Mark Twain? Will Rogers? Frank Scully? Arthur F. Lenehan? H. Jackson Brown? Mother of H. Jackson Brown? Shirley MacLaine?
Dear Quote Investigator: To succeed one must be willing to take risks and to enter the precarious realm of punishments and accolades. Here are four versions of an expression that appears in many self-help books:
1) Why not go out on a limb? That’s where the fruit is.
2) Why not go out on a limb? Isn’t that where the fruit is?
3) Go out on a limb, that’s where the fruit is.
4) Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb. That’s where the fruit is.
This notion has confusingly been attributed to two famous humorists: Mark Twain and Will Rogers. Would you please examine its provenance?
Quote Investigator: There is no substantive evidence supporting the linkage to either Mark Twain or Will Rogers.
The earliest instance located by QI was printed in the show business periodical “Variety” in September 1950. The journalist Frank Scully coined the memorable phrase and included it in his column “Scully’s Scrapbook”. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1
To people who urge you not to go out on a limb I have a new twist. I gave it to Ken Murray and before he can use it I’m giving it to my public. It’s this: Why not go out on a limb? Isn’t that where the fruit is?
Frank Scully: Why not go out on a limb? Isn’t that where the fruit is?
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1950 September 20, Variety, Scully’s Scrapbook by Frank Scully, (Dateline: Dare’s Wharf, California, September 15), Quote Page 61, Column 4, Published by Variety Inc., New York. (ProQuest) ↩
- 1950 September 25, The High Point Enterprise, In New York: Winchell, Winchell, Plus Winchellisms by Walter Winchell (Syndicated), Quote Page 4, Column 7, High Point, North Carolina. (NewspaperArchive) ↩
- 1950 September 25, Lincoln Evening Journal, Walter Winchell Your New York Correspondent (Syndicated), Quote Page 11, Column 5, Lincoln, Nebraska. (Newspapers_com) ↩