Ernestine Ulmer? Arthur Murray? Earl Wilson? Leopold Fechtner? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: T-shirts and bumper stickers present a modern proverb about the precariousness of existence. Here are two versions:
- Eat dessert first because life is uncertain.
- Life is uncertain, so eat dessert first.
Ernestine Ulmer often receives credit although that name is somewhat obscure. Would you please explore the provenance of this expression?
Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in the popular syndicated column of Earl Wilson in 1962. The well-known ballroom dancer and entrepreneur Arthur Murray received credit. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1
Arthur Murray says he always eats dessert first, because life is so uncertain.
The statement above referred to a single person; hence, it was not in proverbial form, but the phrasing evolved over time.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1962 July 18, The Lima News, Eydie Gorme Will Work, Hubby Steve Explains by Earl Wilson, Quote Page 32, Column 3, Lima, Ohio. (Newspapers_com) ↩