“Films Should Have a Beginning, a Middle, and an End” “Yes, But Not Necessarily in That Order”

Jean-Luc Godard? Aristotle? Peter Dickinson? George W. Feinstein? Eugenia Thornton? Chris Haws? David Mamet?

Dear Quote Investigator: An iconoclastic French film director once commented on the narrative structure of a story. The auteur believed that it was not necessary for a tale to be recounted using the conventional ordering for the beginning, the middle, and the end. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: In 1966 English critic Kenneth Tynan attended the Cannes film festival for “The Observer” newspaper, and he described a discussion between cinema artists. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

A public debate between writers and directors was held last week to discuss whether plot was essential to motion pictures. Godard was the main heretic, and Clouzot, Delbert Mann and Paddy Chayefsky were among those who cross-examined him. This confrontation produced the best remark of the Festival :—

Clouzot: But surely you agree, M. Godard, that films should have a beginning, a middle part and an end?

Godard: Yes, but not necessarily in that order.

Jean-Luc Godard is a well-known French director who was part of La Nouvelle Vague (The New Wave). His films include “À bout de souffle” (“Breathless”), “Alphaville”, and “Vivre sa vie” (“My Life to Live”). Godard’s remark was not completely novel. Similar comments about re-ordering narrative elements appeared earlier. Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading “Films Should Have a Beginning, a Middle, and an End” “Yes, But Not Necessarily in That Order”

Notes:

  1. 1966 May 22, The Observer, Section: Weekend Review, Films: Verdict on Cannes by Kenneth Tynan, Quote Page 24, Column 8, London, England. (Newspapers_com)

An Idea Isn’t Responsible for the People Who Believe In It

Don Marquis? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: One strategy for attacking an idea is to exhibit a repugnant individual who supports the idea. This method can influence the opinions of those who are susceptible to psychological manipulation, but it is logically flawed. Here is a pertinent adage:

An idea isn’t responsible for the people who believe in it.

Would you please attempt to trace this statement?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match known to QI appeared in the 1938 edition of “Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations”. Popular newspaper columnist Don Marquis received credit for the statement. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

An Idea isn’t responsible for the people who believe in it.
The Sun Dial

Marquis wrote a daily column called “The Sun Dial” for “The Evening Sun” of New York for more than a decade starting in 1912. Unfortunately, QI has been unable to find a database containing digitized copies of the newspaper in the pertinent period.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading An Idea Isn’t Responsible for the People Who Believe In It

Notes:

  1. 1938, Familiar Quotations by John Bartlett, Eleventh Edition, Edited by Christopher Morley and Louella D. Everett, Entry: Donald Robert Perry Marquis (1878-1937), Quote Page 854, Column 1, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, Massachusetts. (Verified with scans)

When Croesus Tells You He Got Rich Through Hard Work, Ask Him “Whose?”

Don Marquis? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Recently, a wealthy acquaintance told me that hard work was their key to becoming rich. I asked, “Whose?”

Would you please explore the provenance of this riposte?

Quote Investigator: Don Marquis was a popular columnist and storyteller. In 1921 he published a column called “The Weather Vane” that was carried by the “Buffalo Evening News” of New York. His version of this jest referred to Croesus who was an ancient King famous for his treasures and opulence. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

WHEN CROESUS TELLS YOU HE GOT RICH THROUGH HARD WORK, ASK HIM: “WHOSE?”

QI believes that Don Marquis was the most likely creator of this remark. Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading When Croesus Tells You He Got Rich Through Hard Work, Ask Him “Whose?”

Notes:

  1. 1921 February 15, Buffalo Evening News, The Weather Vane by Don Marquis, Column Section: Our Own Wall Mottoes, Quote Page 8, Column 3, Buffalo, New York. (Newspapers_com)

If You Make People Think They’re Thinking, They’ll Love You. If You Really Make Them Think They’ll Hate You

Don Marquis? Christopher Morley? Roscoe B. Ellard? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: People readily accept thoughtful opinions that are close to their own, but they become unhappy when sharply different viewpoints are expressed forcefully. Here is a germane remark:

If you make people think they’re thinking, they’ll love you. If you really make them think they’ll hate you.

The newspaper columnist and humorist Don Marquis has received credit for this comment, but I have been unable to find a precise citation. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Don Marquis wrote a daily column called “The Sun Dial” for “The Evening Sun” of New York for more than a decade. Unfortunately, QI has been unable to find a database containing digitized copies of the newspaper in the pertinent time period when Marquis was crafting memorable epigrams. He also wrote for other papers such as “The New York Herald Tribune”.

The earliest match known to QI appeared in the “New York Evening Post” in February 1923 within a column called “The Bowling Green” by journalist and literary figure Christopher Morley who credited his friend Marquis. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

As Mr. Don Marquis once wrote (or was it Apollinaris Sidonius?) “If you make people think they are thinking, they will love you. If you really make them think, they’ll hate you.”

The mention of Apollinaris Sidonius was most likely intended to be humorous. QI believes that Marquis probably did coin this saying; however, the phrasing is uncertain because many variants have been published over the years. Perhaps future researchers will locate the original statement in an issue of “The Evening Sun” after it has been digitized.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading If You Make People Think They’re Thinking, They’ll Love You. If You Really Make Them Think They’ll Hate You

Notes:

  1. 1923 February 12, New York Evening Post, The Bowling Green by Christopher Morley, Quote Page 8, Column 4, New York. (Old Fulton)

Let Me Tell You the Secret That Led Me To My Goal. My Sole Strength Is in My Tenacity

Louis Pasteur? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Achieving your most vital objectives in life can be quite difficult. Reportedly, the famous French scientist Louis Pasteur once highlighted the personality trait that enabled his enormous success:

Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal. My strength lies solely in my tenacity.

Is this quotation genuine? Would you please help me to find a citation for the original French version of this statement?

Quote Investigator: In 1885 Louis Pasteur attended a banquet of veterinary surgeons who praised his remarkable accomplishments. During his speech Pasteur pointed to the attribute that facilitated his scientific breakthroughs. The following passage in French is from the seventh volume of “Œuvres de Pasteur”. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Dans la vie, il faut consacrer tous ses efforts à faire le mieux possible ce à quoi on est apte. Et puisqu’on a tout à l’heure beaucoup parlé de mes études, laissez-moi vous dire le secret qui m’a mené au but. Ma seule force est dans ma ténacité.

Here is one possible rendering into English:

In life, you have to devote all your efforts to do the best you can. And since we talked a lot about my studies earlier, let me tell you the secret that led me to my goal. My sole strength is in my tenacity.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Let Me Tell You the Secret That Led Me To My Goal. My Sole Strength Is in My Tenacity

Notes:

  1. 1939, Title: Œuvres de Pasteur réunies par Pasteur Vallery-Radot, (Works of Pasteur brought together by Louis Pasteur Vallery-Radot), Tome VII: Mélanges Scientifiques et Littéraires (Volume 7: Scientific and Literary Mixture), Section: Discours Prononce au Banquet du Congrès National des Vétérinaires Sanitaires (Speech Delivered at the Banquet of the National Congress of Veterinary Surgeons), Acknowledgement: (Journal de l’agriculture, Novembre 7, 1885, II, pp. 723-724), Start Page 389, Quote Page 390, Publisher: Libraires de L’Académie de Médecine, Masson et Cie, Éditeurs, Paris. (BnF Gallica, Internet Archive) link

I Am Omnibibulous, or, More Simply, Ombibulous

H. L. Mencken? George Jean Nathan? Errol Flynn? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: During the December holiday season imbibing is commonplace. “Mrs. Byrne’s Dictionary of Unusual, Obscure, and Preposterous Words” lists ‘ombibulous’ with the following definition: 1

someone who drinks everything (H. L. Mencken).

How is the famous commentator and curmudgeon Mencken connected to this word? Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: In 1920 a piece containing this distinctive word together with the closely related synonym ‘omnibibulous’ appeared in “The Smart Set” magazine with two authors specified in the byline: George Jean Nathan and H. L. Mencken. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 2

As for me, I am prepared to admit some merit in every alcoholic beverage ever devised by the incomparable brain of man, and drink them all when the occasions are suitable—wine with meat, the hard liquors when the soul languishes, beer on jolly evenings. In other words, I am omnibibulous, or, more simply, ombibulous.

The prefix ‘omni’ means all, and ‘bibulous’ means fond of alcoholic beverages sometimes to excess.

In later publications Mencken indicated that the 1920 passage above was his. Mencken did not coin the word ‘omnibibulous’, but QI‘s exploration suggests that he did coin the shortened form ‘ombibulous’. See below for additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Am Omnibibulous, or, More Simply, Ombibulous

Notes:

  1. 1980 (1974 Copyright), Mrs. Byrne’s Dictionary of Unusual, Obscure, and Preposterous Words by Josefa Heifetz Byrne, Entry: ombibulous, Quote Page 145, Column 1, University Books: Citadel Press, Secaucus, New Jersey. (Verified with scans)
  2. 1920 February, The Smart Set, Volume 61, Number 2, Répétition Générale by George Jean Nathan and H. L. Mencken, Start Page 45, Quote Page 47, Column 1, Smart Set Company, Inc., New York. (Google Books Full View) link

Serenity Prayer

Reinhold Niebuhr? Winnifred Wygal? Mrs. Harrie R. Chamberlin? Mrs. Lenore Stone Meffley? Edith Theodora Ames? Bram Stoker? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Here are two versions of the famous Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.

God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.

Would you please explore the provenance of this prayer?

Quote Investigator: There are many versions of the Serenity Prayer, and its phrasing has evolved over time which makes it difficult to trace. The complex topic of provenance was examined by top quotation expert Fred R. Shapiro who is the editor of “The Yale Book of Quotations”. He concluded with a “high degree of confidence” that prominent theologian Reinhold Niebuhr originated the Serenity Prayer. 1

A crucial piece of evidence appeared in the diary of Winnifred Wygal within an entry dated October 31, 1932. Wygal studied with Reinhold Niebuhr at Union Theological Seminary, and in the following diary passage the initials R.N. referred to Niebuhr. Wygal credited him with a statement that partially matched the prayer. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 2

R.N. says that ‘moral will plus imagination are the two elements of which faith is compounded.’

‘The victorious man in the day of crisis is the man who has the serenity to accept what he cannot help and the courage to change what must be altered.

The above text contained two of the three elements in the tripartite structure of the Serenity Prayer. The phrases “serenity to accept” and “courage to change” were present, but the phrase “wisdom to know” was absent.

The following year in March 1933 Wygal published an article in “The Woman’s Press”, a periodical of the Y.W.C.A. (Young Women’s Christian Association). She included the earliest instance known to QI of a match for the full tripartite structure. The third part of this formulation employed the phrase “insight to know”. This instance appeared as an epigraph in the article without attribution: 3

Oh, God, give us courage to change what must be altered, serenity to accept what can not be helped, and insight to know the one from the other.

Another crucial piece of evidence occurred in Wygal’s 1940 book “We Plan Our Own Worship Services”. She presented a close match for Serenity Prayer: 4

“O God, give us the serenity to accept what cannot be changed, the courage to change what can be changed, and the wisdom to know the one from the other.” (Reinhold Niebuhr)

Thus, these three citations show that the earliest person known to have used the prayer was a student of Niebuhr’s, and she credited him with its creation.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Serenity Prayer

Notes:

  1. Website: The Chronicle Review, Article title: Who Wrote the Serenity Prayer?, Article author: Fred R. Shapiro, Date on website: April 28, 2014, Website description: The Chronicle of Higher Education is a periodical and website covering colleges and universities; it publishes The Chronicle Review. (Accessed chronicle.com on December 23, 2019) link
  2. Winnifred Wygal’s diary entry dated: October 31, 1932; Wygal’s diary is located at the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study Harvard University; the crucial text in the diary was located by staff member Sarah Guzy; this information was reported by Fred R. Shapiro in The Chronicle Review on April 28, 2014; see companion citation; this data has not been independently verified by QI.)
  3. 1933 March, The Woman’s Press, On the Edge of Tomorrow by Winnifred Wygal (Epigraph), Quote Page 122, National Board of the Y.W.C.A. (Information reported by Fred R. Shapiro in The Chronicle Review on April 28, 2014; see companion citation; this data has not been independently verified by QI.)
  4. 1940 Copyright, We Plan Our Own Worship Services: Business girls practice the act and the art of group worship by Winnifred Wygal, Chapter: The Essential Three-Point Outline, Quote Page 25, The Woman’s Press, New York. (Verified with scans)

Quotation Books: To Compare Them Is To Stroll Through a Glorious Jungle of Incestuous Mutual Plagiarism

James Gleick? Dwight Garner? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Somewhere I read that quotation books display a glorious mutual plagiarism. Perhaps you would enjoy tracing this statement. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: In 1993 science writer James Gleick reviewed the sixteenth edition of “Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations” in the pages of “The New York Times Book Review”. He remarked on the popularity of this publishing niche: 1

The quotation-book business is booming. No subdivision of the culture seems too narrow to have a quotation book of its own. There are books of proverbs, mottoes, thoughts, aphorisms, words of wisdom, words of war, warriors’ words.

Gleick mentioned the existence of quotation compilations in various categories such as movie, business, one-liners, religion, writers, and medical. He suggested that plagiarism was occurring. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:

It would be an understatement to say that these books lean on one another. To compare them is to stroll through a glorious jungle of incestuous mutual plagiarism.

Below is one additional citation and a conclusion.

Continue reading Quotation Books: To Compare Them Is To Stroll Through a Glorious Jungle of Incestuous Mutual Plagiarism

Notes:

  1. 1993 August 8, The New York Times, Section: The New York Times Book Review, Bartlett Updated: Renewing the Idea of a Shared Culture by James Gleick, Start Page BR3, Quote Page BR30, Column 4, New York. (ProQuest)

Famous for Being Famous

Daniel J. Boorstin? Andy Warhol? Charles Godfrey Leland? Marshall McLuhan? Raquel Welch? David Brinkley? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Achieving fame required some significant accomplishment or impressive quality in the past. Now it seems that people are deemed notable for absurd reasons. Here are three phrases describing the self-referential nature of modern celebrityhood:

  • Famous for being famous.
  • Well-known for being well-known.
  • Notorious for their notoriety.

This concept has been attributed to historian Daniel Boorstin and Pop-Art fabricator Andy Warhol. Would you please explore its provenance?

Quote Investigator: Intriguingly, this notion was mentioned back in the nineteenth century. In 1896 U.S. humorist Charles Godfrey Leland published a collection of re-told stories titled “Legends of Florence”. A character named Flaxius employed the saying while commenting on the motivations of some extravagant people. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

. . . whole life and highest aim is really not to win gold for real pleasure, or even for avarice or aught solid, but merely to live in its glitter and sheen—to . . . jingle jewels, in a kind of fade ostentation, as doth a professional beauty or an actress famous for being famous, nothing more . . .

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Famous for Being Famous

Notes:

  1. 1896, Legends of Florence: Collected from the People and Re-told by Charles Godfrey Leland (Hans Breitmann), Second Series, Chapter: La Via del Gomitolo del Oro, and How it got its Name, Quote Page 229, Macmillan and Company, New York. (HathiTrust Full View) link

Most of the Evil in This World Is Done by People with Good Intentions

T. S. Eliot? Ayn Rand? Reinhold Niebuhr? Isabel Paterson? Krister Stendahl? C. S. Lewis? June Bingham? Paul Simon? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Tyrannical systems are often created by people who believe that they have the highest and noblest intentions. Totalitarian countries, theocratic dictatorships, and abusive cults are typically founded and promoted by those who are convinced that their actions will benefit humankind. Here is a pertinent adage about self-deception and fallibility:

Most of the evil in this world is done by people with good intentions.

The above statement has been attributed to the famous poet and playwright T.S. Eliot, but I have never seen a solid citation. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: There is no evidence that T. S. Eliot wrote or spoke the statement above. On the other hand, he did write two thematically related remarks which are presented further below.

The viewpoint of the adage can be expressed in many different ways which makes it very difficult to trace. A match occurred in 1914 within a trade journal called “The Creamery and Milk Plant Monthly”. A section presenting miscellaneous news stories included a short item discussing milk pasteurization. The anonymous author of the item wrote the following. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

But the fact is, that the greatest harm in the world has been done by people with good intentions. The bad ones seldom have power enough to do great harm.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Most of the Evil in This World Is Done by People with Good Intentions

Notes:

  1. 1914 November, The Creamery and Milk Plant Monthly, Volume 3, Number 3, Knowledge, zeal and efficiency, Quote Page 45, Column 1, National Milk Publishing Company, Chicago, Illinois. (Google Books Full View) link