will Rogers died in 1935, and he received posthumous credit in 1966, but the long delay meant that this was very weak evidence.

Charles F. Kettering used the joke in 1949, but he disclaimed credit. See below. Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Thank Goodness We Don’t Get As Much Government As We Pay For

Notes:

  1. 1947 June 11, The Fairbury Daily News, Says Public Interest Answer To Worry Over Tax Burdens, Quote Page 1, Column 8, Fairbury, Nebraska. (Newspapers_com)

If Your Mother Says She Loves You, Check On It

Edward H. Eulenberg? Arnold A. Dornfeld? Rolfe Neill? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Journalism is a difficult profession. Major stories are often complex and ill-defined. Witnesses and experts may be self-interested and unreliable. The following motto for reporters highlights the need to double-check every bit of information:

If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out.

Both Edward H. Eulenberg and Arnold A. Dornfeld have received credit for this expression. They were demanding veteran editors at the City News Bureau of Chicago. Would you please explore the provenance of this adage?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in the “Chicago Tribune” of Illinois on March 30, 1970. The article stated that Arnold A. Dornfeld who was night editor of the City News Bureau of Chicago was retiring the next day. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

After 44 years with City News, Dornfeld has boiled down his advice on journalism to a single sentence: “Chum, if your mother says she loves you, check on it.” That advice, which Dornfeld admits he borrowed from another newsman, has been an icy baptism into reporting for many of the “City Press kids.”

Thus, Dornfeld popularized the saying, but he disclaimed authorship. Dornfeld wrote a 1983 book titled “Behind the Front Page” in which he attributed the saying to colleague Edward H. Eulenberg.

Interestingly, Eulenberg’s 1988 obituary gave him credit for a harsher expression of the same type: “If your mother tells you she loves you, kick her smartly in the shins and make her prove it”. QI conjectures that this statement was toned down to yield the motto mentioned by Dornfeld. Previous researchers introduced this conjecture. Detailed citations are given further below.

Continue reading If Your Mother Says She Loves You, Check On It

Notes:

  1. 1970 March 30, Chicago Tribune, ‘Dory’ Ending 44 Years at City News by John Maclean, Section 1A, Quote Page 2, Column 2, Chicago, Illinois. (ProQuest)