So What? I Paint Fakes, Too

Pablo Picasso? Leonard Lyons? Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler? Arthur Koestler? Marshall McLuhan? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The most fascinating anecdote about authenticity that I have ever heard features Pablo Picasso repudiating a painting that he apparently created. Are you familiar with this tale? Would you please explore its provenance?

Quote Investigator: The earliest occurrence of this anecdote located by QI appeared in the popular syndicated column of Leonard Lyons in 1957. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

One of Picasso’s friends asked him to look at a picture he’d bought: “Is this a genuine Picasso?” The painter examined it and said, “No, it’s a fake.” The friend was crestfallen, then said: “Oh, well, I have this other one — a genuine Picasso.” The artist looked at the second picture and said: “That’s a fake, too” . . .”But that’s impossible,” said the friend, bewildered. “I saw you paint it myself”. . .“So what?” Picasso shrugged. “I paint fakes, too.”

Lyons did not identify the confused individual in this article, but ten years later in 1967 Lyons revisited the topic and pointed to Picasso’s art dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler as the owner of the disavowed painting.

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  1. 1957 February 22, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Picasso Can ‘Paint Fakes, Too’ by Leonard Lyons, Quote Page 27, Column 1 and 2, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com)

Every Successful Revolution Puts On In Time the Robes of the Tyrant It Has Deposed

Barbara W. Tuchman? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The popular historian Barbara W. Tuchman said that a successful revolution eventually reinstates the tyrannical behavior that precipitated the initial rebellion. I do not recall the precise wording she used. Would you please help me to find this quotation?

Quote Investigator: In 1971 Barbara W. Tuchman published “Stilwell and the American Experience in China: 1911-45” which included the following passage. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

The fervor of the Kuomintang’s youth had passed to the Communists leaving Chungking with history’s most melancholy tale: that every successful revolution puts on in time the robes of the tyrant it has deposed.

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  1. 1971, Stilwell and the American Experience in China: 1911-45 by Barbara W. Tuchman (Barbara Wertheim Tuchman), Chapter 8: Military Attaché: Sino-Japanese War, 1937-39, Quote Page 184 and 185, The Macmillan Company, New York. (Verified with hardcopy)

We Have Passed a Lot of Water Since Then

Samuel Goldwyn? Solomon S. Levadi? Ezra Goodman? Norton Mockridge? Michael Curtiz? Mickey Rooney? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: When reminiscing about events from the nostalgia-tinged past the following figurative phrase is popular:

Much water has flowed under the bridge since then.

The famous movie producer Samuel Goldwyn reportedly employed an unintentionally comical variant:

We have passed a lot of water since then.

Passing water is a euphemism for urination. The numerous speech errors assigned to Goldwyn are called Goldwynisms. Is this one authentic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence of this word-play located by QI appeared in a 1942 private letter from U.S. soldier Solomon S. Levadi who was sent to Australia during WWII. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Dear Isaac: A lot of water has passed since I wrote you last from Fort Sill, and so have I since passed a lot of water. I’m in Australia now—where North is South and South is North; where the trees shed their bark instead of their leaves . . .

In the passage above the humor was deliberate, but the following citation described an inadvertent quip. In 1961 the publicist and journalist Ezra Goodman published a critical book about the entertainment business titled “The Fifty-Year Decline and Fall of Hollywood”. Goodman asserted that he heard the remark directly from Goldwyn: 2

Goldwyn claims that the Goldwynisms are the inventions of columnists, and says, “Some of them were very good and I wish I could take credit for them.” And still I have personally heard him utter some rather choice ones. Speaking of the old days, he once said, “We have passed a lot of water since then.”

The evidence linking the saying to Goldwyn is mixed. He died in 1974; hence, he was alive when Goodman’s book appeared. Yet, Goldwyn asserted that he “never said it” according to Peter Bart who was the long-time editor in chief of “Variety”. In addition, the remark has been ascribed to the prominent Hollywood director Michael Curtiz. Detailed citations are given below in chronological order.

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  1. 1945, Jewish Youth at War: Letters from American Soldiers, Edited by Isaac E. Rontch, Letter title: “Thresholds”, Location: Somewhere in Australia, Letter author: Captain Solomon S. Levadi, Letter date: September 16, 1942, Quote Page 122, Marstin Press, New York. (Verified with hardcopy)
  2. 1961, The Fifty-Year Decline and Fall of Hollywood by Ezra Goodman, Chapter 5: The Great Brain Robbery, Quote Page 178, Simon and Schuster, New York. (Verified with hardcopy)

That’s the Moose’s Problem

Robert Heinlein? Emma D. E. N. Southworth? Wilfrid S. Bronson? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Science fiction luminary Robert Heinlein employed the following phrase in two of his novels:

That’s the moose’s problem.

The phrase seems to mean:

That problem should be dealt with by someone else.

Would you please explore the origin of this expression?

Quote Investigator: A class of jokes has a punchline of the following type:

  • That is the moose’s problem.
  • That is the deer’s problem.
  • That was the moose’s business.

QI conjectures that Heinlein was alluding to these jokes. The earliest instance of the gag located by QI appeared in the 1872 novel “A Noble Lord” by Emma D. E. N. Southworth. A braggart named Colonel Brierly was spinning an exaggerated tale about a land he had visited. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Magnificent game! I tell you, sir, I have seen forests of titanic oaks, whose boles were yards in circumference, standing scarcely three feet apart, and with their limbs and twigs so interlocked and interwoven as to form an impenetrable green thicket! Yes, sir! And I have seen bounding through these forests magnificent deer, sir!—majestic creatures six feet high, whose splendid antlers branched ten feet apart! Yes, sir!” exclaimed the Colonel, glancing around the table.

The reaction of a character named Captain Faulkner made his skepticism obvious, and Brierly became angry enough to demand that Faulkner state his criticisms:

“Oh well, if you must know,” coolly returned the Captain, “I was but wondering how the deuce those majestic deer, with antlers branching ten feet wide, managed to bound through those magnificent forests where the titanic oak trees stand but three feet apart.”

For a moment the Colonel was dumbfounded, and then he exclaimed:
“By Jupiter, sir, that was their business – not mine, or yours!”
A laugh at this retort went round the table.

After this exchange Colonel Brierly became the enemy of Captain Faulkner, and eventually the two fought a deadly duel with Brierly as the victor.

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  1. 1872, A Noble Lord by Mrs. Emma D. E. N. Southworth (Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte Southworth), Chapter 7: The Detective, Quote Pages 81 and 82, T. B. Peterson & Brothers, Philadelphia. (Google Books Full View) link

MacGuffin Is the Term We Use To Cover All that Sort of Thing: To Steal Plans or Documents, or Discover a Secret, It Doesn’t Matter What It Is

Alfred Hitchcock? Elbert Hubbard? Theodore Parker?

Dear Quote Investigator: The influential English film director Alfred Hitchcock employed the term MacGuffin when he discussed the plots of his movies. He also told a peculiar story to explain the meaning of the term. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: In 1967 the prominent director François Truffaut published a volume containing an extensive interview he had conducted with Alfred Hitchcock. While discussing Hitchcock’s film “Foreign Correspondent” Truffaut mentioned that the plot hinged on a secret known to an elderly gentleman: 1

A.H. That secret clause was our “MacGuffin.” I must tell you what that means.
F.T. Isn’t the MacGuffin the pretext for the plot?
A.H. Well, it’s the device, the gimmick, if you will, or the papers the spies are after.

Hitchcock elaborated on the meaning of MacGuffin:

So the “MacGuffin” is the term we use to cover all that sort of thing: to steal plans or documents, or discover a secret, it doesn’t matter what it is. And the logicians are wrong in trying to figure out the truth of a MacGuffin, since it’s beside the point. The only thing that really matters is that in the picture the plans, documents, or secrets must seem to be of vital importance to the characters. To me, the narrator, they’re of no importance whatever.

Hitchcock presented a curious tale to help explain the origin of the term. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI:

It might be a Scottish name, taken from a story about two men in a train. One man says, “What’s that package up there in the baggage rack?” And the other answers, “Oh, that’s a MacGuffin.” The first one asks, “What’s a MacGuffin?”

“Well,” the other man says, “it’s an apparatus for trapping lions in the Scottish Highlands.” The first man says, “But there are no lions in the Scottish Highlands,” and the other one answers, “Well then, that’s no MacGuffin!” So you see that a MacGuffin is actually nothing at all.

QI conjectures that the story above evolved from a humorous anecdote about an imaginary mongoose, and the term MacGuffin was derived from mongoose.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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  1. 1967, Hitchcock by François Truffaut with the Collaboration of Helen G. Scott, Quote Page 98, Simon and Schuster, New York. (Verified with hardcopy)

Every Society Honors Its Live Conformists, and Its Dead Troublemakers

Mignon McLaughlin? Marshall McLuhan? Wayne Dyer? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: History books laud unconventional thinkers and eccentric characters who faced hardships during their lifetimes. An adage expressing this notion has been credited to magazine editor Mignon McLaughlin and media theorist Marshall McLuhan. Here are two versions:

  • The world values live conformists and dead rebels.
  • Society honors its living conformists and its dead troublemakers.

Would you please explore this saying?

Quote Investigator: The earliest close match known to QI appeared in “The Neurotic’s Notebook” by Mignon McLaughlin in 1963. The compendium contained quips, adages, and observations such as the following three. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

The works of Herman Wouk seem written by two different men: one who creates a set of characters, and another who turns on them.

Every society honors its live conformists, and its dead troublemakers.

An artist usually has no friends except other artists, and usually they do not like his work.

McLaughlin worked as a writer and editor at magazines such as “The Atlantic Monthly”, “Glamour”, and “Vogue” for decades from the 1940s to the 1970s.

The attribution to Marshall McLuhan is spurious. It may have originated when someone confused the names McLaughlin and McLuhan. Alternatively, the mistake may have been catalyzed by textual proximity. Further details accompany the 2004 citation given further below.

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  1. 1963, The Neurotic’s Notebook by Mignon McLaughlin, Chapter 7: Politics, Arts, Professions, Quote Page 72, The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Indianapolis, Indiana. (Verified with scans)

They Who Are of Opinion that Money Will Do Everything, May Very Well Be Suspected To Do Everything for Money

Benjamin Franklin? George Savile? Apocryphal? Anonymous

Dear Quote Investigator: A popular technique in rhetoric consists of repeating a clause while permuting the words. For example:

  • Money will do everything for you.
  • You will do everything for money.

Apparently, statesman Benjamin Franklin contended that a belief in the first clause led individuals to follow the guidance of the second. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Benjamin Franklin did include a matching statement in one of his famous almanacs, but the saying was already in circulation.

The earliest evidence known to QI appeared in a 1750 volume by the English nobleman George Savile, 1st Marquis of Halifax. The book included a section called “Political, Moral, and Miscellaneous Thoughts and Reflections” that contained items such as the following. The word “everything” was written as two words. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

If Men considered how many Things there are that Riches cannot buy, they would not be so fond of them.

Money in a Fool’s Hand exposeth him worse than a pyed Coat

They who are of opinion that Money will do every thing, may very well be suspected to do every thing for Money.

Savile had died in 1695 many years before publication. A note at the beginning of the manuscript stated that the original document had been held by Savile’s grand-daughter Dorothy, Countess of Burlington.

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  1. 1750, A Character of King Charles the Second: And Political, Moral, and Miscellaneous Thoughts and Reflections by the George Savile, Marquis of Halifax, Section: Of Money, Start Page 145, Quote Page 145 and 146, Printed for J. and R. Tonson and S. Draper, London. (Google Books Full View) link

The Capitalists Will Sell Us the Rope with Which We Will Hang Them

Vladimir Lenin? Joseph Stalin? Karl Marx? George Racey Jordan? Samuel E. Keeble? S. Dmitrijewski? Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A quotation about imprudent greed and near-sightedness has been attributed to three prominent communists: Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, and Karl Marx. Here are three versions of the statement:

  • The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.
  • When it comes time to hang the capitalists, they will sell us the rope.
  • The last capitalist we hang shall be the one who sold us the rope.

Would you please explore the provenance of this saying?

Quote Investigator: The earliest strong match located by QI appeared in 1955 within a periodical called “The Commonwealth: Official Journal of the Commonwealth Club of California”. The club is a non-profit public affairs organization. The quotation appeared as a filler item. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Lenin wrote, “When it comes time to hang the capitalists, they will vie with each other for the rope contract.”
—Major George Racey Jordan

Jordan was a U.S. military officer who became a fierce anti-communist. Lenin had died in 1924; hence, the 1955 date was quite late. No documentary source was specified, and multiple researchers have been unable to find a match in Lenin’s writings. The Congressional Research Service did report a thematically pertinent passage ascribed to Lenin. Details are given further below.

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  1. 1955 October 31, The Commonwealth: Official Journal of the Commonwealth Club of California, Volume 31, Number 44, (Freestanding quotation), Page 268, Column 2, Published by Commonwealth Club of California, San Francisco, California. (Verified with scans; thanks to John McChesney-Young and the University of California, Berkeley library system)

The Purpose of Life Is To Be Defeated by Greater and Greater Things

Rainer Maria Rilke? Tim O’Reilly? Louise Bogan? Robert Bly? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A recent book by technology guru and computer book publisher Tim O’Reilly contained the following appeal: 1

Pursue something so important that even if you fail, the world is better off for you having tried.

O’Reilly illustrated this idea by referring to a resonant poem by Rainer Maria Rilke based on an episode from the Book of Genesis. Jacob wrestled with a transcendent angelic figure and was defeated, but he was also strengthened. O’Reilly offered the following compressed reading of the poem:

What we fight with is so small, and when we win, it makes us small. What we want is to be defeated, decisively, by successively greater things.

Would you please help me to find this piece by Rilke?

Quote Investigator: In 1901 the monthly journal “Deutsche Arbeit” (“German Labor”) published a work by Rainer Maria Rilke under the title “Gedicht” (“Poem”). The following was the final verse. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 2

Wen dieser Engel überwand,
Welcher so oft auf Kampf verzichtet,
Der geht gerecht und aufgerichtet
Und groß aus seiner harten Hand,
Die sich, wie formend, an ihn schmiegte.
Die Siege laden ihn nicht ein;
Sein Wachstum ist: Der Tiefbesiegte
Von immer Größerem zu sein.

The poem was translated by poet Robert Bly in 1981, and these were the last three lines: 3

Winning does not tempt that man.
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,
by constantly greater beings.

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  1. 2017, WTF?: What’s the Future and Why It’s Up to Us by Tim O’Reilly, Chapter 16: Work on Stuff That Matters, Quote Page 352 and 353, HarperCollins Publishers, New York. (Amazon Look Inside)
  2. 1901 October, Deutsche Arbeit: Monatichrift sür das geistige Leben der Deutichen in Böhmen, (German Labor: Monthly for the Spiritual Life of the Germans in Bohemia), Volume 1, Gedicht (Poem) by Rainer Maria Rilke, Start Page 19, Quote Page 20, Verlag von Georg D. W. Callwey in München, Germany. (Google Books Full View) link
  3. 2001, Who Lives Better Than We Do? Poems by Reggie Marra, Epigraph on title page, (Acknowledgement to “The Man Watching” of “Selected Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke”, edited and translated by Robert Bly, 1981), From the Heart Press: An Imprint of Integral Journeys for Pilgrims, Poets, Fools and Saints, New Milford, Connecticut. (Google Books Preview)

Between Stimulus and Response There Is a Space. In That Space Is Our Power To Choose Our Response

Viktor E. Frankl? Stephen R. Covey? Rollo May? Thomas Walton Galloway? Sheldon P. Stoff? B. F. Skinner? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: It is possible to control ones reactions and feelings even when one is faced with frightening hardships. The psychiatrist Viktor E. Frankl has been credited with the following:

Between stimulus and response there is space.
In that space is our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

I doubt this ascription because no one provides a proper citation. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: Researchers have been unable to find this passage in the works of Viktor E. Frankl.

Instead, the words were popularized by the influential motivational author Stephen R. Covey; however, he disclaimed authorship. Covey stated that he read the passage in a book while he was on sabbatical in Hawaii, but he was unable to recall the name of the book or the author. Also, the precise phrasing employed by Covey varied over time. Details are given further below.

An interesting thematic precursor appeared in the 1917 book “The Use of Motives in Teaching Morals and Religion” by Thomas Walton Galloway. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Personality has three main parts: (1) the receiving portion (receptors) that looks out on stimuli (attention and appreciation are its great functions); (2) a responding side (effectors) that looks toward behavior or response; and (3) that which lies between stimulus and response whose function is to correlate and adjust behavior to stimulus. This third region is where our real personal values lie. This is where we grow most.

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  1. 1917 Copyright, The Use of Motives in Teaching Morals and Religion by Thomas Walton Galloway (Professor of Zoology, Beloit College), Chapter 3: Some Essential Natural Elements in Education, Discussion of Figure 3, Quote Page 40, The Pilgrim Press, Boston, Massachusetts. (HathiTrust Full View) link