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)

No One On His Deathbed Ever Said, ‘I Wish I Had Spent More Time On My Business’

Paul Tsongas? Harold Kushner? Arnold Zack? Barbara Mackoff? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: When an individual is lying on a deathbed and contemplating mortality the need to ascribe a transcendent meaning and purpose to life often becomes paramount. Deep bonds of love, caring, and friendship are highlighted. The workaday world recedes in importance. Here are four statements from a family of pertinent sayings:

  • Nobody on their deathbed has ever said, “I wish I had spent more time at the office’.
  • No one on their deathbed ever said, ‘I wish I’d spent more time at work’.
  • No person on their deathbed ever says they wish they had worked harder.
  • I never heard a dying man say, ‘I wish I’d spent more time at the office.’

This saying has been attributed to U.S. Senator Paul Tsongas and prominent rabbi author Harold Kushner. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: In 1983 Paul Tsongas was a U. S. Senator for Massachusetts. When he was diagnosed with a treatable form of cancer he re-evaluated his life choices and opted not to seek re-election. In 1984 he published the memoir “Heading Home” which included a discussion of his decision. The following passage refers to Niki who was Tsongas’s wife and Arnold Zack who was a lawyer friend. Boldface added by QI: 1

Since I didn’t have a lot of close friends, the family was where I fulfilled my human aspirations. The Senate had become an obstacle to that. As Niki told a reporter later on, “We are a self-contained unit.” Or as an old friend, Arnold Zack, wrote to me in a letter, “No one on his deathbed ever said, ‘I wish I had spent more time on my business.’”

This is the earliest match known to QI. The saying was popularized by Paul Tsongas, but it originated with Arnold Zack according to current evidence.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading No One On His Deathbed Ever Said, ‘I Wish I Had Spent More Time On My Business’

Notes:

  1. 1984, Heading Home by Paul Tsongas, Chapter 7: Leaving, Quote Page 159 and 160, A Borzoi Book: Alfred A. Knopf, New York. (Verified with scans)

We Look Into Mirrors But We Only See the Effects of Our Times On Us—Not Our Effect On Others

Pearl Bailey? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: When you look into a mirror your self-image may be altered, but you are not forced to see yourself objectively. You do not perceive yourself through the eyes of others, and you do not really understand your effect on others. The U.S. actress and singer Pearl Bailey once said something like this. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1976 Pearl Bailey published a collection of short essays titled “Hurry Up, America, & Spit”. The piece titled “We Look Into Mirrors” begins with the following statement. Boldface added to excerpts: 1

We look into mirrors but we only see the effects of our times on us—not our effect on others.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading We Look Into Mirrors But We Only See the Effects of Our Times On Us—Not Our Effect On Others

Notes:

  1. 1976, Hurry Up, America, & Spit by Pearl Bailey, Chapter: We Look Into Mirrors, Quote Page 52, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York. (Verified with scans)

The Best Swordsman in the World Doesn’t Need To Fear the Second Best Swordsman

Mark Twain? David Weber? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Achieving expert knowledge and abilities in a domain may require many years of hard work. Yet, expertise does not guarantee success. Here is a counterintuitive adage:

The best swordsman does not fear the second best. He fears the worst since there’s no telling what that idiot is going to do.

This statement has been attributed to the famous humorist Mark Twain and the popular science fiction author David Weber. But I am having trouble locating a solid citation. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: In 1889 Mark Twain published “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”. The book included an observation about the “best swordsman”, but the phrasing differed from the remark specified in the inquiry above. The following excerpt represents the thoughts of the book’s narrator. Bold face added by QI: 1

But don’t you know, there are some things that can beat smartness and foresight? Awkwardness and stupidity can. The best swordsman in the world doesn’t need to fear the second best swordsman in the world; no, the person for him to be afraid of is some ignorant antagonist who has never had a sword in his hand before; he doesn’t do the thing he ought to do, and so the expert isn’t prepared for him; he does the thing he ought not to do: and often it catches the expert out and ends him on the spot.

The viewpoint of the narrator of a novel may diverge from the author’s viewpoint; however, in this case, QI suspects that Twain would concur with the insight provided by the narrator.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Best Swordsman in the World Doesn’t Need To Fear the Second Best Swordsman

Notes:

  1. 1889 Copyright, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain, Chapter 34: The Yankee and the King Sold as Slaves, Quote Page 330, Harper & Brothers Publishers, New York. (HathiTrust Full View) link

In Science We Should Be Interested In Things, Not Persons

Marie Curie? Pierre Curie? Ève Curie? Marie Mattingly Meloney? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Gossip about people is extraordinarily popular. A famous scientist once criticized this attitude as follows:

In science, we must be interested in things, not in persons.

This statement has been attributed three members of a renowned French family: Marie Curie, Pierre Curie, and Ève Curie. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: In 1923 Marie Curie published a biography of her husband Pierre Curie who had died in 1906. An English translation appeared in the same year. The introduction was penned by journalist Marie Mattingly Meloney who attributed the quotation to Marie Curie. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

It is with much hesitancy that I venture to write a preface to this book. She once chided me, in her gentle way, for an article in which I had stated facts with some feeling—although the facts praised her. “In science,” she said, “we should be interested in things, not persons.”

Interestingly, Marie Curie attributed the notion under examination to Pierre Curie within the pages of the biography: 2

In his scientific relations he showed no sharpness, and did not permit himself to be influenced by considerations of personal credit or by personal sentiments. Every beautiful success gave him pleasure, even if achieved in a domain where he felt himself to have priority.

He said: “What does it matter if I have not published such and such investigations, if another has published them?” For he held that in science we should be interested in things and not in persons.

QI believes both Marie Curie and Pierre Curie employed the saying, and it is difficult to assign a priority. Perhaps it is best to ascribe the remark to both.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading In Science We Should Be Interested In Things, Not Persons

Notes:

  1. 1923, Pierre Curie by Marie Curie, Translated by Charlotte and Vernon Kellogg, Section: Introduction by Mrs. William Brown Meloney (Marie Mattingly Meloney), Quote Page 12, The Macmillan Company, New York. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1923, Pierre Curie by Marie Curie, Translated by Charlotte and Vernon Kellogg, Chapter 4: Marriage and Organization of the Family Life, Quote Page 90, The Macmillan Company, New York. (Google Books Full View) link

All the Love Scenes Had Been Shot Like Murder Scenes, and All the Murder Scenes Like Love Scenes

Alfred Hitchcock? François Truffaut? Grace Kelly? Sam Mendes?

Dear Quote Investigator: Director Alfred Hitchcock was a master of suspense and horror. For decades his filmmaking techniques have been closely studied by other directors, screenwriters, and critics. One observer uncovered a disquieting connection between Hitchcock’s portrayal of homicide and intimacy:

The murder scenes are filmed like love scenes, and the love scenes are filmed like murder scenes.

This assertion has been attributed to fellow director François Truffaut, popular actress Grace Kelly, and Alfred Hitchcock himself. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: In 1974 a gala honoring Hitchcock was held at the Lincoln Center in New York. A series of film scenes from Hitchcock were shown to attendees during the evening. The clips were arranged into different categories, e.g., chase, love, suspense, catastrophe, and murder. When François Truffaut saw those extracts he developed his thesis connecting scenes of mayhem and amour. In May 1976 the Canadian film magazine “Take One” published a piece by Truffaut. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

What struck me that evening while reseeing all of these little bits of films I know by heart (isolated from their context and put together for a single evening) was the simultaneous sincerity and savagery of the Hitchcockian oeuvre. I realized that all the love scenes had been shot like murder scenes, and all the murder scenes like love scenes.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading All the Love Scenes Had Been Shot Like Murder Scenes, and All the Murder Scenes Like Love Scenes

Notes:

  1. 1976 May 21, Take One, Volume 5, Number 2, Alfred Hitchcock: A Friendly Salute, Subsection: Hitchcock in 1976 by François Truffaut, Start Page 43, Quote Page 44, Unicorn Publishing, Montreal, Canada. (Verified with scans; accessed via HathiTrust)

Talent Is Like Electricity

Maya Angelou? Claudia Tate? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: An insightful simile likens the creative talent displayed by an individual while dancing, composing, teaching, or singing to electricity. This figure of speech has been attributed to Renaissance woman Maya Angelou. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: In 1983 Claudia Tate edited and released a collection of interviews titled “Black Women Writers At Work”. Tate asked Maya Angelou about her manifold resourcefulness 1

C.T.: You are a writer, poet, director, composer, lyricist, dancer, singer, journalist, teacher and lecturer. Can you say what the source of such creative diversity is?

ANGELOU: I don’t do the dancing anymore. The rest I try. I believe talent is like electricity. We don’t understand electricity. We use it. Electricity makes no judgment. You can plug into it and light up a lamp, keep a heart pump going, light a cathedral, or you can electrocute a person with it. Electricity will do all that. It makes no judgment. I think talent is like that. I believe every person is born with talent.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Talent Is Like Electricity

Notes:

  1. 1985 (1983 Copyright), Black Women Writers At Work, Edited by Claudia Tate, Chapter: Maya Angelou, Start Page 1, Quote Page 7, Oldcastle Books, England. (Verified with scans)