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)

When You’ve Exhausted All Possibilities, Remember This: You Haven’t!

Thomas Edison? Robert H. Schuller? Helen Peikin? Leslie Hanscom? Dale Carnegie? Anonymous?

Question for Quote Investigator: After exploring a series of ineffective solutions to a problem it is natural to give up hope. Yet, a popular motivational saying suggests that perseverance will be rewarded:

When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this: You haven’t.

This statement has been attributed to the famous inventor Thomas Edison and the prominent televangelist Robert H. Schuller. I am skeptical of the connection to Edison. Would you please explore this topic?

Reply from Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive support for the ascription to Thomas Edison. He received credit in 2000, but he died many years earlier in 1931.

In 1981 columnist Helen Peikin of the “Sentinel Star” of Orlando, Florida printed the following as an epigraph of an article. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1981 September 9, Sentinel Star, Altamonte Mall featuring discount movies for women by Helen Peikin, Quote Page 22, Column 2, Orlando, Florida. (Newspapers_com)

When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this . . . you haven’t.
—DR. ROBERT SHULER

QI conjectures that Peikin misspelled “Schuller” as “Shuler”. Pastor Robert Schuller probably used the expression during a sermon in 1981 or earlier. In 1983 Schuller authored the bestseller “Tough Times Never Last, But Tough People Do!”. An entire page of the book was dedicated to displaying the statement:[2] 1983, Tough Times Never Last, But Tough People Do! by Robert H. Schuller, Chapter 1: Tough Times Never Last, Quote Page 27, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee. (Verified with scans)

When you’ve exhausted all possibilities, remember this: You haven’t!

Robert Schuller used this saying on multiple occasions, and he did not credit anyone else. Thus, based on current evidence QI believes that Schuller deserves credit for this statement.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading When You’ve Exhausted All Possibilities, Remember This: You Haven’t!

References

References
1 1981 September 9, Sentinel Star, Altamonte Mall featuring discount movies for women by Helen Peikin, Quote Page 22, Column 2, Orlando, Florida. (Newspapers_com)
2 1983, Tough Times Never Last, But Tough People Do! by Robert H. Schuller, Chapter 1: Tough Times Never Last, Quote Page 27, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee. (Verified with scans)

There Is No There There

Gertrude Stein? Herb Caen? Ben J. Wattenberg? William Gibson? Apocryphal?

Question for Quote Investigator: A prominent literary figure attempted to return home after a long absence and found that the location was unfamiliar because the home had been demolished. Fond memories of youth were no longer attached to a physical location. The feeling of disconnection inspired a popular saying:

There is no there there.

Nowadays, the meaning of this phrase has shifted. The statement typically refers to something which is diffuse, unsubstantial, or unimportant. It has also been used to explicate virtual reality. Would you please help me to find a citation.

Reply from Quote Investigator: Author and art connoisseur Gertrude Stein employed an idiosyncratic writing style. Her infrequently punctuated stream of consciousness was sometimes difficult to parse. Her 1937 book “Everybody’s Autobiography” included a passage about traveling to the locale of her childhood:[1] 1971 (1937 Copyright), Everybody’s Autobiography by Gertrude Stein, Chapter 4: America, Quote Page 289, Cooper Square Publishers Inc., New York. (Verified with scans)

. . . we went across the bay on a ferry, that had not changed but Goat Island might just as well not have been there, anyway what was the use of my having come from Oakland it was not natural to have come from there yes write about it if I like or anything if I like but not there, there is no there there.

Stein described the feelings of estrangement produced by the visit to her former neighborhood:[2] 1971 (1937 Copyright), Everybody’s Autobiography by Gertrude Stein, Chapter 4: America, Quote Page 291, Cooper Square Publishers Inc., New York. (Verified with scans)

Ah Thirteenth Avenue was the same it was shabby and over-grown the houses were certainly some of them those that had been and there were not bigger buildings and they were neglected and, lots of grass and bushes growing yes it might have been the Thirteenth Avenue when I had been.

Not of course the house, the house the big house and the big garden and the eucalyptus trees and the rose hedge naturally were not any longer existing, what was the use, if I had been I then my little dog would know me but if I had not been I then that place would not be the place that I could see, I did not like the feeling . . .

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading There Is No There There

References

References
1 1971 (1937 Copyright), Everybody’s Autobiography by Gertrude Stein, Chapter 4: America, Quote Page 289, Cooper Square Publishers Inc., New York. (Verified with scans)
2 1971 (1937 Copyright), Everybody’s Autobiography by Gertrude Stein, Chapter 4: America, Quote Page 291, Cooper Square Publishers Inc., New York. (Verified with scans)

The Optimum Population of the World Should Be About One Hundred Thousand

Arthur C. Clarke? Fred Hoyle? Georg Borgstrom? Donald W. Mann? Gretchen C. Daily? Anne H. Ehrlich? Paul Ehrlich? Kenneth Smail?

Question for Quote Investigator: The world population is projected to exceed 8 billion in 2022. Also, the United Nations Population Division forecasts that before 2100 the population will exceed 10 billion. Interestingly, some countries currently have declining populations.

One prominent person suggested that the optimum human population should be dramatically smaller—only one hundred thousand. This notion has been attributed to science fiction luminary Arthur C. Clarke and prominent English astronomer Fred Hoyle. Would you please explore this topic?

Reply from Quote Investigator: In April 1968 Arthur C. Clarke published an essay titled “Next: On Earth, the Good Life?” in “Vogue” magazine. Clarke credited Fred Hoyle with suggesting that the ideal number of Earth inhabitants was relatively small. Boldface added to excepts by QI:[1] 1968 April 15, Vogue, Volume 151, Issue 8, Next: On Earth, the Good Life? by Arthur C. Clarke, Start Page 84, Quote Page 142 and 143, Condé Nast Publications, New York. (ProQuest)

There is no doubt that, with proper organization, our planet could support a population of many billions at a much higher standard of living than today. But should it? In a world of instantaneous communication and swift transport, where all men are virtually neighbours, is there any point in a population of more than a few millions? The answer to this question depends upon one’s philosophical and religious views concerning the purpose of life.

Fred Hoyle, for example, once suggested to me that the optimum population of the world should be about one hundred thousand—as that was the maximum number of people one could get to know in a lifetime.

Intriguingly, this low number was not due to fears of environmental impact; instead, Hoyle’s number was based on the limits of interpersonal relationships.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Optimum Population of the World Should Be About One Hundred Thousand

References

References
1 1968 April 15, Vogue, Volume 151, Issue 8, Next: On Earth, the Good Life? by Arthur C. Clarke, Start Page 84, Quote Page 142 and 143, Condé Nast Publications, New York. (ProQuest)

By Invading the Territories of Art, Photography Has Become Art’s Most Mortal Enemy

Charles Baudelaire? Apocryphal?

Question for Quote Investigator: Technophiles have welcomed recent advances in artificial intelligence in the domain of art. Yet, many artists and connoisseurs have been unsettled or openly hostile.

One commentator attempted to provide historical perspective by claiming that the famous French poet and art critic Charles Baudelaire denounced the emerging technology of photography. Baudelaire said that photography had become “art’s most mortal enemy”.

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

Reply from Quote Investigator: In 1859 “Revue Française” of Paris published a letter from Charles Baudelaire under the title “Le Public Moderne et la Photographie” (“The Modern Public and Photography”). Below is an English translation of the pertinent passage followed by the original French. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1859, Revue Française, Cinquième Année (Fifth Year), Tome XVII (Volume 17), Lettre a M. Le Directeur De La Revue Francaise Sur Le Salon De 1859 (Letter to The Editor of the French Review on the … Continue reading

As the photographic industry was the refuge of all failed painters, too ill-equipped or too lazy to complete their studies, this universal infatuation bore not only the character of blindness and imbecility, but also the color of vengeance. That such a brainless conspiracy, in which one finds, as in all the others, the wicked and the dupes, can achieve absolute success, I do not believe it, or at least I do not want to believe it; but I am convinced that the ill-applied advancements of photography have greatly contributed, like all purely material progress, to the impoverishment of French artistic genius, which is already so rare.

Modern Fatuity may well roar, belch out all the rumblings of its rotund stomach, spew out all the indigestible sophisms with which a recent philosophy has stuffed it. Nevertheless, it is obvious that this industry, by invading the territories of art, has become art’s most mortal enemy, and that the confusion of functions prevents any from being well fulfilled. Poetry and progress are two ambitious people who hate each other instinctively, and when they meet on the same path, one of them must serve the other. If photography is allowed to supplement art in some of its functions, it will soon have supplanted or corrupted it altogether, thanks to the natural alliance it will find in the stupidity of the multitude.

Below is the original French followed by additional citations.

Continue reading By Invading the Territories of Art, Photography Has Become Art’s Most Mortal Enemy

References

References
1 1859, Revue Française, Cinquième Année (Fifth Year), Tome XVII (Volume 17), Lettre a M. Le Directeur De La Revue Francaise Sur Le Salon De 1859 (Letter to The Editor of the French Review on the Salon of 1859), (by Charles Baudelaire), Section 2: Le Public Moderne Et La Photographie (The Modern Public and Photography), Start Page 257, Quote Page 265, Aux Bureaux de La Revue Française, Paris, France. (Google Books Full View) link

“Life, Though, Is Peculiar,” Said Jeremy. “As Compared With What?” Said the Spider

Elizabeth Madox Roberts? Harvey Wickham? Charles P. Curtis Jr.? Ferris Greenslet? Anonymous?

Question for Quote Investigator: An entire lifetime can be encapsulated within the following memorably eccentric dialog:

“Life is peculiar” said Jeremy. “Compared to what?” said the spider.

I have encountered this exchange several times, but I have never been able to determine its source, and I am unsure of the precise phrasing. There is a variant line with “very strange” instead of “peculiar”. Would you please explore this topic?

Reply from Quote Investigator: Elizabeth Madox Roberts was an acclaimed Kentucky novelist and poet who was part of the Southern Renaissance. In 1928 she published the satirical fantasy novel “Jingling in the Wind”. During one scene the character Jeremy converses with a spider which is weaving a web that embodies the entirety of human culture:[1] 1928, Jingling in the Wind by Elizabeth Madox Roberts, Quote Page 230, The Viking Press, New York. (Verified with scans; thanks to Dennis Lien)

“I have it all here, the whole of culture I draw it all out of myself with my long supple fingers, I pattern it on the air. I make it as I go, but it is made already within me, spinning . . .

A dark age is followed by an age of enlightenment, and here is a new religion. Votes for women, moral prescriptions, Egypt, India, Babylon, I make a knot, a rise and a decline.”

The spider rhapsodizes about the web, and Jeremy comments about the oddity of life. The ellipsis below appears in the original text. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[2] 1928, Jingling in the Wind by Elizabeth Madox Roberts, Quote Page 233, The Viking Press, New York. (Verified with scans; thanks to Dennis Lien)

“Life, though, is peculiar,” said Jeremy.
“As compared with what?” said the spider.
“There has never been a great woman philosopher,” Jeremy began to say.
“All women are philosophers,” said the spider.
“Philosophies are the common knowledge of all females.”
“Has any woman poet ever been buried in the Poets’ Corner?” Jeremy asked.
“Who wants to be buried?” asked the spider.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading “Life, Though, Is Peculiar,” Said Jeremy. “As Compared With What?” Said the Spider

References

References
1 1928, Jingling in the Wind by Elizabeth Madox Roberts, Quote Page 230, The Viking Press, New York. (Verified with scans; thanks to Dennis Lien)
2 1928, Jingling in the Wind by Elizabeth Madox Roberts, Quote Page 233, The Viking Press, New York. (Verified with scans; thanks to Dennis Lien)

You’re a Ghost Driving a Meat Coated Skeleton Made from Stardust

Gilbert Ryle? Rat_sandwich? Brostoyevskiy? Clifford A. Pickover? Anonymous?

Question for Quote Investigator: Halloween is approaching, and the following quasi-philosophical saying fits the holiday theme:

You’re a ghost driving a meat-coated skeleton made from stardust; what do you have to be scared of?

Would you please explore the provenance of this remark?

Reply from Quote Investigator: The chemical elements of life such as carbon, magnesium, and calcium were originally created in the extremely hot and dense cores of stars and subsequently dispersed via stellar explosions. Thus, human bodies are made of stardust.

In 1921 a newspaper in Michigan printed an advertisement that highlighted a pertinent adage. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1921 January 24, Evening News, (Advertisement promoting a new contributor to the Evening News newspaper), Quote Page 2, Column 3, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. (GenealogyBank)

We’re All Made of Dust—
But It’s Star Dust!

A Quote Investigator article about the saying “We are made of star-stuff” is available here.

In 1949 philosopher Gilbert Ryle employed the phrase “the Ghost in the Machine” while criticizing mind/body dualism. The quotation under examination implicitly references this notion of ghost.[2] 1963 (1949 Copyright), The Concept of Mind by Gilbert Ryle, Chapter 1: Descartes’ Myth, Quote Page 15 and 16, Hutchinson, London. (Verified with scans)

QI hypothesizes that the quotation evolved from a collection of antecedents circulating on social media. Here is a sampling of precursor phrases with dates from twitter:

2011 Apr 28: I just feel like I’m a ghost in a heavy meat suit
2012 Jan 29: im just a brain driving a meat suit around life
2012 Jul 30: skeleton wearing a meat-suit
2012 Aug 05: people are still basically just skeletons coated in filthy meat
2012 Oct 29: Ain’t nothin’ but a ghost driving a meat suit
2013 Jan 31: You’re a ghost driving a meat coated skeleton made from stardust, what do you have to be scared of?

The earliest full match given above was tweeted by @rat_sandwich on January 31, 2013 at 4:58 AM EDT. QI tentatively credits @rat_sandwich with the full saying although future researchers may discover superior citations.

Additional details for these citations are given below.

Continue reading You’re a Ghost Driving a Meat Coated Skeleton Made from Stardust

References

References
1 1921 January 24, Evening News, (Advertisement promoting a new contributor to the Evening News newspaper), Quote Page 2, Column 3, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. (GenealogyBank)
2 1963 (1949 Copyright), The Concept of Mind by Gilbert Ryle, Chapter 1: Descartes’ Myth, Quote Page 15 and 16, Hutchinson, London. (Verified with scans)

The Place in Which I’ll Fit Will Not Exist Until I Make It

James Baldwin? Sol Stein? Claudia Roth Pierpont? Apocryphal?

Question for Quote Investigator: There are powerful pressures to conform and follow the conventions of one’s society. But the renegade does not fit into a pre-existing slot. A prominent literary figure once said:

The place in which I’ll fit will not exist until I make it.

Essayist and novelist James Baldwin has received credit for this statement. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Reply from Quote Investigator: In 2004 author and editor Sol Stein published a book about his close association with James Baldwin titled “Native Sons: A Friendship That Created One of the Greatest Works of the 20th Century: Notes of a Native Son”. Stein reprinted a letter he received from Baldwin near the beginning of 1957. This letter contained the quotation. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]2004 Native Sons: A Friendship That Created One of the Greatest Works of the 20th Century: Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin and Sol Stein, Section: The Correspondence, Letter From: James … Continue reading

Please get over the notion, Sol, that there’s some place I’ll fit when I’ve made some ‘real peace’ with myself : the place in which I’ll fit will not exist until I make it. You know and I know that the ‘peace’ of most people is nothing but torpor . . .

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Place in Which I’ll Fit Will Not Exist Until I Make It

References

References
1 2004 Native Sons: A Friendship That Created One of the Greatest Works of the 20th Century: Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin and Sol Stein, Section: The Correspondence, Letter From: James Baldwin, Letter To: Sol Stein, (Reply to a letter dated December 7, 1956), Date: 1957, Quote Page 96 and 97, One World: Ballantine Books, New York. (Verified with scans)

I Always Advise People Never To Give Advice

P. G. Wodehouse? George Bernard Shaw? Smallwood Bessemer? Bob Chieger? Anonymous?

Question for Quote Investigator: A famous wit once offered the following piece of self-contradictory advice: Never take advice. Another prominent humorist offered a similar piece of oxymoronic guidance: Never give advice. Would you please help me to find these citations together with the correct phrasings?

Reply from Quote Investigator: In 1894 critic and playwright George Bernard Shaw sent a letter of instruction to the neophyte critic Reginald Golding Bright. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1963 (1955 Copyright), Advice to a Young Critic and Other Letters by Bernard Shaw, Notes and Introduction by E. J. West (Edward Joseph West), Letter Title: A Lesson in Practical Criticism: Shaw Edits … Continue reading

Write a thousand words a day for the next five years for at least nine months every year. Read all the great critics—Ruskin, Richard Wagner, Lessing, Lamb and Hazlitt. Get a ticket for the British Museum reading room, and live there as much as you can. Go to all the first rate orchestral concerts and to the opera, as well as to the theatres.

Shaw provided a long series of additional recommendations, but he finished by comically flipping the entire discourse:

Finally, since I have given you all this advice, I add this crowning precept, the most valuable of all. NEVER TAKE ANYBODY’S ADVICE.

Below are additional selected citations.

Continue reading I Always Advise People Never To Give Advice

References

References
1 1963 (1955 Copyright), Advice to a Young Critic and Other Letters by Bernard Shaw, Notes and Introduction by E. J. West (Edward Joseph West), Letter Title: A Lesson in Practical Criticism: Shaw Edits a Bright Review, Letter From: George Bernard Shaw, Letter To: Reginald Golding Bright, Letter Date: Dec. 2, 1894, Start Date 12, Quote Page 14, Capricorn Books, New York. (Verified with scans)

“Lots of People Talk To Animals” “Not Very Many Listen, Though”

A. A. Milne? Piglet? Owl? Pooh? Benjamin Hoff? George Bernard Shaw? Apocryphal?

Question for Quote Investigator: The following dialog has been ascribed to the famous English author A. A. Milne:

Pooh: Lots of people talk to animals.
Owl: Maybe, but . . . Not very many listen, though.
Pooh: That’s the problem.

I am skeptical of this attribution because I have never seen a citation. Other characters such as Piglet sometimes receive credit for lines from this dialog. Would you please explore this topic.

Reply from Quote Investigator: QI has not found this dialog in any of the four canonical books containing material about Pooh by A. A. Milne: “When We Were Very Young” (1924), “Winnie-the-Pooh” (1926), “Now We Are Six” (1927), and “The House at Pooh Corner” (1928).

In 1982 U.S. author Benjamin Hoff published “The Tao of Pooh” with the goal of illuminating the Chinese philosophy of Taoism via the characters created by A. A. Milne. Hoff’s work contained the following dialog. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1982, The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff, Chapter: Spelling Tuesday, Quote Page 29, E. P. Dutton, New York. (Verified with scans)

It seems fairly obvious to some of us that a lot of scholars need to go outside and sniff around—walk through the grass, talk to the animals. That sort of thing.

“Lots of people talk to animals,” said Pooh.
“Maybe, but . . .”
“Not very many listen, though,” he said.
“That’s the problem,” he added.

In other words, you might say that there is more to Knowing than just being correct.

Based on current evidence QI believes that Benjamin Hoff constructed this dialog to reflect his viewpoint. It was not crafted by A. A. Milne.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading “Lots of People Talk To Animals” “Not Very Many Listen, Though”

References

References
1 1982, The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff, Chapter: Spelling Tuesday, Quote Page 29, E. P. Dutton, New York. (Verified with scans)