A Sense of Humor Is Just Common Sense Dancing

William James? Clive James? Apocryphal?

Question for Quote Investigator: A thoughtful person constructed the following vivid metaphor:

A sense of humor is just common sense dancing.

The U.S. philosopher William James and the Australian critic Clive James have both received credit for this statement. I am uncertain of these ascriptions because I have not seen any solid citations. Would you please explore this topic.

Reply from Quote Investigator: QI has located no substantive evidence supporting the ascription to William James.

In 1979 Clive James published a review in the London newspaper “The Observer” of a television program titled “The Old Crowd” written by Alan Bennett and directed by Lindsay Anderson. The critic complained that Anderson had removed the jokes from the script “leaving a nebulous story about some hazily defined types moving aimlessly about in a half-furnished house.” Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1979 February 4, The Observer, Television: Crumbling Crowd by Clive James, Quote Page 20, Column 8, London, England. (ProQuest)

People like Lindsay Anderson can never learn what people like Alan Bennett should know in their bones: that common sense and a sense of humour are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humour is just common sense, dancing. Those who lack humour are without judgment and should be trusted with nothing.

“Humor” and “humour” are variant spellings of the same word. Outside the U.S. the spelling “humour” predominates.

The incorrect attribution to William James illustrates a known error mechanism. An attribution sometimes jumps from one person to another with a similar name.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading A Sense of Humor Is Just Common Sense Dancing

References

References
1 1979 February 4, The Observer, Television: Crumbling Crowd by Clive James, Quote Page 20, Column 8, London, England. (ProQuest)

I Think Everybody Should Get Rich and Famous So They Can See That That’s Not the Answer

Jim Carrey? Jay Stone? Apocryphal?

Question for Quote Investigator: A famous movie star once said that everyone should experience becoming rich and famous because it would be clear that wealth and fame are not the answer to life’s conundrums. Would you please explore this topic?

Reply from Quote Investigator: In December 2005 Canadian actor and comedian Jim Carrey spoke with journalist Jay Stone, and “The Ottawa Citizen” of Canada printed the following remarks from Carrey. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]2005 December 16, The Ottawa Citizen, Carrey’s been busted, Continuation title: Carrey—Being rich not the answer by Jay Stone, Start Page F1, Quote Page F2, Column 2, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. … Continue reading

He says that earlier in his career, he believed that making just one more film, getting one more hit, would be enough, but he got tired of being emotionally disappointed.

“You just go like, ‘Yeah, it was a fantastic hit, but what now?’” Carrey’s advice: “I think everybody should get rich and famous and everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that that’s not the answer.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Think Everybody Should Get Rich and Famous So They Can See That That’s Not the Answer

References

References
1 2005 December 16, The Ottawa Citizen, Carrey’s been busted, Continuation title: Carrey—Being rich not the answer by Jay Stone, Start Page F1, Quote Page F2, Column 2, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Newspapers_com)

To Understand a Person You Have To Know What Was Happening in the World When That Person Was Twenty

Napoleon Bonaparte? G. M. Young? Anonymous?

Question for Quote Investigator: The years of early adulthood are crucial to the formation of an entire outlook toward life. You have to know what was happening in the world when a person was twenty to understand that person. This notion has been ascribed to the French military leader Napoleon Bonaparte and the English historian G. M. Young. I am skeptical of the linkage to Napoleon because I have not seen any substantive citations. Would you please explore this topic?

Reply from Quote Investigator: In 1943 G. M. Young delivered a lecture before The British Academy of London about the Irish-British statesman Edmund Burke. Young believed that a thorough understanding of Burke required an assessment of the intellectual zeitgeist Burke experienced at age twenty. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1943, Proceedings Of The British Academy, Annual Lecture on a Master Mind, Henriette Hertz Trust, Burke by G. M. Young, Date: February 17, 1943, Start Page 19, Quote Page 24, Published for The … Continue reading

He was born, you will remember, in 1729. But a man’s birth-year is only of importance because it directs us to look for what was happening in the world when he was twenty, and at that age by ‘what was happening’ we ordinarily mean what books were in the air.

There were two from which a young man, even if he had not read them, could not protect himself: Hume’s Essays, with that Essay on Miracles which was a thrust at the heart of revealed religion, and Bolingbroke’s Patriot King, a challenge not to the Revolution Settlement so much as to the political philosophy by which the Settlement was legitimated, and the political practice by which it was applied.

In 1949 Young published an article in “The Listener” magazine of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). He again emphasized the importance of understanding the pivotal youthful years of character formation:[2]1949 July 14, The Listener, Continuity by G. M. Young, Note: A slightly modified version of the Leslie Stephen Lecture delivered in Cambridge last May, Start Page 57, Quote Page 57, Column 2, British … Continue reading

whenever I am thinking of a character, in public life it may be, or in literature, I always ask ‘What was happening in the world when he was twenty?’ If I am thinking of a year, the question is ‘Who were in their forties then?’ To the twenties I go for the shaping of ideas not fully disclosed: to the forties for the handling of things already established.

QI believes that this notion should be credited to G. M. Young. The earliest attribution to Napoleon known to QI appeared in 1998. Yet, the Emperor died in 1821. The long delay means that the linkage to Napoleon currently has no substantive support.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading To Understand a Person You Have To Know What Was Happening in the World When That Person Was Twenty

References

References
1 1943, Proceedings Of The British Academy, Annual Lecture on a Master Mind, Henriette Hertz Trust, Burke by G. M. Young, Date: February 17, 1943, Start Page 19, Quote Page 24, Published for The British Academy, London by Geoffrey Cumberlege, Oxford University Press. (Internet Archive at archive.org)
2 1949 July 14, The Listener, Continuity by G. M. Young, Note: A slightly modified version of the Leslie Stephen Lecture delivered in Cambridge last May, Start Page 57, Quote Page 57, Column 2, British Broadcasting Corporation, London (The Listener Archive: Gale NewsVault)

When Everybody Thinks Alike, Nobody Will Think At All

George Patton? Benjamin Franklin? Walter Lippmann? John F. Kennedy? Sue Myrick? Edward Krehbiel? Jonathan P. Dolliver? Humphrey B. Neill? Eric Schmidt? Porter B. Williamson? Anonymous?

Question for Quote Investigator: Conformity is a powerful force that narrows the thought patterns of groups and individuals. Here are three selections from a family of pertinent sayings:

(1) Where all think alike, no one thinks very much
(2) No one is thinking if everyone is thinking alike
(3) If everyone is thinking alike then somebody isn’t thinking

Items in this group have been attributed to the prominent statesman Benjamin Franklin, the influential journalist Walter Lippmann, the well-known military figure George S. Patton, and others. Would you please explore this topic?

Reply from Quote Investigator: This notion can be expressed in numerous ways; hence, it is quite difficult to trace. Below is an overview representing the evolution of this family with dates and attributions:

1886: When everybody thinks alike there is hardly any incentive to think at all
(Anonymous)

1905: When everybody thinks alike, nobody will think at all
(Anonymous)

1910: Where all think alike, you will find also a central office where all the thinking is done
(Jonathan P. Dolliver)

1915: Where all think alike, no one thinks very much
(Walter Lippmann)

1918: When all think alike no one thinks very much
(Anonymous)

1919: When everybody thinks alike nobody thinks at all
(Edward Krehbiel; He disclaimed credit in 1922)

1934: Where all think alike, no one thinks very much.
(Attributed to Walter Lippmann)

1935: Where everybody thinks alike nobody thinks much
(Anonymous)

1942: When everyone thinks alike, no one thinks.
(Attributed to Reader’s Digest)

1949: When everyone thinks alike, ‘everyone’ is likely to be wrong
(Humphrey B. Neill)

1955: With everyone thinking alike, no one thinks at all
(Juvenile probation officer)

1959: When everyone is thinking alike, no one is doing any thinking!
(Attributed to Walter Lippmann)

1964: If everyone is thinking alike, then no one is thinking at all
(Attributed to John F. Kennedy)

1976: When everyone thinks alike, nobody thinks
(Attributed to Walter Lippmann)

1977: When all think alike, none thinks very much
(Attributed to Ronald Gould)

1979: No one is thinking if everyone is thinking alike
(Principle ascribed to Benjamin Franklin)

1979: If everyone is thinking alike, no one is thinking
(Principle ascribed to George Patton)

1988: If everybody’s thinking alike we’re not thinking
(Attributed to Sue Myrick)

1989: When all think alike, then no one is thinking.
(Attributed to Walter Lippmann)

1990: If everyone is thinking alike then somebody isn’t thinking
(Attributed to George Patton)

1995: If everyone is thinking alike then no one is thinking
(Attributed to Benjamin Franklin)

1997: No one’s thinking if everyone is thinking alike
(Attributed to George Patton)

Summary Highlights: Precursors occurred in the 19th century, but the earliest full match located by QI occurred as an anonymous filler item in 1905. Journalist Walter Lippmann employed an instance in 1915, and he often receives credit for his popular phrasing. Stanford Professor Edward Krehbiel used an instance in 1919 although he disclaimed authorship later. Newspaper columnist Humphrey B. Neill crafted a variant in 1949.

QI hypothesizes that the linkage to statesman Benjamin Franklin and General George Patton occurred because of remarks in the 1979 book “I Remember General Patton’s Principles” by Porter B. Williamson. The book did not directly attribute the saying to either of these men; instead, the book claimed that the saying represented a decision making principle used by Franklin and Patton. Details are given further below.

QI acknowledges the previous excellent work of researcher Barry Popik who explored this topic and found helpful citations beginning in 1919.[1]Website: The Big Apple, Article title: If everybody’s thinking alike, somebody isn’t thinking, Date on website: May 05, 2010, Website description: Etymological dictionary with more than 10,000 … Continue reading

Here are the details for the citations in chronological order.

Continue reading When Everybody Thinks Alike, Nobody Will Think At All

References

References
1 Website: The Big Apple, Article title: If everybody’s thinking alike, somebody isn’t thinking, Date on website: May 05, 2010, Website description: Etymological dictionary with more than 10,000 entries. (Accessed barrypopik.com on November 4, 2022) link

Becoming Is Better Than Being

Carol Dweck? Paul Klee? Thomas Oliver? Martin Heidegger? Victor Branford? Sarah Frances Brown? Charles Hartshorne? Alfred North Whitehead?

Question for Quote Investigator: When you are living a full life you are always changing and growing. You are not inert or stagnant. Here are two versions of a pertinent adage:

(1) Becoming is better than being.
(2) Becoming is more important than being.

This saying has been attributed to prominent U.S. psychologist Carol Dweck, renowned German artist Paul Klee, influential Scottish physician Thomas Oliver, and others. Would you please explore this topic?

Reply from Quote Investigator: This notion has roots in ancient spiritual and philosophical traditions. But this article is focused on tracing closely matching statements.

The earliest instance located by QI appeared in a December 1913 address delivered by Professor of Medicine Sir Thomas Oliver before the Insurance Institute of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1914, The Chartered Insurance Institute Journal of 1914, Medico-Social Problems from an Insurance Point of View by Sir Thomas Oliver M.D. (Professor of the Principles and Practice of Medicine, … Continue reading

The successful man admits that there is more pleasure in work than in having secured the rewards of it—that becoming is better than being—since possibility marks the one and finality seals the other.

QI tentatively credits Oliver with this expression although he may have been repeating a saying that he had heard previously.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Becoming Is Better Than Being

References

References
1 1914, The Chartered Insurance Institute Journal of 1914, Medico-Social Problems from an Insurance Point of View by Sir Thomas Oliver M.D. (Professor of the Principles and Practice of Medicine, University of Durham College of Medicine, Newcastle upon Tyne), Remark: A paper read before the Insurance Institute of Newcastle-upon-Tyne on 8th December 1913, Start Page 1, Quote Page 1, Published by Charles & Edwin Layton, London. (Google Books Full View) link

In the Sublime War of Humanity Against Reality, Humanity Has But One Weapon, The Imagination

Lewis Carroll? Cheshire Cat? C. S. Lewis? Jules de Gaultier? Benjamin de Casseres? Percy Bysshe Shelley? Herbert Kaufman? Apocryphal?

Question for Quote Investigator: Reality can be cold and disheartening. Yet, humans have the extraordinary facility to imagine a different and more entertaining universe. Here are two versions of a pertinent saying:

(1) Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.
(2) In the war against reality, humanity has but one weapon—Imagination.

This remark has been attributed to the popular children’s author Lewis Carroll, the well-known fantasy author C. S. Lewis, the French philosopher Jules de Gaultier, and the essayist Benjamin de Casseres. Who is the genuine originator of this expression? Would you please explore this topic?

Reply from Quote Investigator: In 1916 Benjamin de Casseres published an essay about the English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley in “The Poetry Journal”. De Casseres employed a version of the saying while describing the works of Shelley, but he did not attribute the comment to the poet. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1916 July, The Poetry Journal, Volume 6, Number 1, Shelley by Benjamin de Casseres, Start Page 19, Quote Page 20, The Four Seas Company, Boston, Massachusetts. (Google Books Full View) link

In the sublime war of man against Reality man has but one weapon, the imagination. The ethereal imagination is the highest form of the evolution of the transfiguring and sublimating power of images. It marks the boundary line between the mystery of matter and the mystery of spirit. It is the fine volatilized plasma of an esoteric dimension, of a world where the truths hinted at by the x-ray and radium are true for the human mind and body.

Based on current evidence QI believes that Benjamin de Casseres deserves credit for the quotation under examination. Jules de Gaultier improbably received credit in 1935 after the saying had been circulating for nearly two decades. Lewis Carroll and C. S. Lewis implausibly received credit in the 21st century.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading In the Sublime War of Humanity Against Reality, Humanity Has But One Weapon, The Imagination

References

References
1 1916 July, The Poetry Journal, Volume 6, Number 1, Shelley by Benjamin de Casseres, Start Page 19, Quote Page 20, The Four Seas Company, Boston, Massachusetts. (Google Books Full View) link

The Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything Is Forty-Two

Douglas Adams? Deep Thought? Geoffrey Hinton? Apocryphal?

Question for Quote Investigator: The number forty-two is sometimes presented as the answer to life’s deepest question. Where did this answer originate? Who suggested this eccentric and opaque answer?

Reply from Quote Investigator: In 1978 BBC Radio 4 broadcast the science fiction comedy series “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” created by Douglas Adams. The fourth episode recounted a tale about the answer to humanity’s ultimate existential question.

Millions of years ago a race of hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings decided to build a computer called Deep Thought to solve the problem of Life, the Universe and Everything. After the computer was finally built and the question was posed, the response was displeasing. Deep Thought stated that it would require an additional seven and a half million years to arrive at an answer.

After this long waiting period elapsed, a magnificent ceremony took place, and the pan-dimensional beings waited expectantly for an answer. The speakers identified as One, Two, and Three are computer attendants. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1985, The Original Hitchhiker Radio Scripts by Douglas Adams, Section: Fit the Fourth, Quote Page 79, Harmony Books, New York. (Verified with scans)

DEEP THOUGHT: All right. The Answer to Everything …
TWO: Yes … !
DEEP THOUGHT: Life, The Universe and Everything …
ONE: Yes … !
DEEP THOUGHT: Is …
THREE: Yes … !
DEEP THOUGHT: IS …
ONE/TWO: Yes … !!!
DEEP THOUGHT: Forty two.
(Pause. Actually quite a long one)
TWO: We’re going to get lynched, you know that.
DEEP THOUGHT: It was a tough assignment.

Deep Thought indicated that simply knowing the Answer was not enough. The next task was to build an even larger computer with an organic component to determine the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything. Deep Thought said it would design the new computer, and it would be called Earth.

Below are three additional selected citations and a conclusion.

Continue reading The Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything Is Forty-Two

References

References
1 1985, The Original Hitchhiker Radio Scripts by Douglas Adams, Section: Fit the Fourth, Quote Page 79, Harmony Books, New York. (Verified with scans)

To Seek Happiness by Changing Anything But One’s Own Disposition Will Waste Life in Fruitless Efforts

Samuel Johnson? Noah Webster? Orison Swett Marden? Charles Caleb Colton? Tryon Edwards?

Question for Quote Investigator: If one’s contentment depends upon external forces and events that one cannot control then one should expect continual heartache. Seeking happiness requires changing one’s own dispositions. This notion has been attributed to the famous English lexicographer Samuel Johnson, the noteworthy U.S. lexicographer Noah Webster, and the popular motivational author Orison Swett Marden. Would you please help me to determine the originator together with a citation for the precise phrasing?

Reply from Quote Investigator: In 1750 Samuel Johnson wrote a piece in the London periodical “The Rambler” in which he discussed the philosophy of Stoicism:[1] 1756, The Rambler of Samuel Johnson (Reprinted), Volume 1 of 4, Fourth Edition, Issue Date: April 7, 1750, Quote page 28, Printed for A, Millar, in the Strand, London. (Google Books Full View) link

That man should never suffer his happiness to depend upon external circumstances, is one of the chief precepts of the Stoical philosophy. . .

Johnson discussed a poet who fantasized about traveling to America to attain a life of leisure and retreat. Yet, Johnson believed that the cause of the poet’s unhappiness was internal and achieving contentment required a mental shift. The word “trial” was spelled “tryal”. Boldface added to excepts by QI:[2] 1756, The Rambler of Samuel Johnson (Reprinted), Volume 1 of 4, Fourth Edition, Issue Date: April 7, 1750, Quote page 33, Printed for A, Millar, in the Strand, London. (Google Books Full View) link

He would, upon the tryal, have been soon convinced, that the fountain of content must spring up in the mind; and that he who has so little knowledge of human nature, as to seek happiness by changing any thing but his own dispositions, will waste his life in fruitless efforts, and multiply the griefs which he purposes to remove.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading To Seek Happiness by Changing Anything But One’s Own Disposition Will Waste Life in Fruitless Efforts

References

References
1 1756, The Rambler of Samuel Johnson (Reprinted), Volume 1 of 4, Fourth Edition, Issue Date: April 7, 1750, Quote page 28, Printed for A, Millar, in the Strand, London. (Google Books Full View) link
2 1756, The Rambler of Samuel Johnson (Reprinted), Volume 1 of 4, Fourth Edition, Issue Date: April 7, 1750, Quote page 33, Printed for A, Millar, in the Strand, London. (Google Books Full View) link

Don’t Cut Your Flowers and Water Your Weeds

Warren Buffett? Peter Lynch? Allan R. Stuart? Anonymous?

Question for Quote Investigator: When a stock in your portfolio goes up it is tempting to sell it and lock in profits. Also, when a stock is languishing it is natural to hold on to it with the hope that someday it will ascend. However, a vivid metaphorical adage says this is foolish behavior. Here are four versions:

(1) Don’t pull your flowers and water your weeds.
(2) You shouldn’t cut your flowers and water your weeds.
(3) Be careful you don’t pick your flowers and water your weeds.
(4) Don’t garden by digging up the flowers and watering the weeds.

This saying has been attributed to super-investor Warren Buffett and successful fund manager Peter Lynch. Would you please explore this topic?

Reply from Quote Investigator: In 1989 Peter Lynch with John Rothchild published “One Up On Wall Street: How To Use What You Already Know to Make Money in the Market”. The book warned against flawed investment strategies. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1989, One Up On Wall Street: How To Use What You Already Know to Make Money in the Market Peter Lynch with John Rothchild, Chapter 16: Designing a Portfolio, Quote Page 245, Simon and Schuster, New … Continue reading

Some people automatically sell the “winners”—stocks that go up—and hold on to their “losers”—stocks that go down—which is about as sensible as pulling out the flowers and watering the weeds. Others automatically sell their losers and hold on to their winners, which doesn’t work out much better. Both strategies fail because they’re tied to the current movement of the stock price as an indicator of the company’s fundamental value.

QI believes that the modern versions of this adage evolved from Lynch’s statement.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Don’t Cut Your Flowers and Water Your Weeds

References

References
1 1989, One Up On Wall Street: How To Use What You Already Know to Make Money in the Market Peter Lynch with John Rothchild, Chapter 16: Designing a Portfolio, Quote Page 245, Simon and Schuster, New York. (Verified with scans)

You Can Always Tell a Harvard / Yale Student, But You Can’t Tell Them Much

William Howard Taft? Arthur Twining Hadley? Zora Neale Hurston? James Barnes? Wigg? Wagg? LeBaron Russell Briggs? Joseph Choate? Anonymous?

Question for Quote Investigator: The rivalry between the universities Yale and Harvard exists in the domain of quips. The following jests use wordplay based on two different meanings of “tell”:

(1) You always can tell a Harvard man, but you can’t tell him much.
(2) It’s easy enough to tell a Yale man, but you can’t tell him much.

Can you determine the original target of this barb? Would you please explore this family of jibes?

Reply from Quote Investigator: The earliest match for this joke template located by QI appeared in December 1886 within the “Democrat and Chronicle” of Rochester, New York which acknowledged a Somerville, Massachusetts newspaper. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1886 December 3, Democrat and Chronicle, Came With the Cold Wave, Quote Page 5, Column 3, Rochester, New York. (Newspapers_com)

“You can always tell a man who has once been a clerk in a hotel,” says an exchange. Our experience has always been that you can’t tell him much. He thinks he knows it all.—Somerville Journal.

Thus, the first target of this barb was a hotel clerk and not a college student. During the ensuing decades the template was filled with a wide variety of entities. By 1895 the quip was aimed at the “Yale man”, and by 1906 the “Harvard man” was criticized.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading You Can Always Tell a Harvard / Yale Student, But You Can’t Tell Them Much

References

References
1 1886 December 3, Democrat and Chronicle, Came With the Cold Wave, Quote Page 5, Column 3, Rochester, New York. (Newspapers_com)