I’m Not Comfortable Being Preachy, But More People Have To Start Spending As Much Time in the Library As They Do On the Basketball Court

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote investigator: A prominent professional basketball player once shared a bracing insight. Only a relatively tiny number of people are able to advance to the U.S. National Basketball Association (NBA). Hoping to become an NBA player is rarely a practical goal. Hence, one should place an emphasis on education and spend time in the library.

Would you please help me to determine when this was said and who said it?

Quote investigator: In 1990 top athlete Kareem Abdul-Jabbar published the autobiography “Kareem”, and he offered the following advice. Boldface added to excerpts: 1

The NBA isn’t a realistic hope for most people. I’m not comfortable being preachy, but more people have to start spending as much time in the library as they do on the basketball court. If they took to the idea that they could escape poverty through education, I think it would make a more basic and long-lasting change in the way things happen.

The passage continued by highlighting the value of attainable goals:

When we set up unrealistic goals and then don’t achieve them, that’s another example of internalized defeat. What we need are positive, realistic ideas and the willingness to work.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I’m Not Comfortable Being Preachy, But More People Have To Start Spending As Much Time in the Library As They Do On the Basketball Court

Notes:

  1. 1990, Kareem by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with Mignon McCarthy, Chapter 3: The Season: Life in the Salt Mines, Date: January 16, Quote Page 157, Random House, New York. (Verified with scans)

Whilst I Write This Letter, I Hold a Sword In One Hand, and a Pistol In the Other

Boyle Roche? Joe Miller? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A comically incoherent or absurd statement is sometimes called a bull or an Irish bull. Here is an example:

I am writing this letter with a sword in one hand and a pistol in the other.

If the writer is not a three-handed alien then this statement is nonsensical. The Irish politician Boyle Roche has received credit for this remark. Would you please explore its provenance.

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in the 1802 joke book titled “New Joe Miller, Or, The Tickler: Containing Near Two Thousand Good Things”. The book included a clearly fictional letter supposedly sent during an Irish rebellion from an unnamed Irish Member of Parliament to a friend in London. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

We are in a pretty mess—can get nothing to eat, nor any wine to drink, except whiskey; and when we sit down to dinner, we are obliged to keep both hands armed; whilst I write this letter, I hold a sword in one hand, and a pistol in the other. I concluded from the beginning that this would be the end of it; and I see I was right, for it is not half over yet.—At present, there are such goings on, that every thing is at a stand.

I should have answered your letter a fortnight ago, but I only received it this morning. Indeed, hardly a mail arrives safe, without being robbed.

The letter continued for a few more paragraphs and ended with the following:

P.S. If you do not receive this in course, it must have miscarried; therefore, I beg you will immediately write to let me know.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Whilst I Write This Letter, I Hold a Sword In One Hand, and a Pistol In the Other

Notes:

  1. 1802, New Joe Miller, Or, The Tickler: Containing Near Two Thousand Good Things, Volume 2, Second Edition, (Copy of a Letter written during the late Rebellion by Sir ____ _______, an Irish Member of Parliament, to his Friend in London), Start Page 30, Quote Page 30 and 31, Printed for J. Ridgway, London. (Google Books Full View) link

These Pictures Are Not On Trial. It Is the Visitors Who Are On Trial

Gerald Stanley Lee? F. W. Macdonald? Thomas Vezey Strong? Heywood Broun? Eugene O’Neill? Vincent Starrett? Florentine doorkeeper? Parisian Curator?

Dear Quote Investigator: Critics and tastemakers have proclaimed that some paintings, books, and plays are masterpieces. Yet, the general populace is not always able to perceive the quality of these works. An anecdote set in a museum highlights this divergence:

A visitor to the Louvre in Paris viewed the renowned Mona Lisa and stated loudly, “That painting is nothing special. I am unimpressed.” A curator who was standing nearby said, “That painting is not on trial; you are on trial.”

A similar tale has been told about a teacher with skeptical pupils who were assigned the task of reading the classic novel “Moby Dick”.

“This novel is boring; it contains too many details about whale hunting,” insisted a student. The teacher replied, “Hermann Melville and his tour de force are not on trial. You students are on trial.”

Would you please explore the history of this family of anecdotes?

Quote Investigator: A precursor in the religious domain appeared within an article by clergyman Gerald Stanley Lee in the New York periodical “The Christian Union” in 1890. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

The Bible is not on trial before the young men of this century. It is we who are on trial. Any man who stands off and tries to measure the Bible with the petty yard-stick of his criticisms is unconsciously measuring himself, and the more he tries the smaller his measure is. It is not the Bible that needs young men, but young men that need the Bible.

An instance of the secular anecdote appeared in 1904 in the Boston, Massachusetts periodical “Congregationalist and Christian World”. The tale was attributed to preacher F. W. Macdonald. The punchline was delivered by an anonymous Florentine doorkeeper: 2

F. W. Macdonald, Kipling’s Wesleyan preacher uncle, tells an apt story having analogical and homiletical aptness for those talking of the Bible’s permanent worth to men. “Are these masterpieces?” said a tourist in a Florentine gallery. “I must admit that I don’t see much in them myself.” Said the reserved doorkeeper, “These pictures are not on trial. It is the visitors who are on trial.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading These Pictures Are Not On Trial. It Is the Visitors Who Are On Trial

Notes:

  1. 1890 May 1, The Christian Union, Volume 41, Issue 18, For the “Live Young Man” by Gerald Stanley Lee, Quote Page 647, Column 1, New York, New York. (ProQuest)
  2. 1904 February 13, Congregationalist and Christian World, Volume 89, Issue 7, (Untitled filler item), Quote Page 232, Column 3, Boston, Massachusetts. (ProQuest)

Efficiency Is Concerned With Doing Things Right. Effectiveness Is Doing the Right Things

Peter Drucker? Elsie Robinson? Warren Bennis? Stephen R. Covey? Glenn J. Shanahan? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: In the domain of business and entrepreneurship two contrasting statements yield a crucial insight:

  • Efficiency is doing things right.
  • Effectiveness is doing the right things.

The most successful organizations require both efficiency and effectiveness. Another version highlights the following two ideas:

  • Management is doing things right.
  • Leadership is doing the right things.

These notions have been attributed to the famous management guru Peter Drucker and the influential Professor of Business Warren Bennis. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Peter Drucker did present this concept multiple times. Warren Bennis also employed this notion. See citations further below. The elegance of the formulation stems from the use of antimetabole: words in successive clauses are repeated in transposed order. QI believes that the phrasing evolved over time.

In 1869 the “Harrisburg Telegraph” of Pennsylvania printed the following short item displaying antimetabole. The words “efficiency” and “effectiveness” were absent. Boldface added to excerpts: 1

A DIFFERENCE.—There is a difference between doing a thing right, and doing the right thing. One individual may be engaged in a very bad work, and yet do his work well. Another may be engaged in a laudable undertaking and do his work very poorly. The true maxim is, “do the right thing right.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Efficiency Is Concerned With Doing Things Right. Effectiveness Is Doing the Right Things

Notes:

  1. 1869 August 28, Harrisburg Telegraph, (Filler item), Quote Page 3, Column 2, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com)

You Can Never Be Too Rich or Too Thin

Babe Paley? Wallis Simpson? Suzy Knickerbocker? Mrs. J. Gordon Douglas Sr.? Gregg Moran? Truman Capote? Dorothy Parker? Joan Rivers? Zenith Carburetor? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Achieving wealth and a svelte body have become idealized goals in some cultural milieus. Here are three versions of a pertinent maxim:

  • You can never be too rich or too thin.
  • You can’t be too thin or too rich.
  • A woman can never be too thin or too rich.

As knowledge of the eating disorders anorexia and bulimia has grown this saying has become more sinister to some. Would you please explore its origin?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in the July 1963 issue of the U.S. fashion magazine “Harper’s Bazaar” within an article titled “High Living on Low Calories”. The attribution was anonymous. Boldface added to excerpts: 1

Ponder, now, our week’s worth of diet menus, based on the latter part of that wise old adage, “You can never be too rich or too thin.” High living on low calories, indeed!

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading You Can Never Be Too Rich or Too Thin

Notes:

  1. 1963 July, Harper’s Bazaar, Volume 96, Issue 3020, High Living on Low Calories, Start Page 48, Quote Page 48, Column 2, Hearst Corporation, New York. (ProQuest)

The Single-Frame Picture of a Caterpillar Does Not Foretell Its Transformation Into a Butterfly

Buckminster Fuller? Helen Hayes? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The full potential of a person or an idea is not visible in a nascent state. An ingenious analogy expresses this viewpoint:

There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly.

This remark has been attributed to the inventor and futurist R. Buckminster Fuller, but I have been unable to find a citation, and I suspect that the phrasing is inaccurate. Would you please help me?

Quote Investigator: In November 1969 R. Buckminster Fuller delivered the Third Annual Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Lecture in New Delhi, India. In 1970 he published an article based on his speech titled “Planetary Planning” in the journal “The American Scholar”. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Our Universe as defined is finite but nonsimultaneously conceptual. The single-frame picture of a caterpillar does not foretell its transformation into a butterfly. Nor does one picture of a butterfly tell the viewer that the butterfly can fly. Universe as defined is a scenario.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Single-Frame Picture of a Caterpillar Does Not Foretell Its Transformation Into a Butterfly

Notes:

  1. 1970-71 Winter, The American Scholar, Volume 40, Number 1, Planetary Planning by R. Buckminster Fuller, Start Page 29, Quote Page 30, (“Planetary Planning” was presented by Fuller as the Third Annual Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Lecture in New Delhi on November 13, 1969), Published by The Phi Beta Kappa Society. (JSTOR) link

Fashion Is Always a Reflection of the Time, But It Is Forgotten If It Is Foolish

Coco Chanel? Gabrielle Chanel? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: When a fashionable new item or design is created it is always embedded in its time period. The item is certain to lose favor eventually and become unfashionable. Yet, some fashions transcend and endure. These items can be revived and become fashionable again and again. The fashion icon Coco Chanel (Gabrielle Chanel) apparently said:

Fashion is always a reflection of the time, but it is forgotten if it is foolish.

Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In September 1938 “Vogue” magazine of Paris published a two page spread of “Maximes et Sentences” (“Maxims and Sentences”) by Gabrielle Chanel. The following statement appeared among the 31 items. Boldface added to excerpts buy QI: 1

La mode est toujours un reflet de l’époque, mais on l’oublie si elle est bête.

Here is one possible translation:

Fashion is always a reflection of the times, but we forget it if it is stupid.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Fashion Is Always a Reflection of the Time, But It Is Forgotten If It Is Foolish

Notes:

  1. 1938 Septembre (September), Vogue, Maximes et Sentences (Maxims and Sentences) by Gabrielle Chanel, Quote Page 56, Condé Nast, Paris, France. (BNF Gallica Bibliothèque nationale de France)

The Hurrier I Go, the Behinder I Get

Lewis Carroll? Charles L. Dodgson? Alice in Wonderland? White Rabbit? March Hare? Emmaleta Hicks? Gene Meihsner? Ed Sussdorff? Milton Berle? Truck Driver Named Bill? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: There is a family of statements about the difficulty of keeping up with a heavy workload. Here are four instances:

  • The harder I work, the behinder I get.
  • The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.
  • The hurrieder I work, the behinder I get.
  • The faster I run, the behinder I get.

This saying has often been credited to Lewis Carroll (pen name of Charles L. Dodgson) who wrote the famous fantasy works “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking-Glass”. Yet, I have searched Carroll’s books and have not found this expression; therefore, I doubt this attribution. Would you please explore its provenance?

Quote Investigator: There is no substantive evidence that Lewis Carroll penned this saying; it does not appear in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” or “Through the Looking-Glass”. It has been difficult to trace. QI believes the expression evolved over time, and the originator remains uncertain. The saying was deemed Carrollian by some careless wordsmiths, and it was eventually incorrectly reassigned to the popular fantasist.

The earliest match located by QI containing the keyword “behinder” appeared in “The Detroit Free Press” of Michigan in January 1943. The saying was spoken by a truck driver with the common first name of “Bill”: 1

BEHINDER—Emmaleta Hicks clerical worker at the Michigan Central Terminal, reports this scrap of conversation between two truck drivers in the middle of the daily parcel blitz:

“Ya gettin’ caught up with your work, Bill?”
“Naw,” replied Bill, dejectedly, “the harder I work the behinder I get.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Hurrier I Go, the Behinder I Get

Notes:

  1. 1943 January 30, The Detroit Free Press, Behind the Front Page by FP Staff, Quote Page 15, Column 1, Detroit, Michigan. (Newspapers_com)

Any Activity Becomes Creative When the Doer Cares About Doing It Right Or Better

John Updike? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Exalted activities such as composing a symphony or devising an invention clearly enable the maker to express creativity. Refreshingly, the prominent writer John Updike contended that even quotidian activities allowed for creativity if the doer cared enough to excel. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1968 “Playboy” magazine contacted several well-known writers and asked each one to compose a short piece about creativity. The group included John Updike, Arthur Miller, Le Roi Jones (Amiri Baraka), and James T. Farrell. Updike propounded an expansive notion of creativity. Boldface added to excepts by QI: 1

For one thing, creativity is merely a plus name for regular activity; the ditchdigger, dentist and artist go about their tasks in much the same way, and any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right, or better.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Any Activity Becomes Creative When the Doer Cares About Doing It Right Or Better

Notes:

  1. 1968 December, Playboy, Volume 15, Number 12, On Creativity – Symposium, John Updike, Start Page 136, Quote Page 139, Column 3, HMH Publishing Company, Chicago, Illinois. (Verified with scans)

Computer Science Is Not About Computers, Any More Than Astronomy Is About Telescopes

Edsger W. Dijkstra? Alan Perlis? Jacques Arsac? George Johnson? Donald Knuth? Matthew Dennis Haines? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Computers are the fundamental tool employed within the field of computer science; however, the discipline transcends this tool. Here are three attempts to articulate this viewpoint:

Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes.

Biology Is not about microscopes, and computer science is not about computers.

“Computer science” is a terrible name. Astronomy is not called “telescope science”, and biology is not called “microscope science”.

This saying has been attributed to Dutch computer scientist Edsger W. Dijkstra. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest close match located by QI appeared in the 1986 book “Machinery of the Mind: Inside the New Science of Artificial Intelligence” by science journalist George Johnson. The attribution was anonymous. Boldface added to excerpts: 1

The possibility of a science in which all the world is thought of computationally casts the study of computers in an important new light. As its practitioners are fond of saying, computer science is not about computers, any more than astronomy is about telescopes, or biology about microscopes. These devices are tools for observing worlds otherwise inaccessible. The computer is a tool for exploring the world of complex processes, whether they involve cells, stars, or the human mind.

This saying has been difficult to trace, and this article only presents a snapshot of current research. There is evidence that the underlying notion emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, but the initial formulations were not concise and direct.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Computer Science Is Not About Computers, Any More Than Astronomy Is About Telescopes

Notes:

  1. 1986, Machinery of the Mind: Inside the New Science of Artificial Intelligence by George Johnson, Chapter 4: The Art of Programming, Quote Page 81 and 82, Times Books: A Division of Random House Inc., New York. (Verified with hardcopy)